Thursday, September 30, 2010

War in Afghanistan and Islamophobia


Went to a meeting at the University of Vermont sponsored by the Socialists of America UVM Chapter, last night, 9/29/2010. It was to have a speaker on "Islamophobia", who had to reschedule. Instead we saw her (name: ? ) by YouTube.

She made the expected arguments, such as the non-uniqueness of Islam in terms of violence. Then she went on to show that None of the stated reasons for the U.S. to wage war in Afghanistan hold up to academic scrutiny. This includes the imperative to "destroy" Al Quida, which has since 9/11 been eviscerated, according to her. This seems like a plausible argument to me since I have always believed we accorded them too much significance in the first place, and that they should simply have been treated as international criminals anyway.

So why are we in Afghanistan? For the obvious imperialistic/economic reasons: Control of a territory in the heart of Asia, and resources within its boundaries.

Given the difference between the perceived interests of the ordinary constituent and the understood interests of the people who can influence or alter the wealth and prosperity of an entire country - ours - I can see why there might be publicly stated reasons and then different real reasons for waging a war. But this doesn't excuse the lack of transparency, and the failure to esteem the opinions of the American people. Would the American people have supported a war if they had been told it was needed because the territory and resources were ripe for expropriation? If George Bush and now Barrack Obama had simply stated the truth in simple terms, would we have allowed so many Americans to be killed, handicapped, and mentally broken? Whether the answer is "yes" or "no", Could a president make a huge mistake by letting the people have opinions on the real reasons, and make policy based on the expressed interests of the American people?

Splitting expressed reasons away from actual reasons implies a split constituency, the part you need for votes, and the part you need to be an effective leader. Given these categories can overlap and have gradations, essentially these are the inner circle and the outer circle, which themselves can be sliced into a range of particular interests, such as business, military, diplomacy, social services, finances, and so forth. So true transparency might be complicated. And leave very few excuses for the intellectually honest person, for the consequences of any given policy.

Honesty about our reasons for going into Afghanistan might, in this sense, have exposed the truth about the state of well being of our economy, and the existential concerns (the worries about the lack of jobs and job loss, loss of homes, unfairness in the credit markets, the collapse of "the American Dream") of ordinary Americans. It might also have prevented the buildup of steam that is now being released by the Tea-Party movement.

But that kind of honesty cannot be afforded by any politician. People with access and responsibilities, like business people, the State Department, the military, will not allow their interests to be ignored, even if the people would not support those interests. It is a dangerous struggle for life and prosperity.

The presenter of the YouTube content, Ali Jafair, has a facebook page, and described himself as an American born Iranian-descent student at CCV. Look him up to find more information about Islamophobia, Iran, and other issues.

Besides the issues we discussed, I was told that some students were planning to form a "J-Street" group, which is a group opposed to Isreali policy toward the Palestinians. I am waiting to hear more.