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Is a Military Strategy the Best Option in Afghanistan?

(Photos by Robin Holland)

In the wake of the recent American missile attacks in Pakistan, this week’s JOURNAL explored U.S. bombing policies and how they affect U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and the region. Bill Moyers asked historian Marilyn B. Young and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey about the effectiveness of targeting Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants when the casualties include civilians.

Sprey said:

“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.”

Young said:

“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 contrast, former NPR journalist Sarah Chayes, who has lived and worked in Afghanistan for seven years, told Bill Moyers in December that more U.S. troops need to be deployed there.

“At this point the Taliban kind of military campaign plan is effective enough that you do need troops to prevent them from making military encroachments that are really dangerous. You also need troops to protect the population from the Taliban. There are people who don't like the Taliban but may kind of knuckle under to them because, on the one hand, the government isn't doing anything better for them. And the Taliban are going to kill them if they don't visibly divide themselves away from the government. So you need to be able to protect people from that kind of an intimidation campaign, and that takes troops.”

What do you think?

  • Should the U.S. continue to bomb and otherwise target suspected militants if civilians might be killed as well? Why or why not?

  • President Obama reportedly plans to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan without a timetable for withdrawal. Do you support increasing the American military presence there? Explain.

  • Marilyn B. Young calls for a “political way to deal in Afghanistan.” What political steps might the U.S. take to improve the situation?

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    The history of Afghanistan is a patchwork of contending forces in a region that has been haphazardly pieced together over the years. The primal problem here is that there is little conceptual understanding of nationalism by a great number of Afghans.

    What is necessary are not huge military forces marching backwards and forwards over the country, but the establishment of a viable police force that will work with the existing government with help from interested outside countries, who also will to help to develop a profitable agricultural product to take the place of the poppy. Construction of schools and hospitals is also necessary.

    There is a mindset in our government that there is a need for strong military forces to battle the Taliban and other contentious groups. A dominant foreign force will never satisfactorily bring about a viable peace in Afghanistan.

    Does anyone remember the Reagan Doctrine? That's where the Administration backed anti-Soviet movements around the world. The Soviets had just invaded Afghanistan and Reagan organized, funded, armed, and trained muslim extremists around the world to wage war against the Soviet Invasion. This despite warnings from the State Department and the Department of Defense that such extremists see precious little difference between the Capitalist America and Communist Russia. They would turn on us. Well that was 1980 and by 1988 the Soviets fell, and the Jihad WE created, turned on us. Its the same damned story with the missile launch in North Korea - WE help South Korea build their own space launch capability organizing KARI in 1989 - and the North responds with its own Chinese backed program. Now when Washington is spending money like no tomorrow, we hear of Iran and North Korea. Why? Because the defense department doesn't want to be left out of the loop! They have a hardon for SDI, just as they fear the peace dividend will undermine them when America needs them most - and so, they stick at nothing to fool the American people. David Simon said recently that America is setting itself up for major government fraud - well, it has set itself up to perpetuate fraud since the start of the Cold War - and what we see today is the natural consequence of the Military Industrial Complex out of control - as Eisenhower warned us about. We can't be on a war footing to keep global peace in the nuclear age, and spend ANY money on entitlements. To do so would bankrupt us while we maintain the arsenal of democracy. The fact is that today the world spends $1.7 trillion a year on warfare, and the US spends $850 billion of that - and the world spends the other half - to counter US threats! And we use the CIA and State Department to stage manage the epistimology of the American public to maintain their hearts and minds behind the things that the specialists in the JCS think need to be maintained - without once asking seriously - is there a better way? or questioning the wisdom of how things are. We're killing ourselves at so many levels - its hard to see how we're going to pull this one out of the drink. What we need to do is so at odds - its hard to even talk about it. We didn't need to go into Afghanistan the way we did, we needed to have a real discussion of our culpability in creating this Jihad and work quietly with moderate muslims to end the reign of terror in the world with their help. We needed to put the second attack of the WTC behind us, not keep it center stage, as we worked to unravel the Jihad we built up over a decade. We didn't do this because the administration in power saw narrow political gain in keeping the attacks at the top of our consciousness - and a military industrial complex saw finally that they had political gravitas they always wanted - and they weren't going to give that up easily. Now we're in a fight between military spending and entitlement spending without realizing our enemies have already won - that's how blind we are. Loose nukes are already in terrorist hands, and the Chinese and Indians control commodity flows and manufacturing on the planet. Our best and brightest have abandoned New York for Mumbai Beijing Rio and Moscow, and when the first loose nuke decimates Chicago or New York or LA - we'll wonder what we did wrong - and never question the hidden powers the secret powers that have run amok too long in our country - that if we had gotten it under control would have resolved our problems quickly and restored us to true leadership rather than a hard fought false leadership we have lived with for far too long.

    The U.S. is not winning the war. How can they win without support? No support from the U.N. It's another Vietnam! The country is not unified, the people do not agree. We cannot win and lost battle. I sigh each time I hear about the deaths in Iraq. What say you, friends?

    Dear Mr. Moyers, Thank you for bringing up the Afghanistan war. Please continue to do so. Drones killing Afghan civilians and there is no comment from President Obama. Having lived through the Vietnam War I see again all the signs of a future quagmire. Our son is serving in the US military in Iraq. At our son's graduation from bootcamp my eyes filled with tears...they are really so young...what a terrrible sacrifice.. youth again turned towards the slaughter

    The US needs to stop trying to solve the world's problems with bombs and weapons. Especially if we're making more enemies than converts with them. How could they ever love a country that kills their children "accidentally."

    Mr. Moyers, These are facts should you immediately be apprised of: 1)Tonkin was a lie! 2)Osama bin Laden is dead! 3)US nuked Japan twice even if it was, in the words of McNamara, already on fire! 4)The Taliban destroyed the drug trade - the US brought it back! 5) Pearl Harbor was allowed to happen! I could go on and on...
    My question to you, Mr. Moyers, is how long will you resist doing a show, or several shows on the truth about 911? WTC 7 imploded from minor fires, yet that Chinese hotel burned to a crisp and remained standing. No black boxes (or a couple but too damaged)from any flights on 911, yet black boxes were found only hours after the recent plane crash? Hummm, and you want to know if the US should pursue its "kill & maim civilians to let the poppies grow" mission in Afghanistan? Time to stop your pretense of being a journalist! B

    Dear Mr. Moyers: Have you thought of covering what has gone on in Gaza? The massacre was done with our F16s and Apache helicopters. We are to blame for never conditioning US aid to Israel on their adherence to universal humanitarian law.
    My questions are: Why does the U.S. support Israel, a country made after Israel ethnic-cleansed the Palestinians that lived there? Should not we be one the Palestinian side? Do we not believe in self-determination and democracy?
    My second question: Why in the media is there little mention of the fact that Israel corralled the Gazans into that little space of land roughly 5 miles by 25 miles long and has been blockading it for two years, since the democratic election of Hamas? Or that there are still wounded Gazans without medicine, pain relievers, with white phosphorus burns, suffering and still Israel is blockading? Why doesn't the US pressure Israel into ending the blockade, removing the physical separation barriers as demanded by the International Court of Justice on July 9, 2004? Freedome of movement is a universal human right.
    The problem is the illegal occupation with the barriers and the blockade, and war crimes, not Hamas's rockets. Thanks for your concern, Elaine Marie Kinch

    I think the best way to reduce violence in the Middle East is to prosecute and imprison Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. I believe this would even boost the morale in our own troops. It would send the right message to all leaders that they are not above the law. I sure hope the truth doesn't get lost in history...distorted into another lie. I know it would make me feel better.

    I'm encouraged by the several posters who are questioning the official story of 9/11.

    Mr. Moyers. Stop insulting my intelligence. 9/11 was an inside job. It's obvious. It cannot be denied.

    The War On Terror has absolutely no justification. The War in Afghanistan is criminal. It must end now.

    Ending the war in Afghanistan on our own terms

    The recent surge in poppy production has to be dealt with in new and novel ways that play to our strengths and not to the Taliban’s.

    As NATO contemplates a renewed attack on the embedded Taliban - a surge which has already cost hundreds of innocent Afghan lives as well as those of our own troops - it's worth asking if there is not another way; another way to curb the Taliban influence that does not involve killing people.

    History is helpful. In the 1970s, Turkey was the largest supplier of heroin in the world. Then the United States got smart and started buying the poppy crop - we still do. The government sold it to U.S. pharmaceutical firms to make legitimate drugs – after all, there are no bad plants, only bad uses for plants. The drug cartel lost control of Turkey and today Turkey is one of our staunchest allies in the Middle East. We later tried a similar approach in India with good results.

    From the CIA world fact site we know that the GDP of Afghanistan in 2006 was something under $40 billion. Today, over half the GDP of Afghanistan is tied up in poppy production in some way, and is controlled by rogue warlords who channel profits directly to the Taliban – some $100 million a year. This is an extremely lucrative business and there is nothing even remotely comparable in that region of the world. Sixty percent of Taliban income comes directly from poppy production.

    On the other hand, growing food is either uneconomic for the average afghan farmer, or is outright forbidden – at the point of a gun - by the Taliban militia who control the rural regions.

    Instead of fighting the Afghan farmer, who is caught in an impossible position, we should buy the crop - all of it – from him. This would:
    A. End 60% of Taliban income immediately.
    B. Put us on the side of the Afghan farmer instead of making us just one of his several enemies. Hearts and minds...
    C. Put a serious dent in the heroin trade - a concern also for Russia and Europe, who blame us for the escalation of their drug problem.
    D. Allow us to influence the Afghanistan people by becoming their respectful partner instead of their bullying enemy (there is something extremely unseemly about a country of our size, might, and moral stature, going around burning fields and dropping bombs on subsistence farmers in a desperately poor country. Obama may recognize this intuitively, but mollifying words have to be backed up with concrete action).

    Eventually, we need to encourage Afghans to grow food instead of Poppy plants. We should pay a 10% premium over the market price for poppy, for food staples. By finally establishing a middle class of farmers, shopkeepers, and other distributors, supported by microloans, we would cut the Taliban off at the knees. And by supplying a profit motive, the new middle class would be encouraged to form militias or to finally build up the Afghan army to protect themselves against the Taliban – who, despite popular perception, are largely loathed by the average Afghan citizen. As President Obama has publicly stated, you build a Democracy from the bottom up, not from the top down. We have a chance to do this in a way that is cheaper, far less violent, and far more effective than the shoot and burn approach we've tried thus far.

    There are other answers to the Afghan situation, if people are willing to examine history and to break out of idealogical molds. We need to play to our strengths, not to the Taliban’s. In a game of attrition, history shows that those who try to forcefully bend Afghanistan to their will, eventually lose.

    Dear Mr. Moyers:
    I couldn't believe when you mentioned the Gulf of Tonkin Incident as impetus to push LBJ into the Viet Nam War you failed to remember that that 'Incident' was an intelligence ruse, a lie--much like the WMD in Iraq. Why do you never own up to the disinformation campaign you yourself were involved in during your tenure with that scoundrel LBJ?

    Prof. Young and Mr. Sprey both consistently seem to be missing the critical points. They are wrong on both basic facts and simple theory. A few examples:

    1) That Prof. Young was so dismayed upon hearing of Obama's use of Predator drones to attack targets in Pakistan suggests that she was surprised by it. What part of Obama's campaign promises did she miss? Obama has been entirely consistent about this. She should not have been surprised.

    2) It is a minor point, but Mr. Sprey completely obfuscates the nature of the Predator drone. First, he states that its "glamour" is enormously exaggerated, and then he goes on to describe the Predator leaving out the one critical piece that makes for that "glamour" (for those who find the Predator glamorous). The Predator is a large radio-controlled airplane with a camera.

    Prof. Young seems to have the same misconceptions about the Predator and other similar devices. She argues that the politicians may find the use of the drone attractive because it is "more scary" than other forms of bombing. Nonsense. The Predator is attractive to both military and political types alike because, like the Tomahawk missile, it can be aimed very precisely, and very much unlike the Tomahawk missile, the decision to launch can be made (or cancelled) at the very last minute after examination of a relatively close-up video feed from the drone.

    Like it or hate it, approve of its use or disapprove, the Predator drone operates on precisely the opposite theory from that behind the carpet bombing in WWII and the large-scale air attacks in Vietnam. It is intended to be both precise and flexible, in an effort to seek out and destroy specific targets while minimizing "collateral damage." That it is not as effective as it should be is very clearly illustrated by those three children killed, but that is not the point here. The point here is that both of these two analysts are completely mistaken about the design, purpose, and novelty of the Predator. If they wish to argue about its use, they should get their facts straight.

    The saddest part is that there are probably some very effective arguments that can be made against the Predator and also against its use in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, we will never get those arguments from people who don't do their homework.

