Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Blood on My Hands

In some ways, it is harder to take Obama’s warmongering escalation of the war in Afghanistan than it was Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.  After all, I voted against Bush–twice.  I not only voted for Obama, but I endorsed him on this blog. I actively campaigned for him. I contributed money to his campaign–something I had not done for any presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1980.  I volunteered at his KY campaign headquarters. I phonebanked on several primaries.

So, I know now how those voters must have felt back in WWI: Voting for Wilson who campaigned on “He kept us out of war,” and then he betrayed them and led us straight into the war.  Obama has yet to close Gitmo which he said he would on day one. He has forbidden torture, but ruled out prosecuting torturers, so no one will be held accountable (and making it likely that a Pres. Palin could just reverse this “policy dispute” again). He has defended Bush policies of rendition, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention–at least for some.  The indefinite detention at Bagram in Aghanistan is probably larger than that at Gitmo.  And now the war and bloodshed escalates. Welcome to the presidency of Bush III–another War President.

And the blood of the innocent is on my hands and head.

December 1, 2009 - Posted by | Afghanistan


  1. What do you know about a historic Baptist group called the free-willers (circa 1660)? They were lead by Henry Adis, William Cox and Richard Pilgrim.

    Comment by Blake | December 1, 2009

  2. But what choice did you have? And how were we to know? I wish people would revolt. I wish good young men weren’t so willing to go.

    Comment by stephanielouisefisher | December 1, 2009

  3. Obama did not promise to get us out of Afghanistan. He promised to continue to go after Bin Laden. Either we get out now and leave those people at the mercy of the Taliban or we at least give them some sort of fighting chance should they choose it. I agree with Obama that we must continue to try to weaken the Taliban and Bin Laden. Otherwise we run the risk of a weakened Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of Bin Laden and the Taliban. I don’t like war, but I also do not like the idea of a nuclear armed terrorist organization. It is a very tight rope that the President faces. He was left with it and he must do his best and the country’s best to salvage some kind of security from it.

    Comment by Ralph | December 1, 2009

  4. Not so much, Ralph.

    During the campaign, President Obama led the public to believe that he would consider sending “two, maybe three” additional brigades to Afghanistan. That’s about 12,000 troops, or about 5,000 fewer than he ordered in his first escalation. For his second escalation, he’s sending roughly three times the total troop increase on which he campaigned. Gone are the “he said he was going to do it before we elected him” defenses. Please point me to the moment in the campaign where we were debating 50,000 more troops.

    Comment by dcrowe | December 1, 2009

  5. Not sure if my comment got deleted or if it disappeared because of wordpress issues. Michael are you familiar with a group of Baptists called the free-willers (circa 1660)? They were lead by Henry Adis, William Cox and Richard Pilgrim. The question is actually semi-relevant to your post.

    Comment by Blake | December 2, 2009

  6. The fact is that campaign promises are often made to be broken. That’s the nature of politics. And I’m glad that this President is wise enough to not put a campaign promise ahead of real national security concerns over a year later.

    I have to agree though with our friend Texas in Africa who wrote last night on Facebook that she is “thankful that our president is a grown-up who doesn’t jump to hasty decisions, carefully weighs all his options, relies on input from people who understand the situation, and recognizes that domestic popularity is often a bad basis on which to make critical national security decisions.”

    I just find the “blood on my hands” “War President” language to be too over-the-top.

    Comment by Big Daddy Weave | December 2, 2009

  7. I haven’t seen a debate about 50,000. The General requested 40,000. The President is sending 30,000. He has also given a timetable for withdrawal. We all know that it may not be possible, but at least he isn’t going open ended with it. I agree with BDW and I don’t see Obama as a “warmongering” president. Sometimes, whether we like it or not, men and women must go to war. It is a shame, but it has been with us from the beginning of time, and it will continue to be with us, no matter how much we hate war and seemingly unnecessary killing. I hurt for those who will have to go and those who will die. If we do not make an attempt to neuter Al Quaeda and the Taliban now, we will surely regret it later.

    Comment by Ralph | December 2, 2009

  8. The fact is Michael that Obama is privy to much more information about Afghanistan, and the strategic situation in the world today, now than he was when he was running for President. I think that under the circumstances he did what he thought was best for our nation.

    Comment by Paul | December 2, 2009

  9. As a veteran of these current wars, I am always fascinated by responses from many people (I assume, perhaps wrongly) who have never or will never experience the hell on earth we name as war. In all my years counseling combat veterans, NOT ONE ever said to me that war was honorable, necessary, moral or ethical. NOT ONE. So I am frustrated by the incredible chasm between the reality of war by those “who have been there” on one hand and the politicization of war by those who are thousands of miles away from the dying fields on the other (the latter requires no direct sacrifice, except through tax dollars).

