Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year's foreign policy letter to President Obama

Hal Pepinsky,,
January 4, 2010
Happy New Year!
On a hunch, I have just read Wikipedia’s history of al-Qaeda (“the base”).
President Obama, I sincerely hope that someone who gets this message persuades you to read just this one Wikipedia entry. It is thoroughly fact-checked until 1998, when Wikipedia editors warn that what follows doesn’t meet their standards of credibility.
There’s no getting around it. In 1980, to support resistance to Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Bin Laden co-branded the name “al-Qaeda” and got a big international political and financial boost from the CIA ( money muled with drugs via Pakistani friends to mujahidin and to Afghani refugee children getting shelter and education as students [“taliban” {sheez, my computer automatically tried to capitalize that word}]. Beyond Wikipedia on al-Qaeda, it is also well documented that the CIA set up the first labs to convert poppy seeds to opium for global export to fund Cold War effort.)
Mr. President, I have no doubt that you are extraordinary at sorting through complex information. However, I also suspect that all post WWII presidents, except possibly JFK (we’ll never know), have become cloistered in “intelligence” delivered to them. About twenty minutes of your attention to Wikipedia’s history of al-Qaeda might offer you a little perspective on how allies become our most celebrated public enemies, like Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden. Wikipedia indicates that Bin Laden survives by raising funds to support a global guerrilla military front against Euro-American, Judao-Christian military extremism, after his own Saudi family was forced by a government that had sent funds his way, at the behest of the USG, to cut him off and disown him. I am hoping you can escape confinement in the Oval Office just long enough to see how alienating this is to so many people, at home and abroad, most of all those who fear they might be struck from the air by a mechanically indifferent superbomb at any moment. That’s no way to win hearts and minds.
Mr. President, the moral is pretty simple: By every overt, let alone covert, military operation you authorize, we multiply our enemies by multiplying overwhelming casualties, primarily among innocent women and children. Time and again, at home and abroad, we learn that U.S. friendship lasts only as long as it suits selfish American interests. Every time we make demands on our enemies of the day, we reinforce global memories of US government hypocrisy and betrayal. We create our own worst enemies.
It would be silly of me to claim I know what you should do, Mr. President. But in foreign policy, you could make a real world of peacemaking difference by officially recognizing, this way or that, that we will no longer betray those we befriend, and regret having done so. Love and peace, Hal

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