    3) Also, Mr. Sprey raises the already old doggerel to the effect that we are not in a war on terror. He claims that the attacks on 9/11 were not acts of war but simple criminal acts. Criminal perhaps, but certainly not simple. The Palestinians celebrating in the streets at America getting its comeuppance the day after 9/11 speaks eloquently to this. bin Laden and those in Al Qaeda may be "a bunch of lunatic fanatic violent people," but those Palestinians are not. Throughout the Arab world, and, quite separately, throughout the Islamic world, there are hosts of ordinary, everyday people who were not horrified by 9/11. These people are confused, misguided, misinformed, wrong, and possibly even deluded, but they are not lunatic, fanatic, or even violent. Because of their numbers, their attitudes affect the behavior of their governments. At the time, in particular, the Taliban government of Afghanistan.

    Mr. Sprey seems to suggest that the terrorists were not heroes until our actions made them so. Why then were Palestinians cheering a day later, before we retaliated? Why were thousands, tens of thousands, of people convinced that it was America and/or Israel who were behind 9/11? Why was the Taliban protecting Al Qaeda both before and after the attacks? Al Qaeda is no more caused by the political mass movement of fundamentalist rejection of the West and of modernism than is that movement caused by Al Qaeda. Each spurs the other on. Apparently, the notion of mutual causality does not enter into Mr. Sprey's analysis.

    Leaving aside the fact that it is insanity to worry about a definition of war in the midst of a war, Mr. Sprey's attempt to re-label the terrorist attacks on 9/11 as criminal instead of being an act of war is mistaken on at least two counts: First, the underlying definition of war being used is only workable for the modern era, which is now past. Second, Mr. Sprey's definition appears to be exclusively causal, neglecting importantly consequentialist elements. (As always, modernists like Sprey can't seem to mix and match. It's always got to be all-or-nothing.)

    If we are not at war because Al Qaeda is not a part of a national government with a defined territory, then Rome was not at war with Attila the Hun. Attila was a Mongol, whose people had been driven out of the East over 100 years earlier. It is only since the modern notion of nations that a narrow definition of war has been possible. That definition worked for about 125 years (only for 80 years after its codification in 1921) and is now defunct.

    Mr. Sprey correctly asserts that, if the attacks of 9/11 were criminal, then a police action, such as that taken against the terrorists who bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma, is the only appropriate response. The simple fact that the Taliban government in Afghanistan was protecting Al Qaeda made such a response impossible. Any act, however criminal, is no "simple" crime if police action is impossible. And, if police action has been made impossible by the actions of a foreign power, a traditional answer is certainly to declare war on that power. It may have been unadvisable for America to treat the conflict with Al Qaeda as a war, but it certainly was reasonable. Police action was not an alternative. And Prof. Young's notion that there would be total international support belies the fact that there were millions of folks in the Islamic world who viewed bin Laden as a hero and would not have believed any Western evidence brought against him (leaving aside the hopefully small number who thought that the attacks were a good idea).

    4) Mr. Sprey correctly analyzes Churchill's decision to carpet-bomb Germany, except in one critical respect. He states that Churchill chose to carpet bomb Germany for political reasons. Not entirely. There were also statistical reasons. It was determined that the number of direct hits on purely military targets would increase if the bombs were not aimed at those targets. Perverse? Ironic? Tragic? Horrifyingly brutal? All true, but not political.

    5) It is admittedly a minor point, but Mr. Sprey's description of the Pashtun betrays a similar bias. He speaks of a very rigid but very admirable code of honor. Is any code admirable to the degree it is rigid? An absolutist might think so.

    The bottom line seems to be that both Mr. Sprey and Prof. Young are just as much captive to old-fashioned Twentieth Century modernist nonsense as was McNamara back in the day. Their concern for history goes back no further than 1913. Their notions of psychology are based in an over-simplification of psychodynamics. Their assumptions about the adversarial nature of the world blinds them to both the similarities and the differences between themselves and those they perceive as "other." Most critically, they do not seem to be able to analyze in terms of blends and interactions. They are absolutists in the sense that they cannot construct models in terms of multiple sources and types of causality.

    Finally, Bill Moyers asked if Afghanistan might be Obama's Vietnam. The answer is that it is extremely unlikely, because this question, too, ignores a very basic fact. Vietnam was the product of both the particular circumstances on the ground and the very particular (not to say peculiar) psychology of President Johnson. We shall not see his like again. We certainly do not see it in Obama. Johnson was a pure product of his generation. He saw everything adversarially. He rejected historical analysis for pseudo-psychology. (No better example of this can be found than the audio clip between McNamara and Johnson that Moyers himself ran on the show and that Prof. Young so clearly and correctly analyzed.) Obama is entirely a different sort of person. He is much more like FDR than LBJ. His is a subtle mind that loves history and is as properly skeptical about psychology as it is about any other science. If Afghanistan is to be Obama's Vietnam, a very different trap than bombing will have to catch him up. Obama is in a very different war, and has very different weaknesses.

    Problems in Pakistan is due to the fact NATO/US is in Afghanistan, most of the armed men moved into the hills of Pakistan, NATO should talk to Taliban, who are true caretakers of Afghanistan, they should be told of Al-Qaida, that they can not flourish there. Once US pulls out of this poor nation, Pakistan will stabilize and they they will have some life.
    Israel Also have to stop genocides in GAZA or anywhere in the world. Have elections in Israel and give to the the folks who are winners, and learn to accept the results.

    Thank you for the January 30 interview about Afghanistan and the "drone" unmanned aerial vehicles. The Air Force's squadron of armed UAVs (the Predator and the Reaper) is headquartered just north of Las Vegas at Creech AFB. Our organization, Nevada Desert Experience organizes a "Sacred Peace Walk" from Las Vegas to the Nevada Test Site, and we pass Creech. This year we will pay special attention to Creech and the drones. The walk is from April 6 to 13, and starting April 1 there will be a vigil at Creech. New weapons systems only lead to more war, not less. The impulse to use them is too powerful. Decreasing risk to our soldiers will ironically make us attack more, and in the end, less safe because we'll make more enemies than we kill. All steps must be towards a repudiation of war. -Jim Haber, Las Vegas, NV

    The thought that we can make any progress by military
    means in Afghanistan is a fantasy. These wars are non-
    sustainable period. Our country is bankrupt after spending billions of our tax dollars in Iraq and now afghanistan? To continue the same military policy is nothing short of madness. Russia made no headway in
    Afghanistan! What makes us think that we will? Also the use of drones and other horrific remote technology in Afghanistan against the Taliban is killing more
    civilians then the so called enemy. Let's face it war has never solved world conflicts in the past nor will it solve conflicts now or in the future!

    Sarah Chayes was on "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross today. You can hear it as an archive (download) from WHYY's site. She says things have gotten worse with the Taliban since her last Moyers' show. She really feels in danger and is having to take more precautions. She is shuttling back and forth as an unofficial emissary, trying to get the Obama crew to listen. Right now elections have been delayed and Afghan civilians are fed up with Karzai's corrupt administration. She expects he'll lose if the election is not rigged in the fall. She says we need more troops to stop collateral casualties and that we should not negotiate with the Taliban, which is underwritten by pakistani intelligence (ISI). Now who knows if our intelligence budget supports these criminals? Sarah thinks setting up clean elections with a less corrupt and more accountable government would help immensely. "Give them a choice," she says.I thought I'd post this in case Sarah doesn't make it on the Journal the next couple shows.

    One of the most important aspects of the very thought provoking programs you present is the resulting desire catalyzed in your viewers to discuss the issues presented.

    To the comments already presented, I will urgently add my agreement and support to the suggestion already made by several respondents that Sprey, Young, AND Greg Mortenson MUST be included in all future discussions regarding any policy decisions affecting Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mortenson's work within the remote villages, his good and productive relationships with tribal leaders and the ongoing work and successes of his Central Asia Institute make him a most essential resource.

    Advocacy for the inclusion of these three individuals is essential. I have already sent this recommendation to President Obama.

    Thank you profoundly Bill Moyers for providing this public forum,

    Repeatedly, over and over your guests and others in the media refer to 9/11 in many ways BUT the one that pervasively is more and more evident showing a demolition insider job. How come that you, Bill Moyers, one of the most admired and well respected journalists in existence do not devote a program to investigating such a possibility?

    Don't you think that if confirmed as such, that fact will demolish all previous argumentation?, don't you feel that it is our duty to reveal the truth?

    Tough call Irene...
    We are on the horns of a dilemma. We need to keep the Taliban out of
    Afghanistan. This could be accomplished by providing the people of Afghanistan the training and equipment to protect their borders. We could support their effort with air support and financial aid through trade. If we establish a much improved quality of life in Afghanistan instead of cause them grief; we could show that we really do have their best interests at heart.

    Mr. Sprey hit the nail on the head, twice, when he identified both the means and objectives in Afghanistan.

    First, the use of drones as a "means" is morally evil, for thus far it has killed more innocents than "combatants", and the alleged, unproven combatants are NEVER positively identified. DEAD MEN DO NOT TALK.

    Second, he really hit the nail on the head when he questioned the entire "war on terror", and why the U.S. is in Afghanistan at all!

    A) 9/11 was not an act of war, and there was no furtherance of that "war", even if you believe the "official story". There is no justification for declaring war on other countries, especially when there is no hard evidence linking those countries to 9/11. In fact the war on terror carries out the neoconservative Project for New American Century (PNAC) blueprint for a "new middle east" and "regime change" that was drawn up and published in Sept. 2000--one year before 9/11--where is pointedly stated that their plan would likely not come into implementation "absent some catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor". They obtained their pretext one year later. What a coincidence!

    B) Spray stated that the war on terror is a bogus war without justification, and that "anyone who starts from that point" is immediately leading us astray, and that this is the position of Obama, which no "change" from that of Bush and the neoconservatives.

    C) The FBI spokesman Rex Tomb stated the reason Bin Laden's Most Wanted poster (still) does not mention 9/11 is because "the FBI has no hard evidence linking bin Laden to 9/11". Ask the FBI about that yourself.

    D) both the Taliban and bin Laden in Sept. 2001 denied any knowledge or involvement in 9/11 in Paki newspapers (Karachi), and on BBC. It was not until spurious "bin Laden" videos were released (not by government, but by neocon-tied private intelligence firms; i.e. SITE) released these tapes to the American MSM that bin Laden was portrayed as having knowledge or involvement. Later KSM was called the "mastermind" of 9/11--but only upon "confession" produced by torture in Gitmo.


    If there is no "hard evidence" that bin Laden or Taliban were really involved in 9/11, then they are no threat to US security, and the US has no business making wars and "regime change" in Afghanistan, Pakistan (both of which are sovereign countries) whatsoever!

    Americans have been sold a LIE about Afghanistan, as much as about Iraq. Therefore OBAMA'S WAR IN AFGHANISTAN WILL BE HIS "IRAQ" OR "VIETNAM", and people are already discovering this. [b]The War on Terror is Bogus, and based upon lies and false pretexts, as was pointed out by the UK minister in Parliament Michael Meacher 7 years ago.[/b]

    When will Americans wake up to this?

    Is a Military Strategy the Best Option in Afghanistan?

    If # 44 is so arrogant or stupid as to think he can win a war in Afghanistan or change anything with all the military power at his disposal, he will join all the fools that tried before him.

    Not only that he will be as guilty, as # 37 and # 43, of sending young men and women to their deaths for the vanity, of those who have daughters and not sons. An unforgiveable Sin.

    This country has gotten into the habit of using its warriors for fodder and of forgetting its veterans. If # 44 continues this behavior he will not have to worry about a second term.

    This is a job for Police and special units of the CIA… not the military who have suffered 4 wars that they were not allowed to win. We don’t need a 5th and if # 44 thinks we do, we don’t need him.

    Criticize me, call me what you like, say what you want, but we the US were not attacked by Afghanistan and our young men and women should not have to die for some politician’s vanity.

    I hate war and I hate our best young men and women dying especially in a foreign land and so toughly unnecessary.

    I will gladly go to any war that drafts all the Representatives and Senators and their sons and I will be glad to let them lead and see if the taste of death suits them. It will be my second time at war but my first time serving with cowards….

    Surrendered and all dead are two different things.

    Nuclear destroyed Rob Oppenheimer, and it can destroy you too, and the entire planet. Nuclear is a special case due to off-scale power. But, in many ways counterinsurgency as designed by our warriors is as insidious as radiation, with a millenial half-life of revenge.

    Our violence only forestalls an inevitable resolution. Bankrupt begins in the collective consciousness and diffuses to the finances. That's how we got here.

    Dear Bill Moyers,

    You are correct. We should work for negotiation rather than military action.

    Owen Trout

    Excuse me..but didn't we bomb Japan into submission with two- count em two nuclear bombs? Weren't we on a path to a full scale invasion if this option was not considered? Didn't this bring an end to the war? I'm not advocating nuclear proliferation, for the loss of life in that region would be incalculable. I'm simply addressing the premise, that bombing heightens the resolve to resist.