    I totally agree with you Michael on your views. I believe our public has been lied to (brainwashed and continued to be lied to) about the “reasons” for these conflicts. They are geo-political in nature (read PNAC papers if you can find them) and Taliban/Bin Laden are merely parenthetic actors in the larger scope of geo-political policies. These policies and our imperial conduct go all the way back to the western world carving up the Old Persian Empire after WW1. We have had our hand in THEIR ancient lands for a hundred years now and they hate us for it! Wake up people and learn your history.

    My opinion is that world terrorism needs a world response, a world police action that treats terrorist, NOT AS A MILITARY THREAT, but as criminals!!! Every day we occupy a “sovereign” country and kill their civilians (well over 50% of all war deaths are civilians), regardless of the “policy,” we will escalate and multiply “blowback” of future terror responses. The United States is considered in the Arab world as the Roman Empire of the 21st century. Duh. We merely have “better” technology with which to dominate, threaten and torture (i.e. crucify)! We have NO BUSINESS being the “world police.”

    War is NOT the answer. All war does is set up the “reasons” for another retributionary war. History is full of that fact. When will presumed followers of Jesus follow his example and NOT participate in wars of retribution?

    Comment by Brad | December 3, 2009

  10. War is wrong. Period. But this is a swamp–a quagmire. Afghanistan is known as The Graveyard of Empires for a reason. There are less than 100 al Qaeda left in Afghanistan. We are at war with the indigenous population and propping up a corrupt government that rigged its reelection. So there is no chance of winning hearts and minds. I’ve seen this movie before.

    We now have 2 war parties and no peace party. I will never again campaign for any politician. This has broken my faith in the American system. No change is possible. Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex controls everything.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 3, 2009

  11. When my son came home after his first combat tour in Iraq – April 2003-July 2004 (Baghdad) a man from church walked up to him, firmly shook his hand and thanked him. My son looked straight into the man’s eyes and said “Sir, I didn’t do anything over there that you should thank me for.”

    I watched as the man walked away. I turned to my son, he shook his head and said “People don’t have a clue what we’re doing over there. There is nothing honorable about it.”

    Comment by Marty | December 4, 2009

  12. Thanks, Marty. I’ve heard many similar stories both from Iraq and Afghanistan–and every war. One of the hidden tragedies of war is that the “We’re so proud of you” stance of the majority culture doesn’t even allow returning soldiers to grieve or repent or seek forgiveness–because everyone, including most churches, keeps telling them that they’ve done nothing wrong. Is it any wonder the suicide rate among combat vets is so high?

    My wife’s work with the homeless includes homeless vets–and many of them give similar stories to that of your son.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 4, 2009

  13. “Welcome to the presidency of Bush III–another War President.” This attitude is going around quite a bit. Out of such swamps will rise a Son of Nader who will hand the country back to a bona fide Republican.

    I, for one, still think that there’s a dime’s bit of difference between the two parties.

    Comment by Marvin | December 5, 2009

  14. A dime’s bit can make a large difference. If Al Gore had been allowed to take the presidency he won, we wouldn’t have had anything approaching the Rule of God. But we might have avoided 9/11 (since Gore took FBI reports about Al Qaeda seriously). And even if 9/11 had happened, Gore would not have invaded Iraq. He probably would’ve gone into Afghanistan, quickly captured Osama at Tora Bora, and left–although he might have taken up the Taliban on their offer of sending Osama to be tried in a neutral nation if America didn’t invade.

    We wouldn’t have had the Bush tax cuts, so we probably would’ve avoided the huge current deficits. The Worldcom and Enron scandals would’ve been seen as the canary in the coalmine and we could’ve re-regulated Wall Street before a huge recession.

    No longer fenced in by Clinton, Gore could’ve worked on climate change legislation.

    So a dime can be a pretty big thing–ask the people of New Orleans.

    But I do think a Son of Nader might well give the country back to another far right GOPer.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 5, 2009

  15. Michael wouldn’t it be truely wonderful if all people wanted peace ? Sadly, a lot, on all sides, pursue and propagate war. We criticize our leaders as well we should yet often fail to criticize others who seek our destruction. The truth is that groups like Al Qaeda want the United States to be utterly destroyed. I have read their literature and witnessed their destruction. You and I, to them, are infidels. Spin it any way you please, but that is a fact. No one is without blame here. Hard core Jihadis will never stop seeking our destruction. That is a fact whether we like it or not and I think that Obama has come to realize it.

    Comment by Paul | December 6, 2009

  16. Paul, NO ONE denies that “radical jihadists” want to destroy us. How does sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan help with that? Suppose, contrary to ALL evidence and all history of Afghanistan, that this surge is successful. Won’t al Qaeda (the few that are left there) just move to another failed state like Somalia or the DR Congo and set up shop there? Or destabilize Pakistan and have an entire nuclear arsenal at their disposal?

    What I question is not the existence of enemies, but a “war on terror” as a good response to them. It is neither a moral nor a practical response and creates terrorists faster than it kills them. It plays right into their hands.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 6, 2009

  17. Then Michael what is a good response to uninhibited terror ? What is a moral and practical response to murder and mayhem cloaked in the fabric of religion in this particular instance ?

