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Taking a Moral Stand Outside the Obama White House

Washington--Defense Secretary Robert Gates may be the consummate insider bureaucrat and a nice man, but his calling our war in the Pashtun homeland “the meat in the sandwich” begins to get at the real problem of the Afghanistan/Pakistan War.

Besides being a preposterously flippant and insensitive metaphor presumably uttered for the consumption of the more clueless elements of middle America, his sandwich image is as misleading as all the war-selling PR coming out of the Pentagon and the Obama White House.

Robert GatesRobert Gates

Here’s how he described his sandwich: “The Pakistanis come in behind the insurgents from the Pakistani side and, coordinating with us and the Afghans, we’re on the other side.” Of course, he's referring to what is informally dubbed Pashtunistan, down the middle of which Sir Mortimer Durand drew the Afghanistan/Pakistan border in 1893 to divide and conquer the Pashtun people. The border is a Western illusion. And, of course, the Taliban are largely Pashtun.

What’s misleading is the assumption any part of this war is anything but a US manufactured disaster. WikiLeaks and other revelations have made it clear the Pakistanis are highly reluctant to make military assaults into the Pashtun tribal areas. Last week the Pakistanis even outed the CIA chief running the US drone war there; the man was forced to flee due to threats on his life.

So the Obama administration is increasing its lethal drone attacks and deadly night special operations raids into Pakistan, both of which are highly controversial and contribute to the hatred Pakistanis have for the US.

This increase of US military intervention into Pakistan was announced at a White House press conference last Thursday that focused on the release of a much-anticipated assessment from General David Petraeus on the Afghanistan/Pakistan War.

President Obama spoke about the “significant progress” achieved in “disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and preventing its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.”

The truth is the war is going badly. To compound that fact, last week Obama’s special ambassador for the war, Richard Holbrook, suddenly died, likely from the stress of his impossible task. Also, two major US intelligence reports – one on Afghanistan and one on Pakistan – flat-out contradicted the assessment’s rosy PR picture.

But then stay calm; there’s the assurance from Vice President Joe Biden: “Come Hell or high water we’ll be out of there by 2014.”

Meanwhile out in the cold

As the press conference was going on in a warm and toasty White House, outside, in a 22-degree snow storm, 500 angry American citizens led by military veterans were crying foul and calling for an end to the war and the killing.

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