    John Thomas Ellis: The people ultimately responsible for 9/11 are probably right here in the United States, unless on a Caribbean vacation. Billy Bob knows this in his subconscious, he's just fixated on Teddy Kennedy.

    kjones: Thanks for the history lesson, though 167 years too late. Technology today continues to make delivery and equipment of fuel to Afghanistan extremely expensive and difficult. We are 10K miles farther away than the Russians who will not let us cut through their back yard. Iran is on the side opposite Pakistan. What a sandwich! As troop levels increase the costs and maybe the casualty rate will exceed the 11 billion a month peak in Iraq. Not only can we not afford the warfare, it only produces more enemies. Osama bin Laden was always a fetish. Who knows if an actor made the (/11 bragging tape after his death. We'd get the same satisfaction going back to look for Pancho Vila or Geronimo, or hunting Satan in a Canadian strip mine. We need to quit jumping at phantoms and face the truth that our elite is our worst enemy. They'd send our troops on any snipe hunt to make money, and loot their property and prostitute their spouses in their absence. I thought Obama understood that the 9/11 Pearl Harbor and the Economic Pearl harbor were inside jobs, and that he would be subversive when in office. But now I think, if he knows the truth, he's only a hostage with a gun to his and his family's head. I guess that is the price an African-American pays for a good job these days. Put on your Texaco coveralls Obama and haul some premium gas to Jalalabad. Your successor, Emperor Petraeus, wants to take a ride.

    Jeannine et al,

    Yes, Moyers is an apologist, an Establishment apologist. The Gulf of Tonkin incident is well known to be a hoax:

    ...just like more recent false-flag incidents:

    Moyers is a sophisticated apologist. In fact, many of the people on his show are fully authentic and for democracy. However, in total, Moyers provides a picture for people that the Establishment wants the people to have, though mostly just the people who don't buy into more mainstream media.

    You can learn much more about what is really going on in the world and the U.S. from reading the two books The Essential Chomsky and The Shock Doctrine than you can from watching all of Bill Moyers' shows. Seriously.

    We live in a corporate Orwellian plutocracy (of course, you likely don't believe this).

    Click on my name below for more information...

    I’m a regular viewer of The Journal and NOW. I’ve found them both to be invaluable “alternate” sources of news and information and I am so grateful to have them. I was stopped short during last week’s Journal, when during your intro you said, “After an encounter in the Gulf of Tonkin between American destroyers and North Vietnamese torpedo boats, President Lyndon Johnson ordered bombing raids over North Vietnam.” And then you moved on with your intro and into your interview with your guests.
    I remember having a conversation with a business associate years ago about how much I appreciate your work, and he flew into a rage calling you a number of unpleasant things, not the least of which was “an apologist for Johnson, that bastard, who was responsible for the deaths of three of my friends; I despise Bill Moyers!” I didn’t know how to respond. I was shocked and offended, because at the time I didn’t have any basis for understanding his label for you of “apologist”. I realize that at the time of the “encounter” that was the “best information” that was available, but in 2009 I believe it is pretty much understood that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a lie used to escalate US involvement in VietNam (see this FAIR article ), ensuring a “wider war”, and this is why I’m writing.
    Could you not have said “an alleged encounter” or some other such language? Why am I being so picky? Because I regard you and your show as a critical links to my understanding the world, and in a way you “apologized” again for Johnson’s decision to escalate the war by not making clear that a deeper truth about that incident has been discovered; lending credence to my associates labeling of you as an apologist. I was disappointed in that omission, and wanted to share my disappointment with you because, again, I really pay attention to you and what you offer me as news and information. It’s a small thing in this modern mad world we live in, and the show was profound and, again, I am so grateful for your work. I just had to let you know the effect your words have on me, and people like my associate. He’s never had the pleasure of reading your works with Joseph Campbell, because he couldn’t get over your roll in the Johnson administration. Sad. I’m still a fan, and will still watch. I’m sorry I haven’t written before just to tell you “good job”; so I say now GOOD JOB!, and thanks; but remember the devil is in the details.

    While I found the conversation interesting, I would have found it more interesting had Bill's guests provided some possible solutions.

    Thank you Bill Moyers and your guests for discussing relevant issues about the war on terror and bombing in Afghanistand. I agree with most of the comments posted, especially Virginia B. Harris, and Melvin Hendrix for their common sense devoid of negativity on the topic, (posted on 2/2/09). Please listen up America. Sincerely Janel Clarke

    Eisenhowers lament come to fruition. Until such time as we have turned over every stone to get at those who supply rogue elements with weapons and punish them to the highest extent possible we will never have Peace,what is needed is a vigilant "End Use" regulation on armaments dealers, and we must enable laws that prohibit private citizens and corporations from selling armaments. As it is we promote all these weapons at various Armament Fairs, where the only rides one gets at these fairs is obfuscation of the truth.

    Inspired by your show last Friday, I sent this letter to President Obama:
    January 31, 2009

    President Barack Obama
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20500

    Dear President Obama,

    Exultant as I was at your election and inauguration as our President, it pains me deeply to have to write a letter critical of your actions. However, your authorization to send a drone helicopter into Pakistan only three days after you took office is extremely alarming. The fact that in trying to kill an al Qaeda leader a number of civilians, including children, were also killed by its bomb is unacceptable. The fact that the drone was sent into Pakistan, a country with which we are not at war, is unacceptable. But even more unacceptable is the implication that it is possible to fight a war against a concept. "Terror" is not an enemy: it is an idea. True, it is an idea carried out by individuals. But individuals are not a political entity--not a nation, not a group of nations, not even a tribe. The euphemism of "collateral damage" when civilians are wantonly destroyed during bombing raids serves to cloak the fact that such casualties only result in bitterness coupled with a desire for revenge that ultimately increase terrorism rather than eliminating it. Far more appropriate, I believe, would be a police action against the individuals we have good reason to believe responsible for the murderous attacks against the United States and several European countries during the past seven-plus years.

    Your decision to nearly double the number of American forces in Afghanistan is even more alarming. Before involving your new administration in what could, and probably will, require us to continue fighting a fruitless, metastasizing conflict, please first convene a panel of knowledgeable persons to consider what our country's approach should be towards that region of the world. I am as concerned as you about the threat of the individuals within al Qaeda who aim to destroy the Western world, and am also distressed about the retrograde governing philosophy of the Taliban. But I believe that in terms of dealing with al Qaeda the seeking out, arresting, and bringing to trial of those individuals responsible for murderous attacks; and trying diplomacy instead of war against the Taliban, are far preferable to the continuation of a wholesale war against an entire population.

    This region offers little hope for a winnable war. Ask Russia. Ask Britain. Ask Alexander the Great. I am fearful that by continuing and augmenting the policies of the past administration, the growing Afghan and-now-Pakistan war will come to overwhelm all the positive plans you have begun to initiate so promisingly both domestically and in other parts of the world in your first few days in office.

    I realize that the entrenched military-industrial behemoth would resist the reconsideration of our policies in Afghanistan. Still, I do strenuously urge you to convene a panel to conduct a review of our situation there, consider carefully why we are still there, what we are trying to do, and whether there are not better ways to accomplish our goals than to endanger more American and NATO forces, as well as civilians. Let us not exchange the quagmire of Iraq for one in Afghanistan.

    With sincerity and hope,

    Virginia B. Harris

    Falls Church, VA


    Arrogance breeds contempt; and, it is contempt that destroys relationships. This has been confirmed by research undertaken by John Gottman at the University of Washington and popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in "Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking." Both in domestic and foreign relations, the United States historically has acted with contempt towards those people with whom they are in competition for resources: the Native Americans, the Africans, the South Americans, the Arabs and their oil, revolutionaries everywhere, including the French.

    It is ironic that these drones are called "Predators" as that is exactly what Americans and the American state represents across historical time. It is fact, not faith. Unfortunately, Obama is continuing that historical path into the future.

    JT Ellis Feb 2 1:37am
    How would you suggest these Saudia & Egyptain criminals be tracked down & tried? Did the Saudia King & princes give aid, comfort, & finacial support to the criminals? Should the Saudias have allowed the USA to apprehend those criminals that bombed the Marine barraks?

    Your heart may be in the right place but in this case right is not the Saudia way.

    Steve Feb 1 10:30 pm
    Al Quieda did fly planes around the US & kill innocent people--not collateral damage, but as targets.

    Billy Bob

    TR Onucki Feb 1 8:22pm
    Al Quieda & the plane hijackers were not poor, hopeless or opressed, but princes & educated & they endanger the poor opressed & hopeless by operating in residential areas.

    You may feel our actions are wrong, but their guilt is not diminished.

    The Brits invaded Afghanistan in the 1840's at the peak of their colonial powers. Wikipedia says "Only one man, the assistant surgeon William Brydon, survived" of a 16,500 man British task force trying to escape that mistake. See below.

    "The Massacre of Elphinstone's Army was a victory of Afghan forces, led by Akbar Khan, the son of Dost Mohammad Khan, over a combined British and Indian force, led by William Elphinstone, in January 1842. After the British and Indian troops captured Kabul in 1839, an Afghan uprising forced the occupying garrison out of the city. The British army, consisting of 4,500 troops and 12,000 working personnel or camp-followers, left Kabul on January 6, 1842. They attempted to reach the British garrison at Jalalabad, 90 miles away, but were immediately harassed by Afghan forces. The last remnants were eventually annihilated near Gandamak on January 13. Only one man, the assistant surgeon William Brydon, survived and managed to reach Jalalabad.

    The massacre would probably not have happened had the British not placed their trust in Akbar Khan. Another factor was the total incompetence of the commanding officer, Major-General William George Keith Elphinstone."

    Ruth Feb 1 7:45 pm
    Very interesting.
    Ref. huge hidden agenda.
    Hillary had the nomination pretty well locked until Oprah gave Obama free TV exposure, but she really lost to Ted Kennedy & his senate good ole boys. Ted wants history to remember him & his health plan & he called in Senators Kerry, McGovern, Biden, Edwards & neice Carolyn to support Obama (not support Hillary)in the northeast early elections. The DNP & Obama denied Mich. & Fla. votes because they voted early & might give Hillary the early lead. It was intended to be hidden, but simple results analysis lens some sunshine to one of the hidden agendas.

    What concerns me is that few if any care that my vote was denied, or that Paulson demanded $700 billion in small unmarked bills within 48 hrs. or we suffer. Few ask how we got to the crisis without any forewarning. Actually, Freddie & Fannie tightened loan rules for manufactured housing a year before the crisis--because they were concerned about the quality of loans being made. I ran across this in an old article in a FMHA publication--not from a House of Rep. panel or Senate.
    What did Paulson know & when did he know it? The Watergate Senate Panel is needed!

    Obama said that the crisis is to big to try to point fingers or assign responsibility or accountability.

    The only change has been from Rep. to Dem. hidden agendas.

    One other change--the internet allows the local barber shop belly aching to be open to the the nation--so maybe there will be change inspite of the hidden agendas.

    Billy Bob, Florida

    Mr. Moyers,

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Pierre Sprey said what I've been waiting whole eight years to hear. "9/11 was not an act of war. It was a criminal act. It was a simple criminal act by a bunch of lunatic, fanatic, violent people, who needed to be tracked-down; apprehended and tried, exactly like you would with any other lunatic, violent person, like we did our own domestic terrorists."

    Every time I said it, people either shouted me down or gave me that look we usually reserve for crazy people.


    John Thomas Ellis

    Until we teach our children never to war, the war will never end.


    Dr. Vartan Gregorian is so right on about not only is education-lifelong and self-sustained the cornerstone of any for-real much less secure and sustainable democratic polity of any shape or size, but even deeper to the whole point of our human being opportunity in community with one another; as Dr. Gregorian and others have said: Democracy-in-practice (and not the mere clanging symbols and hollow rationale epousals of democrazy-sloganism we've so-long been swimming-in some of we looking for a breath of fresh air not found on "All Things Considered" PBS-radio-type programs-only) is what will make of the all-encompassing human field of Education an open immeasurably helpful and healing window into the kinds of human learning experiences we today need to share presently more than ever perhaps before in order to undo the disorder our mutual ignorance has let stand in the names of all kinds of imaginary virtues we are still taught as Americans to sing only of ourselves and our nation. The whole world knows we are not a democracy, but a republic whose People have lost their participatory voice and sharing in creating visons kind to present and to future generations of our one humanity, if such is to be at all. Other cultures and peoples are not failed attempts at being-us, but are human resources like us in that we can learn deeply about ourselves and our life choices by listening and really engaging in discussion and collaborations leading to a more beloved human community than any single individual, group or People can even imagine by themselves; much less be so foolish as to try to impose on other Earth folks.

    If Al Qaeda were flying drones around the United States and firing missiles at, say, Georgetown dinner parties or a wedding party at the White House in an attempt to "decapitate" one or another US Government "top lieutenant", you know that Donald Rumsfeld or Robert Gates, George W. Bush or Barack Obama would be calling them "intolerable terrorist attacks on innocent civilians."

    President Obama must stop the "US Global War on Terror" because it really is a US Global War OF Terror.

    Per Afghanistan, maybe someone should consult Charlie Wilson about what he learned. I think his experience and input would be invaluable. And what we would learn is that the Muslim extremists make up a very small percentage of the whole and that education and infrastructure is what the solution should be. I applaud Greg Mortenson's work.