    Comment by Paul | December 7, 2009

  18. Paul, I’ve been trying to outline a moral and practical response since starting this blog. I have advocated the practices of just peacemaking and how they relate to terrorism. I have advocated draining the swamps of poverty and ignorance which breed followers of fanatics (the hardcore fanatics, like bin Laden, are sometimes rich, but they depend on widespread poverty and ignorance to attract followers). Instead of 30,000 troops, build 30,000 schools across Afghanistan so the fundamentalist madrassas aren’t the only option for education. Freeze assets of known terrorist organization. Stop the unlimited weapons trade which arms such groups—the top 5 weapons selling countries in the world are the 5 permanent members of the UN and the U.S. is #1. (Why aren’t we outraged that we sell weapons to everyone and then send out American troops to face weapons “Made in the USA?”)

    Promote democracy and support democratic movements–but don’t try to impose them by force.

    We also have to realize, as John Kerry tried to say in his campaign and no one wanted to hear it, that we will never completely elimnate terrorism. It’s a METHOD that has been around since the dawn of history. We won’t even eliminate religiously based terrorism. We can neutralize particular terrorist networks, but more will arise.

    Others who study terrorism and peacebuilding can answer in far more detail than I can. But doing what we KNOW will not work (at great expense in lives and public treasure) just so that it looks to the public like we’re doing something is STUPID and immoral.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 7, 2009

  19. So, it seems you finally have come to the conclusion that Obama is a warmonger. Its about time. But then, I told you so a long time ago.

    What a bunch of suckers.

    Comment by Kathy | December 8, 2009

  20. Now say something USEFUL, Kathy.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 8, 2009

  21. To paraphrase the current Senator from Minnesota, “Barak Obama is a big fat liar.” How’s that?

    Comment by Kathy | December 8, 2009

  22. Is it true? I think it is concerning Gitmo closing, but is it concerning Afghanistan? I hate it, but he Promised in his campaign to send more troops–although not this much.

    And if it is true, how does it help? It makes you feel good, but does it get us anywhere in peacemaking? Since you never visited this blog during the entire Bush admin, I still wonder if you are a GOP troll. Where was your protest BEFORE Obama became president? Nowhere.

    Either help try to find ways to end this war (in which criticizing Obama certainly plays a role) or just leave. Name calling by itself does nothing useful.

    Where Do We Go From Here?

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 8, 2009

  23. hey–i’m just agreeing with you that you have blood on your hands. the NOBEL speech just proves it.

    Comment by Kathy | December 10, 2009

  24. Hey, I’m just agreeing that your a troll, instead of an actual peace activist who actually has something useful to do. I think you’re a PUMA. If Hillary had been elected and done everything Obama has, you’d be cheering, I bet. See, if I’m wrong, you’d have been working to make peace during the Bush years. You weren’t. You didn’t say anything until Obama was elected and then all you’ve done is call him names–even before he had a chance to do anything good or evil.

    So, I’ll take these comments from someone I think is for real–but I don’t think you are. I think you’re a fraud.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 10, 2009

  25. I’m afraid that I was right and you were wrong when I said a long time ago that Obama was a warmonger. You kept saying that was being too judgmental. And now all you do is call names and make accusations. You need to repent. This speech and warmongering by Obama is WORSE than Bush..

    AsI said a long time ago. It is WORSE because he sold out the peace and justice movement AFTER getting their support and endorsement. So, if I am a fraud, at least I’m not a dupe. And at least I don’t have blood on my hands. YOU DO. AND YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED!

    Comment by Kathy | December 11, 2009

  26. I am ashamed. But that only gets you so far. The question is what to do,now. How to make peace and end the violence?

    That’s what gets me so angry about you. You never have any suggestions about how we organize to push for ending the wars.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 11, 2009

  27. “This speech and warmongering by Obama is WORSE than Bush..”

    Obama is a warmonger, but worse than Bush? I don’t think so. Bush was not only warmonger, but also a moron with an ungly and unrespectful “USA is the best country in the world” attitude. Obama is pretty much more decent, but still the president of a goddamned empire, and thus incapable of being slightly pacifist (for the record, I’m colombian, not USAmerican)

    Comment by mountainguy | December 11, 2009

  28. But even within the framework of Just War thinking, Obama could have proposed a more peacebuilding (and less imperial) vision.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 11, 2009

  29. Sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan and than their exit starting in July, do you really think it will make things even a little bit better, If yes, please explain ..how??? Aren’t you really sick of America waging wars for no reason at all!! WMDs in Iraq…so did you find them?? All it did was killed soldiers and innocent people…is there anything that can justify that? It’s not going to be anything different with Afghanistan.
    America funded or should I say..created Al Qaeda.. and whole world is paying the price for mistakes America did
    And you still justify sending troops to Afghanistan…it’s just going to raise the death toll of soldiers and nothing else!

    Comment by Monica | December 14, 2009

  30. No, I don’t think it will help at all.

    The Taliban offered to put Osama on trial or ship him to a third country for trial if Bush wouldn’t invade.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 14, 2009

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