Bill Ayers, Obama: Parting ways on war
December 3, 2009
by Mark Silva
Our friend and colleague Clarence Page notes that President Barack
Obama has lost at least one old friend on one issue: Chicago's Bill
Ayers, on the escalation of the war in Afghanistan.
Obama was criticized for "palin' around with terrorists'' during the
presidential campaign by Republican Sarah Palin, who attempted to tie
the Democrat's politics to those of Ayers, the University of Illinois
at Chicago education professor and erstwhile leader of the radical
Weather Underground in the 1960s who supported Obama's early
campaigns for political office.
But now it's Ayers who is criticizing the president's new policy of
deploying 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan while promising to
start drawing down those forces in July of 2011 -- suggesting that
another act of a long-running play is opening.
"I am here demonstrating against the war because I am appalled and
alarmed that once again we are escalating the war,'' Ayers said, in
the interview above captured on the streets of Chicago this week.
"The idea that there are benchmarks for getting out is a myth and a lie.
"The fact is that, you know, you cannot imagine a scenario where six
months from now or 18 months from now the administration would say,
well we didn't meet our benchmarks, therefore we're leaving. This is
an absolute tragedy for the Middle East, for Afghanistan and us.''
Listening to Ayers lament the escalation of a war which indeed most
Americans are wary about these days takes us back to the 1960s, Page
notes in his column. Afghanistan is not Vietnam, the president said
during his nationally televised address from West Point this week.
"There are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam,''
Obama said. " They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we're
better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. I believe this
argument depends on a false reading of history.
" Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations
that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are
not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly,
unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from
Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are
plotting along its border. '
This may not be the 1960s anymore, but the White House is attempting
to make it clear that, borrowing a line from the playwright Samuel
Beckett so popular in those days, there is an "endgame.''
Ayers isn't buying what Obama is selling, but this is what it is:
"The absence of a time frame for transition would deny us any sense
of urgency in working with the Afghan government,'' Obama said. " It
must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their
security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war
in Afghanistan. ''
Endgame was a play in one act.
"Finished, it's finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly
finished,'' Clov says in the opening. "Grain upon grain, one by one,
and one day, suddenly, there's a heap, a little heap, the impossible
heap....I can't be punished any more.''
This would seem to be only the second act of the war in Afghanistan.
Bill Ayers dumps Obama
December 03, 2009
[See URL for video.]
To hear the right-wing crowd, you would think Bill Ayers and
President Barack Obama were joined at the hip.
Who could forget Sarah Palin's charge that Obama was "palin' around
Well, goodbye to all that. The 1960s Weather Underground
radical-turned-University-of-Illinois professor sounds as steamed up
against Obama as he used to feel about President Richard Nixon.
The reason, once again, is a presidential escalation of a faraway war.
As a contemporary of Ayers who covered the Underground's breakaway
from the old Students for a Democratic Society for alternative
newspapers in 1969 (The Tribune didn't want to give the radicals any
"publicity" in those days unless it came from the Chicago Police "Red
Squad."), I feel some of his pain. A lot of us boomers thought our
generation had learned by now how to avoid unnecessary wars. Iraq and
the Bush administration showed we didn't.
But I'm not as certain as Ayers that Afghanistan is a waste. Obama
has kept the goals reasonable, the benchmarks clear and the exit
strategy well mapped out. We're giving the Afghans a chance to pull
themselves together into a real nation, but it's not open-ended. I
only hope it works.
Meanwhile, what are the Glenn Becks, Sean Hannitys and Sarah Palins
of the world going to talk about now that Ayers says Obama's a
conservative war hawk? Hint: I'm sure they'll find something.