    Dear President Obama, PLEASE reverse the course you are continuing our nation upon of multiplying for generations to come new enemies of our nation and its People by using military means to actually deepen and broaden to world wide statue indigenous politcal factions memberships and supporters like Alcaeda, the Taliban, radical groups in the mid-east willing to use terroristic tactics due to our role in making their lives otherwise hopeless, desparate, oppressed, brutalized and apartheid with our blessings and our armaments and U.S. tax payer dollars. PLEASE be courageous enough to do the Real Change of listening to those experienced and wise enough historically and culturally as well as militarily to know that killing civilians in order to break an "enemy People's" will has never worked in modern history. PLEASE assert your civilian Commander in Chief authority over your military advisors and leaders and JUST SAY NO to any continuation, much less escalation, of our present militray involvemnt in Afghanistan. PLEASE address at the same time the whole American People and the world's Peoples who are listening and wathcing you intently still hoping for Real Change and explain that Our Nation will abide completely by The Geneva Accords and all of the international Conventions We The People you represent and lead are actually signatory to in our names and our nation's security and integrety. PLEASE find in yourself the courage and the wisdom to explain to the whole U.S. People and the world's Peoples that we will not use military force to try to resolve indigenous political problems of corruption and mismanagement in other nations of the world. PLEASE be the teacher and community organizer you are (now in your role of elected leadership as the Chief Executive office holder of our nation) to elucidate clearly and simply the historical fact that killing civilians in other Peoples' lands has never succeeded in historical memory in breaking those Peoples' wills, but only in gaining us generational enemies who do feel hatre for U.S. and We The People of U.S. for thinking to call the family, friends' and neighbors' murders from air or from on-the-ground gunpoint "collateral damage" shows U.S. to be in the hearts and minds a most dishonorable and disrespectful of human life and dignity People and nation. Hardly the work we now need to be doing to undo what has been standard operating procedure U.S. foreign policy UNwise now for far too long with zero success and much pain and loss of life and treasure only to show for it. PLEASE put a FULL STOP to our gov't.'s use of the oxymoronic symbolic language of "The War on Terror". It is no such thing, and no such war is possible, much less "win-able". It is pure Orwellean "Doublespeack" straight out of jouralist turned novelist Eric Blair's 1984 best seller, which Abraham Lincoln would have well understood his reading of, as hopefully you will as well. We do NEED you NOW to LEAD us into a Real Change that is a simulanteous at-home and global-U.S.-role and means of doing international relations that truly demonstrates to us all the "angels (thoughts and actions) of our better (individual and national self) natures and character. THANK YOU Mr. President. It would be a tragedy in thought and in deed if the unprecedented in so many ways opportunity of your Presidency were lost in Afghanistan and in the mid-East to name two possible "Big Muddy's" that will sap all of your administrations' vision, time, energy and resources as South Vietnam did President Johnson's at another could've-been turning point for our nation as a true world leader for peace and for a truly beloved and secure community of We American citizenry as a whole here at home. PLEASE do LISTEN as IS YOUR REAL PROMISE and PRESENT OPPORTUNITY for doing a whole world of PRESENT GOOD. The alternative is too well known and too sad to further comment upon, as you well know being a reader of U.S. and world history.
    Timothy R. Onucki
    Metuchen, New Jersey

    The only reason people in any country submit to the terror of groups like the Taliban is that they have no other viable alternatives. If we did what Greg Mortensen is doing, and offered schools, help, non partisan education, training, food and building supplies, farming help, they would embrace us and ignore the Taliban.

    Bombing them does exactly what your guest Pierre Sprey said. For every hit on the ground, eliminating one Taliban fighter or Afghani civilian you create 5 or 10 new recruits for the Taliban.

    What does it take to have people see what is REALLY going on with our country? We are NOT in Afhganistan for any other reasons but these: 1) for the oil 2) for the opium...we are probably not there for us, per se, but we are there at someone else's command to allow these cash industries viability. Obama is a puppet, just like Bush or Clinton. Doesn't anyone wonder how Obama came to be President? Did you ever hear of this guy a few years ago? There is a huge hidden agenda and he is on it. Why do you think Jesse Jackson has the feelings he does towards Obama? You would think Jackson would be jumping up and own for joy, to finally have a bi-racial man in the oval office. I am afraid Obama is a scam.The Taliban had stopped all poppy agriculture in Afghanistan prior to 9/11/01. When we invaded the poppies bloomed en force. Bumper crops. Now Kabul is a urban hub for the drug traders (Russian mafia, Columbian drug czars, you name them, they are there...and yet the UN still says there is a global opium shortage for medicinal purposes. What a crock!.) Now Kabal supports poppy palaces ( huge, new and expensive homes) luxury shopping malls and hotels, and gourmet restaurants. Ever see any of those images on TV? Hardly. A financial expert who has been interviewed on PBS numerous times has said: "Our financial regulators are being held hostage." Is anyone listening? We have LOST control of our country. Someone else is calling the shots. China? Russia? Federal Reserve? World Bank? Who knows? My sympathies to those of you who really beieve that Obama is the solution or that he will be any different from what we've already seen. He has a great rhetorical speech writer, but he listens to the drummer's beat. The American public has been HAD.

    Re: higher education: I recently discovered that illegal aliens' children who were born on US soil are fast tracked in college prep programs. If they do "well" they are able to select the college of their choice anywhere in the USA and the entire education (tuition and board) is paid for by the US taxpayer 100%. Democracy at work or special interest payback? You decide. For me, as a middle class (USA citizen since birth) parent paying for college tuition and board for 2 daughters... ( who graduated in the top 5% of their NJ HS classes, one from Lawrenceville Prep and the other from a very competitive public school)...payments which are now in excess of $1000 a month...I think it is completely ABSURD. My daughters are the ones who should be receiving free college educations. God knows I've paid enough taxes since I began working at age 16 to pay for college several times over! America WAKE-UP!

    Watching your interview this morning with Marilyn Young and Pierre Sprey, several times I found myself pleading aloud -- "Please be watching this, President Obama. Please, PLEASE be watching this interview."

    Moyers, Young, and Sprey are right: we need to pull our soldiers out of Afghanistan and seek a regional diplomatic peace plan involving Iran, Pakistan, and Russia, as well as the UN.

    And let's recall that the planning of 9/11 was done in Hamburg not Kabul, and the pilots were trained in Florida and Arizona, not Afghanistan. We do not need to occupy that country; if al Qaeda were to build a big scary base there, we could bomb it.

    The way to protect the US from terrorism is to stop waging war, which is big terrorism.

    Both of your latest guests imply we have no exit strategy for further U.S. military adventurism in the Middle East.

    Until we can guarantee this and back it with withdrawal dates, hostilties will persist and diplomatic overtures fail.

    America must learn to swallow its pride and accept defeat gracefully.

    Anything else is obstinate belligerence and will make us more enemies than we already have throughout the world.

    Just look at Russia before us for the most recent example of how not to wage a military campaign in this geographic region. They went bankrupt trying to dominate the Arab nations.

    Will the U.S. soon join them ?


    Bill Moyers, Please take whatever steps you can to get Sprey and Young into the Oval Office for a conference with President Obama. He needs to hear from them the terrible trap he may be stepping into in Afganistan. Your name is big enough to get the President's attention if you will just pursue this. Please, please do this for all Americans and for your country. Get Sprey and Young in the Oval Office to talk to President Obama the way they talked to you. Go with them if it would make them talk as well as they talked to you. Again, please get this ball rolling. Sincerely, Jeanne H. Wood

    Isn't there a saying or something about history repeating itself; wasn't there a recent candidate saying something about change. Could change reconfigure the cycle- all we are Give Change A Chance.

    Tom N.- First the second Pearl Harbor of 9/11 to quash the possibility of constitutional rights, and then the Financial Pearl Harbor to make debt peonage universal. We should have thought more about how broiling chickens in tiny cages suffer before they become People Chow, because now we are those chickens. Sadism: what goes around comes around.

    "Is it democracy?"

    Umm no. It's simply racism - white supremacy!

    I along with several previous commenters wonder why there isn't one person in all of Obama's court who can slip in an invitation for Sprey or Young or anyone else with their knowledge of bombing and Afghanistan / Pashtunistan to sit down with the President for a 15 minute discussion. Also regarding drones with 48 ft wingspan and flying 80 miles an hour.....seems like a few shoulder fired missiles could make the assault / occupation a little more worry about any American lives being lost because the pilots are in front of computer screens at an airbase outside Las Vegas enjoying a few hours of real video game warfare before heading off for some quality casino time.

    Great show, another, and more please.

    There is some dreadful and polarizing disconnect in the world's military superpower remotely robotically killing people at will and yet praising to heaven the values and teachings of the Prince of Peace. A horrible opportunity for war mongers and profiteers to make an overkilling.

    Ask ourselves who made the decision and why a military response to extremists' criminal activities was necessary.

    Why was there not a debate of the economic costs of a huge military campaign vs finding out what is the grievances of the extremists and fixing it? Was security really factored in?

    If the goal is a stable and peaceful world, fixing much of the causes of poverty would greatly reduce desperate acts of violence.

    If the goal is unending military activity and a wicked financial system of greed and fear, then bingo, create enemies by arrogant and disrespectful acts of business and violence, because no one can stop the greedy bully once its emotions are stirred.

    And I think that this wrong decision was helped to be made possible by people losing their moral compass when they fire and atom-bombed whole populations. Lost the conscience that makes us humane when children can be deemed "enemies".

    Marilyn Young needs to remember that American AND Allied troops on the ground are being shot at by the insurgents on a daily basis. More often then not, this is the reason that bombs are dropped in Afghanistan. Take it from someone who has been there, not a revisionist historian.

    Sorry, Bill, but your questions are irrelevant. You should have asked: Have we got the money or the will to conquer Pashtunistan? The answer is obvious,and the action we must take is obvious. Too bad Obama hasn't got the guts to say what everyone knows and do what needs to be done.

    Ending the war in Afghanistan on our own terms:

    Thank you for your recent thought-provoking show on Afghanistan. I'm afraid that our bold new president, and his new secretary of state, seem bereft of new ideas that represent real change for this region of the world. The Taliban surge has to be dealt with in ways that play to our strengths and not to the Taliban’s.

    As NATO contemplates a renewed attack on the embedded Taliban - a surge which has already cost hundreds of innocent Afghan lives as well as those of our own troops - it's worth asking if there is not another way; another way to curb the Taliban influence that does not involve killing people.

    History is helpful. In the 1970s, Turkey was the largest supplier of heroin in the world. Then the United States got smart and started buying the poppy crop - we still do. The government sold it to U.S. pharmaceutical firms to make legitimate drugs – after all, there are no bad plants, only bad uses for plants. The drug cartel lost control of Turkey and today Turkey is one of our staunchest allies in the Middle East. We later tried a similar approach in India with good results.

    From the CIA world fact site we know that the GDP of Afghanistan in 2006 was something under $40 billion. Today, over half the GDP of Afghanistan is tied up in poppy production in some way, and is controlled by rogue warlords who channel profits directly to the Taliban – some $100 million a year. This is an extremely lucrative business and there is nothing even remotely comparable in that region of the world. Sixty percent of Taliban income comes directly from poppy production.

    On the other hand, growing food is either uneconomic for the average afghan farmer, or is outright forbidden – at the point of a gun - by the Taliban militia who control the rural regions.

    Instead of fighting the Afghan farmer, who is caught in an impossible position, we should buy the crop - all of it – from him. This would:
    A. End 60% of Taliban income immediately.
    B. Put us on the side of the Afghan farmer instead of making us just one of his several enemies. Hearts and minds...
    C. Put a serious dent in the heroin trade - a concern also for Russia and Europe, who blame us for the escalation of their drug problem.
    D. Allow us to influence the Afghanistan people by becoming their respectful partner instead of their bullying enemy (there is something extremely unseemly about a country of our size, might, and moral stature, going around burning fields and dropping bombs on subsistence farmers in a desperately poor country. Obama may recognize this intuitively, but mollifying words have to be backed up with concrete action).

    Eventually, we need to encourage Afghans to grow food instead of Poppy plants. We should pay a 10% premium over the market price for poppy, for food staples. By finally establishing a middle class of farmers, shopkeepers, and other distributors, supported by microloans, we would cut the Taliban off at the knees. And by supplying a profit motive, the new middle class would be encouraged to form militias or to finally build up the Afghan army to protect themselves against the Taliban – who, despite popular perception, are largely loathed by the average Afghan citizen. As President Obama has publicly stated, you build a Democracy from the bottom up, not from the top down. We have a chance to do this in a way that is cheaper, far less violent, and far more effective than the shoot and burn approach we've tried thus far.

    There are other answers to the Afghan situation, if people are willing to examine history and to break out of idealogical molds. We need to play to our strengths, not to the Taliban’s. In a game of attrition, history shows that those who try to forcefully bend Afghanistan to their will, eventually lose.

    Is there any organization in the United States today that is taking to the streets and taking other actions to protest the wars? Or do we need to establish one?

    How couldn't Bill and his guests remember the Kosovo war? The bombing of Yugoslavia stopped the war, saved thousands of lives and eventually brought about the collapse of the Milosevic regime.

    Bill, thank you for another thought-provoking program. It seems to me that too many people use Hiroshima and Nagasaki to justify “aerial bombing”. Where the atomic bombs really necessary? Some Americans (especially WW2 Veterans) like to think so, and this would be a good topic for a future program. When The Smithsonian displayed the “Enola Gay” the was a big dispute between veterans and academics.

    If fact, intense bombing did not work against Britain, Stalingrad or Germany in WW2 or North Vietnam (to list a few examples). It does much more to strengthen resolve than to weaken it. Japan was effectively defeated after March 9-10, 1945, when Tokyo was fire bombed. Approximately, 25% of the city was destroyed and there were about 100,000 deaths.

    By August, 1945 Japan was on its knees and trying to find an “honorable” way to end the war. The reasons why a defeated Japan took 6 months to surrender (the atomic bombings may have hastened the surrender by a few weeks or several months, but not much more) are deeply cultural. This same culture has created the world’s second largest economy. Japan has few natural resources and is the size of California.

    Similarly, strong cultural factors are key to understanding what is happening in Afghanistan. No-one likes to have foreign troops on their soil and few like it less than the Afghanis. Britain at the height of imperial power failed, as did Russia. More foreign troops and the use of drones will only exacerbate the problem. To the West, the unintentional killing of civilians is a necessary evil if they could also kill members of the Taliban. To most Afghanis, this is unforgivable and they have very long memories. (As do people in Northern Ireland, it seems.) Of course, there are no easy solutions but I suggest: 1) America and its allies should consult anthropologists and then dispatch doctors, teachers, engineers to work at the grassroots level. Afghan students could be given scholarships to study overseas etc; 2) The US needs to have a rational foreign policy with clear rubrics. If China is “good” why is Cuba “bad”?; likewise for Saudi Arabia and Iran, etc.. In addition, America needs to re-embrace the Geneva Convention, shut Guantanimo down and take steps to investigate and prosecute those responsible for water-boarding and other human rights abuses. and 3) while America is increasingly vigilant at its borders, internal security is weak. Institute a national biometric database and you’ll find more than just some deadbeat dads!

    Think the young girls with faces scarred by acid will be one of the five new converts to the Taliban?

    Thanks once again to Bill Moyers for bringing together thoughtful, insgithful, articulate people to say what needs to be said. But I was disapointed that there has been no comment either on the show or in the above comments about the underlying premise that the US has the right to go marching around the world imposing our views, values and might on other soverign countries. Why are we not reaching out to other countries of the world to enlist their aide and support for combating terriorism, which as Mr. Sprey so clearly identified is a crime not an act of war. The world is changing, becoming smaller and we may have passed our time at the top. It is time we recognise that we need to work with the people of the world to include them in solving the problems we are all facing. That means talking to others forming a diaglogue and negotiating how to implement plans that carry the weight of many countires not the hubris of the bloated, self involved narcissistic behemoth that we have become. We do not have all the answers-boy have the past four months if not the past 40 years alerted us to that fact? Thanks for the program and a place to respond. Ross (Albany)

    If it somehow came to be known that Osama Bin Laden were hiding on a North Carolina farm with an American family, I doubt sincerely we would allow someone on a Virginia AF base to dispatch a Predator to destroy the farmhouse while they all slept. Until we can see the "enemy's" lives as fundamentally worthy of preservation as our own, we will be perceived as perpetrators of terror and violence, willing to annihilate an entire population of guilty and innocent whether it is numbered in the tens or millions. I applaud your raising this problem and regret that Sprey and Young did not address the
    atomic bomb argument.

    Much of the commenting was
    at least as interesting as the program itself. Certainly the aftermath of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in a cessation of the Japanese "will to war". On the comparison of Vietnam with current war prospects I differ with the
    dismissal of Vietnam as "a
    different kind of war" in
    that: Any war undertaken wherein the outcome is not
    crystal clear, where the objectives of combat are not clear is interminable and prone to result in a Vietnam like quagmire. Anybody who tells you different has experience differing from mine or who has been paid as a combat warrior.
    If we wish to convert the effort toward victory in Afghanistan to pursuit of a criminal is it possible we need to compare the Dept. of Defense budget to that of the FBI? Last time I checked the DOD budget is way out of proportion to the FBI budget. In other words I would support the FBI going after Osama Bin Laden. It is clear to me that our DOD dollar funds quagmires.

    You'd have to be a pointed idiot to believe the USA can make another culture get rid of corruption when we have Paulson & his pack of Wall Street Wolves!

    Or, that cultural engineering of another society should go to the holier-than-thou USA.

    Or, that the educational system can be corrected by the same political pariahs that leveled the field of education so no student feels inadequate.

    Or, that this financial mess can be dealt with by the same party that denied my vote in the nomination of my (then) party's presidential candidate.

    Or, that Hillary lost to Ted Kennedy & his health plan along with his senate boys, rather than to Obama. There was a 99&44\100% chance against any republican could win the presidency.

    Our troops are placing their lives, limbs & families at risk for pointed-headed idiots & that is a crime!

    Americans' need to get their act together before
    attacking other societies.

    Terrorist must not be allowed to openly operate in a country or we bomb them, but keep our troops home. If the civilians live with the terrorist & allow them to send attacks against us then are those civilians acting aggresively against us?

    Answers are not black & white, but is that a reason to invade another country, because civilians live with terrorist?

    Vietnam had civilians by day & military by night & look at what happened!

    America! We cannot even get our own house in order so how can we fix anothers?

    Cast the mote out of our own eye before we worry about our brothers mote!

    Professors Marilyn Young and Pierre Sprey brought a needed
    perspective to recent stories
    on Obama and Afganistan. As I read recent Afganistan stories
    on Obama administration, I
    kept on harking back to the
    best and brightest of Viet-Nam
    era who knew it all. Young and Sprey's misgivings over Obama's
    possible future actions were
    strengthened by their obvious left-liberal love affair with Obama.
    Fortunately, their intellectual
    standards prevailed and they
    did not indulge in the usual
    free pass that Obama engenders
    from most left-liberal intellectuals and journalists.
    They had no options but they
    did try to keep a dialogue
    open. Thanks for this show.

    Speaking of good reading, "Descent into Chaos" by Ahmed Rashid should be required reading by anyone and everyone who tries to speak to our situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    I deeply appreciated Bill Moyer's guests on Friday night, warning us about a quagmire in Afghanistan. However, I couldn't but think that they were just a bit behind the current curve.
    To me, the current curve is Pakistan and nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Bin Laden and/or the Taliban.
    We cannot walk away and let this happen. Nor, can we depend on India to prevent it from happening.
    This is NOT Viet Nam. This is the United States fighting a narco-state and an ideologically fanatic bunch of criminals. It IS different from what has gone before.
    What to do, I surely am not qualified to answer, except to say, walking away from a novel situation, as opposed to being stuck in historically remembering Viet Nam, is NOT the answer.

    I thought it was a bit ridiculous to be voicing dissatisfaction with Obama on the issue of civilian deaths. He has been in office for 1 week and focused the economy to keep the country from plunging into the great depression II. The course in Afghanistan will take time to change. Extrapolating Obama's handling of this issue based on the current situation is just wrong.

    We need to stop killing anyone is Afghanistan and Pakistan. We need to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq. Our empire is crumbling around us. We don't have the resources to protect our nation let alone dominate another. Our expenditures in Afghanistan and Iraq are helping to propel this nation toward its end. OBL could never imagine doing more harm to the U.S. than has been by our current government, so the war is over.

    We can politically improve the situation with Afghanistan and Pakistan by admitting defeat, apologizing to the Taliban and paying reparations to the Taliban and Afghan people. We would also send about 200,000 American civilians over there to help rebuild Afghanistan and the affected Pashtun regions of Pakistan; in addition to helping to rebuild the country, the civilians would develop close contacts with the Afghan people and inside the Taliban (infiltrating the society), and they would, from time to time, release information that would create doubts about the philosophy of the Taliban.

    Over time (a minimum of ten years--realistically twenty), the Taliban would become more dependent on American money and expertise, and the influence of so many Americans on the Afghan society would create social problems that the Taliban would seek to stop--using American help of course. And we would help them; we would engineer the demise of the Taliban's current core philosophies with the help of the Taliban. After the process is complete, a group calling itself the Taliban would still be in charge of Afghanistan, but its core philosophies would have changed so much that, except in language and dress, it would be unrecognizable (and definitely not anti-American).

    The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may not have brought the end of the War with Japan. When the Japanese were told they could keep their Emperor, then and only then did thy surrender. Read Gar Alperovitz's book "The Decision to Use the Atomic" If the USA would have told Japan in May of 1945 they could keep their Emperor much dealth could have been avoided. Many lives of Americans and Japanese could have been saved.

    where are all the people who were outraged at the bombing of Iraq?

    Is it different now when their chosen emperor Obomber is attackng Pakistan?

    The program with Sprey & Young was one of the best I have heard on any program in a very long time. They have a passionate, intelligent voice that our leaders need to hear. Why can't we work with the people of Afghanistan to build a better life for them and their children. Instead of spending money on bombs, build schools and hospitals, and help the Afghans improve the opportunities for a better life for their children. Give them reasons to stand with us and not against us. Thank you. Bill

    We're now fighting three wars because of 9-11: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the latter two being ramped up by Obomba.
    Consider this: not one 9-11 hijacker was from any of the three countries named, and Bin Laden is still at large. This is the result of using the gun instead of the brain!

    It’s encouraging to see two intelligent people, Young and Sprey, remind us what 9/11 really was: a criminal act. But I’m still wondering why has there been no criminal investigation to date? Let’s not forget that it is why we are in this mess. Read the 9/11 Commission Report; it’s not a criminal investigation. It’s an oversight “report”. Maybe you could do a show on it, Bill. Or are we just suppose to look forward to the future and forget about the past? As long as Americans ignore the past, the future will get worse. Just look at many of the post here from people who think they know history with such simple statements as “Just look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” or, worse, believe killing is an answer.

    To those who wrote that these “academics” offered no solutions, watch the show again. They did. It’s called diplomacy.

    I know of neither of the people in this Bill Moyers piece but if they are anywhere near correct this is a scary scenario. I think one must question the military people with the greatest of care and exercise the same in making choices of action on this issue. I always recall what happened to Lyndon Johnson in getting in over his head. I believe the US cannot afford another debacle that has gotten us where we are in the opinion of much of the world. Thank for the opportunity to comment on this urgent issue.

    I have emailed President Obama and urge him to watch the Sprey/Young segment on your program. One case where bombing worked is the Clinton bombing of Belgrade in order to expell Serbian forces from Kosovo.

    Murder is murder by any other name. Collateral damage is murder. And let us not forget that he who fights by the sword, dies by the sword; and (to paraphrase) those who kill innocent children, it is better for them had they not been born.

    The US strategic goal of the fighting in Afghanistan as stated by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is to create a global environment inhospitable to terrorist extremists. To try to choose between security and development as a means to that end is like asking the patient if he would prefer breathing to having a heartbeat. Because there is no cogent plan wedding development and governance to the security issues, Afghanistan has become a tragic game of 'Cowboys and Muslims'. Short term, we must secure the areas that can be secured and allow the Afghans to hold their local leaders accountable, zero tolerance for corruption. The local NATO force has to involve itself with the legitimate leaders of the area, which necessitates knowing who they are. Also, we have to ask ourselves if Afghanistan is worth dying for. If the answer is yes, turn off the bombers. Then tell all the NATO trigger pullers that we're not leaving until Afghan national security forces can do the same job has highly trained western troops (and they can). One might say we should have asked the death question before entering but we're already in Afghanistan. I'm saying stop bombing, don't stop engaging. Technique matters mightily in counter-insurgency. Long term, the EU, NAC, or whoever is representing the political arm of the donor countries must partner in loya jirga with Afghan leaders at all levels and craft the 30 year Marshal plan, at least one for every year that Afghans have endured as a proxy battle space from the Cold War days to present. Craft goals, measures of effectiveness, and pick who is going to be Mr. or Mrs. Afghanistan, a western decision maker who understands the country, can speak diplomatically to multi-national donors and to the Afghan government, and is not going to leave. Ever. We must have a long term view, not one predicated on the US presidential election cycle. We need one person, trusted by both the west and Afghans, with the tenacity, intelligence, and selflessness to oversee the reconstruction of Afghanistan while representing the interests of both donor countries and the Afghans. He or she gets a staff, but they take on the job, basically for life. If Afghanistan is worth dying for, someone in the western government should be willing to live for it. No, really.

    We have already begun sending troops to Afghanistan. What should their role be? In my opinion they should protect the Afghani people from terroist attacks from within and without, and protect the borders from Al Qaidah infiltration as best they can. Meanwhile we should assist in building infrastructure, keeping roads open, building schools, and helping Afghanistan stand on its own two feet politically and economically. We should work with the government of Pakistan to help control terrorist attacks launched from their soil; but the problem is theirs and they should deal with it. We should stay out of their country unless expressly invited, and then should go only as the UN or other international body, not alone. What we should NOT do is bomb civilians, send drones into Pakistan to bomb a soveriegn country with whom we are not at war (shades of Irag all over again!!!), inflict our views on an ancient country; romanticize "terrorists" (instead of calling them the thugs and despots that they are. Along the way we might ask any Americans who are in Afghanistan representing us to learn something, ANYTHING about its language, history, mores, hopes, pride, and aspirations and not assume they are the same as ours. And we might also learn a little from the Russians as to why a military approach probably won't work. And finally we should get out as soon as possible militarily, and deal with the region politically and economically.

    Beyond sharing the moral and practical critique of strategic bombing presented to ably by Ms. Young and Mr. Sprey, I would urge that indeed the history of the Pashtun nation and people offers an alternative model of nonviolence, and indeed of nonviolent jihad: the brave and generous example of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, an ally of Gandhi in the Indian Independence Movement.
    The Pashtun people of what was then under British colonial rule the "Northwest Frontier Province," having long resisted foreign rule by fierce warfare so relentlessly that the British could never fully subdue them, turned their great martial courage in a different direction under the inspired leadership of Khan: equally courageous and relentless nonviolent direct action against British occupation and rule.
    Far from welcoming this shift from violent to nonviolent resistance, the British found it dangerous, and complained that Khan and his followers were "calling Jihad from every rooftop." Khan himself could simply and eloquently explain the nature of that Jihad, a term that in Islam can mean struggle either against an external wrong, or within oneself for spiritual progress. His adage was: "The highest form of Jihad is to speak truth in the ear of the king." Or, as we would say, "Speak truth to power."
    In 1930, Gandhi made his famous Salt March to launch a campaign of civil disobedience for Indian independence. The Pashtun people (also known as the Pathan, one dialectal variant of their national name) joined in the campaign, one of whose bywords was Hindu-Muslim unity. In Peshawar, when troops serving under the British were ordered to open fire with machine guns against a crowd at a nonviolent demonstration, the demonstrators neither fled nor retaliated violently, but stood their ground -- until many had been killed, and the troops found themselves unable to continue firing.
    Khan's example, as an Islamic champion of peace and feminism, offers hope for the Pashtun people and the world at large -- and, at this fateful hour, for those of us with the will and courage to move U.S. foreign policy beyond what Senator William Fulbright called "The Arrogance of Power" and the delusions of strategic bombing.

    The discussion raised more questions and offered no ideas for how to pursue a political solution. Yet, the idea of the Pashtuns as a nation claiming land in both Afghanistan and Pakistan may have been a kernel of an idea that the guests planted. I don't know if this is the case or not. Would the guests please comment on this? Thank you.

    Military rule has always been the rule in Afghanistan.

    Politics requires America compromise with a mentality that severly punishes a woman that was raped. Your are just chasing windmills.

    Bomb Al-Quida by planes or missles, but keep troops out of a country that prefers the Taliban to self rule.

    Hey! Ya'll did not stand up to the DNP when my voting rights were denied-what are you doing in another country?

    Billy bob, Florida

    Bombing suspected militants should be ended; I have grown weary of hearing about the deaths of "high-value targets" - a term that surely has no meaning if we are still killing them seven years later with no end in sight.

    Increasing troop strength is good, but we absolutely need to do this in conjunction with increased diplomatic efforts to rebuild the Afghan government - both at the local and national levels. Our troops should primarily be used to secure these diplomatic efforts to ensure that the cities and towns where we operate are safe for the government to operate effectively and free of corruption.

    The first step should be to encourage the farmers to grow poppy and establish a market for their efforts by building a pharmaceutical base in-country that turns poppy into morphine and then exports the finished product to the outside world for medical supplies. Also, the profits should be used to develop the infrastructure Afghanistan needs to support its population: roads, bridges, telecom networks - so that other industries can develop on a strong foundation.

    Military has always ruled in Afghanistan.

    How does one reason with a mentality where the woman that has been raped is to be severly punished?

    Theirs is a different world. If Al-Quida operates trainning bases, then bomb from planes or missles, but take troops out of the country that accepts Taliban more than self rule.

    Billy Bob, Florida where ya'll did not stand up to the DNP when my voting rights were denied--why are you supporting a foreign govt.?

    I too believe in offering your ideas for solutions versus the never-ending criticisms. I'm definitely a fan of changing our war vocabulary and turning it into a criminal vocabulary. Our greedy economic devouring princes can be cast right up there with the modern day terrorists. Civilians are sacrificed one way or another. Physically or emotionally. The innocent are always caught in the crossfire. So, what do we do. Give up hope? Or, keep trying? Those are our choices.

    Obama does listen which is a tremendous improvement.

    Have these two very thought-provoking, inspiring authors sent their ideas to Obama's transition teams? That's a start at least. At least that option is available. I didn't hear whether they did or not in the interview. He discussed this issue at length during his campaign so there was plenty of opportunity.

    What these 2 academics had to say could have been summarized by the phrase "For a political problem, military action is not a solution."

    Yet they offered no real solutions (except, perhaps, to do something about the drug lords).

    The solution is simple:
    First Food
    Then Education

    First, to say that aerial bombing is ineffective is to point to highly lucrative examples such as Nixon's Christmas Bombing or LBJ's Rolling Thunder. Yet there is no question that aerial bombing when used in conjunction with ground operations is extremely effective and the difference between victory and defeat. Prey said the Russians lost in Afghanistan with 150,000 troops; yet even the mudjahedeen would most likely agree that the tide was only turned with the introduction of the American Stinger Man-portable air defense system which killed hundreds, if not thousands of extremely effective but low-flying Soviet helicopters. Liberals can't have it both ways; you can't argue your point by arguing my point but ignoring the disagreeable facts. True, the wholesale bombing of civilian populations is useful only for terror purposes, but there is no evidence we are doing this in any theater of war now. Between the Rules of Engagement and the worry over collateral damage, the U.S. Navy and Air Force are careful about where and when they employ their weapons. Let's not forget as well -- who is telling us we killed civilians? Is it a legitimate non-partisan organization, or is it another partisan group like the Pakistani ISI? In other words, if our CIA says we killed ten militants but the ISI says we killed ten babies, whom should we believe? The truth of the matter is that war is confusing and the military is doing its best to win the war in Afghanistan. Comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam is disingenuous and incorrect. I would agree that with the involvement of NATO, the mission in Afghanistan is taking on the impression of a long-standing colonial occupation force. We need to come up with a solution. Air power is part of the answer. And by the way, regarding 9/11 as a police matter rather than a military matter is true -- the Taliban were asked to release Bin Laden in September of 2001, and they refused, which is why we invaded. Had they released him, do you really think we would have entered that country? Probably not. Also, last time I checked international terrorism IS a police matter, and the police agencies of the world are working to fight it. To suggest that the multi-trillion dollar U.S. military, which is responsible for the protection of the U.S. territory against all enemies, foreign and domestic, should have sat on the sidelines is absurd. I applaud President Obama for the difficult decisions he is making. Why is it Liberals are never satisfied? Is it because nothing will ever satisfy them?

    As many understand, the psychology is intended to create five more militants for every civilian bombing. This will not change with this President. The fact that Mr. Moyers comes as close to reporting that story is a credit to PBS. Isn't it time that we stopped speaking in code?

    Along with Bill's commentators, I was deeply depressed when the missile strikes into Pakistan happened just a few days after President Obombem's inauguration, and after the hoopla in connection with the new Department of State about putting diplomacy first. No-one except Bill Moyers (and this is not the first time) seems to have made much of this story as an indicator of things to come. I immediately sent a letter to the Times, which was not published, nor were there any other letters about this incident. It was good TV for me to see this topic openly discussed.
    Bob A
    Amherst, MA

    Speyer & Young are knowledgeable tho I do not agree with their views. There never has been a perfect weapon without collateral damage. One has to consider the intent of using a Hellfire missile from a drone to surgically kill the enemy who hide among civilians. There is no carpet bombing of civilians in Afghanistan.

    A-bombing did force Japan to capitulate. Why is no one speculating about how many Japanese and American lives would have been lost if there was a Normandy-style invasion of Japan?

    Hindsight is always 20/20; foresight is 20/100.

    Out of curiousity I did a little reading about the effectiveness of the air war in Japan prior to August 1945. I came across a document called
    (Pacific War)

    1 JULY 1946

    In this document I found this quote: "In the final analysis the Japanese military machine had lost its purpose when it could no longer protect the Japanese people from destruction by air attack. General Takashima, when asked by the Survey as to his reaction to the Imperial Rescript, stated that surrender had become unavoidable; the Army, even should it repel invasion, could no longer protect the Japanese people from extermination."

    I do not condone war or civilian bombing; I only wish to point out that when we treat these matters rhetorically, anything can be justified.

    What would happen if people like Sprey and Young found voice within Obama´s administration?

    These questions start with false assumptions.

    There is no evidence that Bin Laden was involved in 9/11. This is a fact. And one that Bill Moyers needs to acknowledge.

    The impact of the planes at the trade towers could not have caused the buildings to be destroyed in the manner in which they were. This is a fact. It is therefore extremely unlikely that a group such as Al Queda could have carried the attacks alone or at all.

    The Taliban offered to give over Bin Ladne if evidence of his guilt was presented. None has been to this point.

    The war in Afghanistan is illegitimate, unjustified, and immoral. The US military, security firms, and corporations need to leave immediately. And we owe the people of Afghanistan an apology.

    And the people of the US are owed the truth about 9/11. There needs to be a new, full investigation in which everything is uncovered.

    Why is there so much criticism of the war in Iraq but so little of the war in Afghanistan?

    First I would like to move away from the moral questions and focus on the practical. The question that was asked "Is bombing effective?" was to begin with inaccurate. Instead "Is strategic bombing effective?" Has it ever won a war? No!

    Those who answered with our A-bombing Japan have beeb misled. Before we dropped the 'Big One' Japan had reached out feelers to us through a neutral country. FDR's demand for unconditional surrender was our response. Japan countered OK except we need to keep our Emperor. We refused. Then after Japan still refused even after we nuked them we softened our stance and agreed to allow them to keep their Emperor. Naturally we can project that the threat of more nuclear attacks added to their willingness to sign a peace treaty. However our incendiary bombs had already killed and destroyed more than either of our A-bomb attacks.

    Now in Germany we came close to having an effective strategic bombing campaign, not by bombing their cities or even their factories. They just dispersed their production and kept on building. The bombing of Germany's oil production at Ploesti Romania however if given a higher priority or perhaps just more time to work would have brought to a screeching halt the German's excelent mechanized forces.

    On the other hand tactical bombing and air suport has proven to be an effective weapon.

    For those of you who don't know the difference let me explain. Strategic bombing is what most people think of when one uses the term bomb. Bombing roads, rails, factories, and cities. Tactical bombing is direct air support of combat forces on the ground or at sea. One might think of it as a more effective artillery barrage. It is always done in conjunction with and directed by an active combat unit, hence you can almost be sure you're going to get the 'bad guy.' (the one who is arguing his case by shooting at you)

    I listened the program in hopes that this would be discussed. I'm sorry that it was not. The sellers of strategic bombing won the argument, unfortunately, during WW II and ever since it has been part of our military dogma. Whole industries have been built around. It has not delivered as promised. Whereas with just the left overs tactical aircraft have (such as the A10 and the Warthog) have proven their worth.

    Finally to close on a moral note when when one is returning fire in a combat situation as opposed to trying to destroy someones will to fight by destroying his home there should be no question.

    Correction: Thank you for continuing intellient and moral commentary about salient matters. I appreciate hearing refreshing voices week after week on the Journal.

    Refreshing. Thank you for week and week commentary that asks questions as much as giving us answers.

    The call to courage refreshes me. Thank you.

    About the belief that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki helped end the war:

    Admiral Leahy (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest ranking U.S. military officer at the end of WWII) wrote, "The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan . … My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make wars in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."

    General Eisenhower expressed very similar views in his own memoirs.

    maybe,just maybe,Obama is simply the Imperialists' answer to 8 years of what was so obviously a puppet administration-what they did this time is to install, and i say install because i don't believe there's integrity in Western politics(not in many decades anyway)what they did is they made sure this new president appeared to be a "people's" president.He's black and intelligent-he sounds really good;but is he TRULY different? His okaying these new strikes-in Pakistan of all places- has an aroma of the stench of the same 'ol boys network still running the show, and it does'nt bode well for the future...

    While the discussion with Bill Moyers and his two guests was thought-provoking, the infuriating aspect of it was the same old, left-leaning, academic, endless criticism of our policies while providing not one viable solution. We live in a complex world of immense problems. We need answers, not just far-removed criticism. Does the panel need to be reminded that this region is the one spawning some of the most immoral, murderous individuals and plots in the world? All in the name of God? That it spawned many of the attacks on American interests, not just on 9/11/01 but the attacks on US embassies in Africa, the Khobar Towers, The Cole bombing, the original WTC bombing, ad nauseam? If morality were thrown out the window we could simply drop nuclear warheads on the entire Pashtun nation and be done with it: killing off every man, woman, and child and preventing the indoctrination of any future terrorists, followed up by the release of radioactive material to prevent any future populations to live there...but no, we are ethical, unlike our enemies, so we must expend our soldiers' blood and our treasure to slowly engage these fanatics in what may ultimately become a losing cause. The big difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan-Pakistan is that the former had nothing to do with national security, only ideology, while the latter most definitely IS about protecting the country while Left-wing ideology tries to weaken the consensus to fight it. Oh, and one more tangible example of how air power can turn the tide: Clinton's selective targeting during the air war over Bosnia.

    Bill Moyers' program would have been more interesting if his two guests had had different perspectives on the issue. Young and Sprey seemed to express the same viewpoint on every issue discussed. Their antiwar bias made them forget that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended WWII abruptly. They also seemed to ignore the argument that allowing the Taliban to rule Afghanistan enabled terrorist training sites to exist in that country.
    The parallels drawn with the Soviet occupation were also misleading. The Soviet Union was a ruthless dictatorship that suppressed freedom. Western countries now serving in Afghanistan (including Canada) are working to promote women’s rights, education for girls, and are attempting to sow the seeds of a liberal democracy, in contrast to the misogynistic Taliban regime. An idealistic goal, but so was creating a democracy in Japan in 1945.

    Marilyn B. Young and Pierre Sprey could not think of a historical example of bombing an enemy ending a war. Two words: Hiroshima. Nagasaki.
    Bonus fact: 3,000 U.S. civilian citizens were killed at Hiroshima 8-6-1945

    Wow, so many complex comments! Although I am not a Christian, I believe that we can sum up the concepts of, well any war, with a much simpler truism "like begets like". Will we ever evolve past this insidious fear-based behavior? I certainly hope so!!

    Afghanistan, what a quagmire, as the British found. How ill conceived is the Global War On Terror... a war on a Tactic.
    Same logic as a war on shooters? Who would the enemy be.
    Thus to take an incoherent strategy into what Sun Tzu would call "killing ground" is in fact, a killer. In European history King Edward the First cased "the Wallace" William Wallace of Braveheart fame into the mountains as was stalled, just as the Soviet Union was stalled in
    Afghanistan in our own memory.
    That President Obama is a political genius is beyond question, but he is not acting like a military, or economic one.
    And those disciplines do not reduce to political logic
    I hope he can read "The Wallace" by Nigel Tranter, and he will understand from the 'native' point of view how Afghans will prevail. ___Thank You

    I'm not sure whether I feel Obama's state goals in Afghanistan are correct or not, but in tonight's program I heard one question and answer posed that confuses me. Question - Was there ever a bombing campaign that was successful at breaking the morale of a people? Answer by Show's guests - No...
    My Question - Wasn't our atomic bombing campaign of Japan (as questionable as that was in other ways) successful at breaking the morale of at least the people in power there?

    As for bombing people into submission, the guests seem to also have forgotten that Hitler conquered Holland this way in about 1 day in WWII. Not that that has any relevance to Afganistan, as that's not going to happen there.
    I definitely agree, Obama needs to hear what these folks have to see. I hope someone can make it happen.

    I appreciated the numbers...100's of thousands of Russian & Afghan forces were defeated in their effort. Now the 'Obamanam' believes it will succeed with a force of 60? Please.
    Out of Iraq back into Afghanistan to save a wholly misguided 'War on Terror' was always in my mind atleast, Obama's weakness or least desirable position. It will without doubt, as said "in my mind atleast" be his downfall...softer a landing than the alternatives we were faced with in an election... a downfall none the less.
    Goodnight America

    While I agree that the effectiveness of bombing should and can be easely brought into question in the case of afganastan and any situation where the the civilian population has not sworn allegiance to the targeted combatants.
    Unfortunately I lost a lot of respect for your guests when asked if they could name an instance where bombing was effective. Obviously Heroshima and Nagasaki were very effective and many would argue that the conventional bombing of Japan and Germany although did not win the war in and of themselves prevented the axis from waging a more effective war that would have cost many more allied lives. The statement that 'there is no effective bombing' a uninsiteful generalization and I am not even a history porfessor.
    Ed Pino

    To the people who posted here that they think something else was going on re 9/11 because El Al canceled all flights into JFK that morning -- watch the video of George W. Bush in the classroom that morning when he was reading to the children and an aide walked in and handed him the note when the first plane hit the WTC. Look at his face closely, especially his eyes. He knew ahead of time. Find the video on YouTube.

    Those three tonight were going on and on about innocent people getting killed. Are they so senile and dumb to forget what happened in the US on 09-11-2001 and also at Pearl Harbor??????

    Bill Moyers:
    Tonight you have restored my faith in Journalism. With this program you have brought to light some of the common sense truth that should have illuminated our path from the moment of 9/11. I am so encouraged that you have the courage to bring this discussion to the nation. I was afraid that Obama was the left hand of the "powers that be" as Bush/Cheney was the right hand of those villains, because the media supported him and still would not ask the very questions you have asked with this show.

    I pray that President Obama was watching and heard the truth spoken on this show and has the courage to reverse course as your guest doubted he would. You have shined the light toward the truth that will set us free of the "War on Terror". As the Spirit of Truth leads you down this path; you will find that the "War on Terror" was not the response to 9/11 but the purpose of it. Keep searching for truth and you will find that Osama Ben Laden and Al Queda were created to take the blame for the "New Pearl Harbor" in order to "justify" the "War on Terror", enabling the master plan "Rebuilding Americas Defenses", Military Imperialism for the Oil/Energy/Super Banks/Illuminati/New World Order, which we've always called the "Powers that Be"; orchestrated, I'm sure, by Dick Cheney.

    Dig into the "Economic Meltdown" and you will find the Economic "War of Terror" plan of these same people. The purpose of this "Conspiracy" was to usher in the New World Order One World Currency/Economic System. It was and may still be the one, two punch by the NWO to consolidate total control of this planet both Militarily and Financially. Hopefully, being exposed may have altered their plans.

    If you want to know why and what happened to the Economy, why not ask someone who knew it was coming thirty years ago. Though I only knew when it was coming last Spring. It is no accident that Warren Buffet referred to the Economic Meltdown as an "Economic Pearl Harbor". It was designed to be the part B of the "New Pearl Harbor" that turned the world over to the "New World Order". The only way to DEFEAT the NWOs World Economic Collapse is for the Government to void the Federal Reserve Private Bank and for the Government to print its own money and NOT BORROW IT from the "Federal Reserve". Kennedy tried to do so, see the Executive Order Kennedy issued to start printing money just weeks before he was assassinated.

    Rothchilds (SuperBanker who created the New World Order many decades ago) said, "I don't care who runs the Government, as long as I control the money." Just as Rockefeller used any means to destroy his competition and establish a monopoly in oil first, and many other industries after; these Super Bankers have done so, to bring the whole world under their financial control. Why is everything in this nation being funneled into JP Morgan Bank? Watch Bank of America sell US the bad assets and sell the good stuff it keeps, probably the Bank of America, itself, to JP Morgan. Or maybe the whole thing, they have all the money to do it too.

    The purpose of all this consolidation of all the assets of the nation into JP Morgan is so they can then unilaterally transform into the One World Currency System under THEIR CONTROL. Didn't you wonder why Bush created the "solution" to Bear Stearns (or was it Lehman Brothers) over the weekend and the transaction went down on Monday without any other bidders being consulted? Their method is to design the solution, create the problem to generate the reaction that causes the people to beg you to implement the solution they designed, which was their original purpose.

    NWO wants total control of Oil. Designs the "War on Terror", executes 9/11 through partner Ben Laden and his recruited stooges. They couldn't physically really do it so Cheney uses the U.S. Military which Bush gives him command of for the day, and Clandestine Services, to execute and then blames the scapegoats as planned. Bush goes to the World Trade Center, stands on the rubble, un-recovered victims and remains for a photo op, while declaring his previously planned "War on Terror", Just as Jesus would have done?

    Osama, if, and that is a really big if, he was still alive at the time; goes to Afghanistan to "hide" so the invasion of Afghanistan to secure the Caspian Sea Pipeline for the Carlyle Group (Bush family investment). The rest of the plundering of the Middle East is well documented and public knowledge. Only, people like me, spilled the beans and the Iraqis resisted the "Oil Law" and U.S. occupation long enough for the American People to wake up and protest.

    The most interesting thing in Iraq will be what happens to the "Oil Law" now that Obama is in office. Will he force it through for the New World Order Companies or give sovereignty of their oil to the Iraqi people?

    Will President Barack Obama tell us that Osama Ben Laden died of natural causes before 9/11, which is why an actor appears in his place in the "confession video"? Will he call off the Afghanistan "War on Terror" or will he keep up the charade? Will he continue to enrage the Pakistani and Afghanistan Peoples by slaughtering their civilian relatives with those UAVs?
    Until he finishes the Bush job of creating an actual "War of Terror" to replace their imaginary one.

    What would we do if the Pakistani Army came over here in search of terrorists SUSPECTS and started slaughtering OUR CIVILIANS? What if OUR POLICE started blowing up houses and killing innocent civilians along with people SUSPECTED of PLANNING crimes? Is that what Americans are? Is that the way Americans fight a war which never should have been fought in the first place?

    Your guest hit the nail firmly on the head when he said that the response to 9/11 should have been a police investigation and arrest of a suspect with a trial and execution if found guilty. Osama was part of the plot but he wasn't working with Al Queda, all the actual evidence says he was working with Cheney/Bush and the Saudi Prince who allegedly provided the plan to the Baker Institute before it became the "Rebuilding Americas Defenses" document. The Baker Institute was conveniently selected to "Study" the "War on Terror" plans/Invasion of Iraq and make recommendations to Congress.

    If we fail to try Cheney/Bush and crew for the crimes of 9/11 especially, and for the subsequent criminal use of the U.S. Military; we have lost this country to the New World Order. If we fail to dismantle the Federal Reserve System and NWO control of our currency and economy, we have lost America.

    Yes, we need to restructure the U.S. Economy BUT we MUST NOT LET THE NWO or JP Morgan DO IT FOR US, OR WE ARE ALL IS LOST!

    Tonight you cracked open the door of reason, that will ultimately allow the dam of conspiracy that was the Cheney/Bush/NWO Administration to be broken and revealed. Now, if Obama will just appoint that special prosecutor for Cheney/Bush/NWO 9/11 Treason and all the subsequent crimes; we can purge this nation and restore a Non-Criminal Government. Hopefully the prosecutor will also indict all the cowards or co-conspirators in Congress who were accessories in these crimes for knowing, covering it up, aiding and not stopping it; and the criminal "news media" for the same reasons.

    I fear that the Economic Pearl Harbor has been passed off to the "Democratic" branch of the New World Order Congress flunkies so the NWO Republican right hand can regain some political power by pretending to oppose the Bail-Out plans. A puppet government needs two hands you know. The NWO must maintain both parties else they wont be able to switch control from one hand to the other by pretending to pit them against each other for the benefit of the American voter manipulations it uses to retain control of the Government. The NWO couldn't have the Republicans champion the next phase because they were ousted by the people in the last election. So, the racket has moved from right hand to left for the next 4-8 years of play.

    Is it any clearer now?
    Michael Couch
    Brooklyn, NY

    I sincerely hope that Mr. Spray and Ms. Young are given the opportunity to advise President Obama on this very important subject.

    To destabilize the narcotics trafficking and resulting criminal gangs in Afghanistan, we should seed the opium fields with a fast-growing genetically engineered STERILE poppy variant that after a few generations would severely reduce the opium trade.

    Effe's post at 10:31pm, this evening, is right on the money! (By the way, thank you for serving Effe!) Sprey and Young are clueless on many of their talking points. One point that I do agree with Prey, the 9-11 attackers were not terrorist, they were nothing but absolutist thugs with a ticket to hell and they should be tracked down as criminals and assisted on the journey to their destination. That is about the only thing that I can agree with here.

    Young's premise of juxtaposing B-52 bombing of Vietnam with Predator drone attacks in Pakistan would be laughable, if it was not so seriously and academically naive. The missions in Pakistan have nothing to do with bombing people into submission. It is pure and simple an attempt to precisely target thugs! And to think that dealing with people of an absolutist mentality as being a political problem that can be dealt with by politics and diplomacy, is beyond naive, it is down right dangerous to all freedom loving peoples. Please tell this woman, please stay away from the Kool-Aid.

    It seems to me something else is definetly going on. For example, the 9/11 attack. Israel knew the attack would happen that morning because El Al cancelled all of their flights into JFK that morning.

    People invented money so that they could kill each other for the money rather than for food.

    We're so far ahead from Neanderthals in our brain development, but still so close in psychological one. After centuries and centuries of all kinds of religious and other morality, even the best of us can still rationally discuss killing people from a standpoint of policies and politics, and without really FEELING sorrow for the loss of life, any life.

    This is a fundamental discord that, if not addressed, may prove our suicidal fate on this planet.

    Darwin called evolution as the survival of the fittest. As if, "survival" and "fittest" represent two independent concepts and therefore one explains the other. But, does an organism survive because it is the fittest, or, is it the fittest because it survives?
    Instead, if we consider that an organism simply takes the course that is "available" to it, regardless of whether that course leads to its survival or not, we can explain/understand a wide range of human and non-human behaviors.
    Whether it is a suicide-bomber or a Bernie Madoff, or the ISI or CIA or Abu Ghraib or Mother Teresa, or Enron - they all did what they did because that was "available" to them.

    It is easy to construct the courses that were "available" in hindsight. It is tricky to construct or model the courses that are "available" in the future. However, that is where efforts should be focused.

    I was simply thinking that civilian bombing has been affected. Hiroshima/Nagasaki

    I echo Mr.Sprey's prescription for how to treat acts of terrorism. The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing provides the model for how the Nation should deal with acts terrorism. It took only 2 1/2 years, from the date of the bombing, to apprehend, try, and covict Ramsi Yousef and two co-conspiritors - albeit of another crime- before Yousef's final conviction for the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing in November 1997.

    Thus, even taking the long view, it took less than five years work through the international diplomatic, law enforcement, and justice system to find the perpetraitors of the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing and hold them accountable. No international conventions or treaties were violated. No one's civil rights were suspended- a la the Patriot Act- or violated. No country's soverignity was violated. The treasury was not desecated. Our armed forces were not decimated and streached beyond all resonable limits; and, the Nation's honor remained in tact.

    Because the of Bush Administration's fear of and inpatience with the slow pace of the justice system, and the ulterior agenda of the neocons in his administration, we are no closer to finding Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri today than we were on 9/11. We are weakend diplomatically, financially, militarily, morally, and politically. This is the bitter price of expedience.

    The thought that Afghanistan could be Obama's Viet Nam and that Johnson's fate will be Obama's is too horrible to contemplate. Surely Obama appreciates the lessons of Viet Nam and sees the trap set for him by the policies of the war on terror that we have followed since 9/11/01. He must realize that he will have to renounce his stated intentions of carrying on this foolish war if only to be able to fulfill all of the other expectations that he brings to the presidency.

    the surrender of Japan after Nagasaki and hiroshima took place at a time when only the USA had atomic weapons and before the onset of small, dispersed criminal cells of dedicated suicide bombers. Today, nuclear weapons cannot eradicate these little groups of crazies who inhabit many lands all over world without destroying the earth in the process. It follows that a new approach is needed- one that seeks to improve the human condition of the third world and gives hope of a better existence. The massive bombing of the North Vietnamese by the US nor the invasion of the afghanis by Russia could break the will of these lands. Pres. Obama needs to speak with Sprey and Young to see that pursuing a military solution in Afghanistan cannot succeed. He should fire Petraeus and all the military people who continue to follow the same losing strategy.

    I wondered how long it would take before some journalist would begin to question Obama's policy on Afghanistan. It has not been a secret. He talked about escalation back during the campaign. Bill Moyers should be commended for bringing this up at this early stage. The question remains: "Will the press show Obama the kind of scrutiny that they showed Bush when it comes to war?" This remains to be seen.

    All of this is true and needs nothing from me, except to add that Churchill bombed civilians in Germany before Germany bombed civilians in England, and maintained later that the latter had intended to do it all along. Calls for action in Afghanistan is no different from calls for action on the economic front, and if not very carefully conceived and constructed will have catastrophic effects, but unemployment, unfortunately, is going to end the military's problem with recruitment. What, after all, would materially change, if we killed Bin Laden tomorrow? What, if anything, would happen if we did nothing about the economy?

    I agree profoundly with Mary Jo Poole & Judith Logue

    Sprey and Young mean well. I have been there. I have particpated in missions in Afghanistan. They have NO idea what they are talking about with respect to on-going operations. Their argument is incomplete, archaic, irresponsible and tragic. Simple question: have either of these individuals been on or near the FATA or have they walked the same high moutain passes with our forces? No.

    Bill, once again you've assambled another guest list of "mid-century warriors". Meanwhile, your audience has missed an hour of "DANCES WITH WOLVES" on WGN.

    First and foremost, you talk about civilian bombing. To my mind that is carpet bombing like Dresden in WW2. In Afganistan and Pakistan the targets are limited to specific bad actors. Beyond that, the reference to Vietnam is far from valid. Two very different conflicts. You asked if civilian bombing has ever worked? Why, this is not indiscriminate civilian bombing? Regardless,your guests say no. What about the bombing of Hiroshima?
    Despite the unresolved morality question, did that not result in Japan accepting defeat in WW2? Your guests seem as divorced from reality on one ideological side as Dick Cheney on the other.

    When Bill asked if the bombing of civilians had, in the history of warfare, ever broken the will of an enemy, I sat waiting for the obvious answer - Hiroshima? Nagasaki? No. They said that never had a bombing succeeded in breaking the will of a people. The oversight appeared almost intentional coming from two scholars of their caliber. Let's get past the "peace at all costs" idealism and deal with reality. Leaving Afghanistan now will bring shouts of victory from the Taliban and Al Qaeda, give them breathing room to re-organize, re-arm, and re-train, and send us home to wait for the next catastrophic attack against a peace loving civilian population in America. I have two sons serving in the armed forces, and it sickens me to think they are putting their lives on the line so some American bloggers can accept the freedom provided to them by others and then suggest those providers are the equivilent of Nazis, Romans, or the soldiers of the Great Satan. What other nation provides as much help to the world as America? Fights hunger? Heals diseases? Raises living standards? Works for equality and genuine peace based on mutual respect? None more than America. Islamic extremists hate democracy and equality and want to remove your head from your body. Which one is really the Great Satan!!

    I agree with Mary Jo Poole;President Obama needs to listen to your first two guests tonight regarding the bombing in Afghanistan.

    William Pfaff calls what we are doing in Afganistan "The New 'Invasion of Cambodia." His article is available on the net for those who were not around during Nam.

    In using bombs as the solution to all our problems we are behaving like huge, mad apes. We find it inhumane to line up people on the ground and shoot them, but somehow bombing thousands, knowing in advance that we are killing civilians (usually poor people) to be acceptable - even commendable. We are less likely to bomb peoples who can afford the bombs we have.


    Bill; I loaded bombs onto fighter bombers '67-68 for missions to north viet nam,robert mcnanara used us to send messages for LBJ, Ive never thought that 3000lb bombs dropped on a neigbors house would make peace happen in the houses that we missed. paul

    Q: Did any civilian bombing make a country to submit?

    A: Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Dear Bill,
    Please do whatever you can to bring your first two guests tonight to meet with President Obama. He needs to hear their message and learn from their wisdom. I truly believe he would listen and have the guts to bring about what they see as necesary for those countries and for our peace. PLEASE TRY TO BRING THSI ABOUT.

    I've a great respect for Bill and his guests Sprey and Young, however alot of credibility was
    lost when nome of the table could not remember WWII. It seems to me,
    and I could be wrong, but bombing Japan was successful.

    Bombing Pakistan, a nuclear power, will not create closer ties with the Middle East. Allowing Israel to kill people in Gaza and bomb their tunnels that are being used to transport food that Israel was forcing Palestinians to buy at higher prices is not going to create stability in the middle East. Trying to kill all the Taliban while Europe sits back and does nothing will not create stability in the Middle East because this “ war on terror” has been fabricated to make profit. Obama cannot talk out of both sides of his mouth and he is going to have to confront the endless war policy of the Military Industrial Complex.

    Afganistan, Pakistan, Iraq, the war on terror are not isolated comparative wars, say with Vietnam. Here's my point, this is an imperial empire. These wars are of a piece. They are not mistakes within the context of empire, but born of it. The wars, conflicts and toppling of governments are not isolated occurrance of a president lost in some proof of "mettle" (though I appreciate its contribution). The US geopolitical strategists that run the foreign policy across administrations have "end games in mind." We are left with little more than differences in personality that provide a tough/kind dichotomy (and nothing else)or the fist with or without the glove.

    The glove can be the greatest deceiver. Sprey sees it for what it is regarding Obama. It is beyond flaky those who understand and want nevertheless to "believe" in Obama. They are deaf. Their hope does not allow us the solidarity to transform this imperial empire. Like a drunk, those who so want to see the 'good' in Obama are enablers of the brutal empire that he has inherited.

    Doesn't Marilyn Young care about the women of Afghanistan and how they've been oppressed by the Taliban? She has not said one word about them. She's just a misguided peacenik. Her comments about bombing in Afghanistan are a bit abstract--that bombing-the-table analogy was straight out of "War for Dummies." Civilians are not living in caves in the border regions--these are the strongholds of Islamic extremists, hello! Bombs away, I say!

    Another note:

    "They have sown the wind. They shall reap the whirlwind." Hosea 8:7

    Asserted by "Bomber Harris" -- Air Marshall Harris (also known in RAF as "Butcher Harris") -- during the Second World War. There was still enough of a moral conscience among politicians at that time that Members of Parliament could publicly charge Harris with atrocities.

    Now, members of Congress shout for glory. Monstrous.

    It was good to hear somebody talk about the Pashtun nation rather than the Pashtun tribes. This may be a difficult question for Pakistan but it is an essential part of history.

    In fact, some say that the world's first non-violent army was organized primarily from the Pashtun people by Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Badshah Khan, the king of khans. This army, the Khudai Khidmatgar or Servants of God, existed from 1930 to 1947 and included Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. They drilled as an army, had a firm chain of command from privates to general, and reached a force of 100,000 before they were crushed by the Pakistani government after separation from British India.

    Badshah Khan was a colleague and friend of Mohandas Gandhi and based his own non-violence on Islamic principles, sadr or patience, and Pashtun tradition, melmastia or hospitality. It would be good to remember him and his work. Gandhi's grandson, Rajmohan Gandhi wrote a biography of the man,_Ghaffar Khan: Nonviolent Badshah of the Pakhtuns_ (New Delhi: Viking Penguin, 2004) and would make a good interview. If you are interested.

    I have written more about Badshah Khan at

    I would also suggest that there is a solar energy aspect to the war in Afghanistan. We have distributed about 1 million solar/dynamo am/fm/sw radios throughout that country. These solar/dynamos could be easily modified to charge AA batteries thus providing a reliable source of low voltage DC power day or night through sunlight and muscle power. This might provide a modicum of material security to the people of Afghanistan.

    There is a awful, shameful history of new presidents seeking to prove their military mettle by quickly launching some kind of action -- almost always in recent administrations by attacking a largely, sometimes entirely, defenseless population.

    More disturbing today is the clear move towards "attack with impunity". Predator is just one of a new arsenal of weapons, many of them secret, that advanced militaries are using to exempt their own _combatants_ from harm while subjecting 'enemy' _non-combatants_ to far greater harm.

    Predator, Taser, Silent Guardian (a directed microwave weapon from Raytheon), depleted uranium, DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive, used by Israel in Gaza with awful effects on civilians, especially children), white phosphorus (used by the US in Iraq and by Israel in Gaza). All in use by the US.

    Finally, as already mentioned here, aerial bombardment and other kinds of "attack with impunity" serve only to enrage victim populations are often don't accomplish the purported goal anyway (e.g., Vietnam, where ruthless carpet bombing failed to stop the Ho Chi Minh trail.

    Initially bombing heightens the resolve to resist. It only succeeds where you threaten to wipe out the whole civilization as we did with Germany. There we targeted civilians because we couldn't hit anything else. Once you killed everyone in Hamburg with a fire storm they no longer loaded ships, built munitions nor marched off to war.
    Can the US ever make Iraq at least as good a place to live as it was under Saddam Hussein? Certainly not for the hundreds of thousands dead and probably not for anyone else.
    The Vietnamese are a wonderful people and a fine place to visit. If the US had won, would it be as good a place?
    We have inherited the title not from the Romans but from the Naziis. We are the Great Satan.

    I cannot help but perceive America as a near perfect analog of the Roman Empire. I know it has been said before, but it seems inescapable. The ease with which America spills the blood of foreigners, the ease with which America destroys sovereign cultures to supplant them with its own, the global network of surveillance and intelligence-gathering, the military/coercive response as reflexive first-response, the view of the world as a basket of fruits for American consumption -- it all resonates with Rome. Modern medical science provides us with recourse to accurate metaphors, such as that America can best be seen as a "hot," virulent virus with no other reason for being than to assert itself everywhere over the planet, in spite of the fact that the planet, its host organism, will be destroyed in the process. In Afghanistan, America should withdraw. In Iraq, America should withdraw. However, there is no shred of morality left in American culture to motivate or justify such action. America is an obsessed ideological serial rapist on a global scale. There is no power on earth strong enough to stop it.

    What we've got in Afghanistan right now is what we had in Iraq in February 2002: no exit plan. And we have no exit plan because nobody has defined victory. Is it capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and the remnants of Al Qaidah? Is it crushing the Taliban once and for all to ensure the country is never again a launching pad for a terrorist attack? Is it stabilizing the central government and bringing warlordism to heel? Is it democracy? And what about Pakistan? The United States Institute of Peace has 10 essays collected under The Future of Afghanistan. There is some good reading there for those who seek more background on the subject. Not the last word, of course.

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