Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our "Homeland" ?

I was with you, Mr. President, almost all the way through your speech, until you spoke those words: "...defend our homeland."

Don't you know that the word homeland comes straight out of Nazi Germany? Die Heimat.

I never heard the US described as "our homeland" until after September 11, 2001. No presidents used the term, as far as I can remember.

But in the patriotic frenzy after attacks on Wall Street and the Pentagon, suddenly that word appeared. Bush even invented a "Department of Homeland Security."

I'm extremely skeptical of this plan to send 30,000 more young men and women to Afghanistan to "stabilize" the country and try to knock down Al Qaeda, but I trust your judgment.

At least you promised to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011, though commentators noticed vagueness in many areas of the speech. There's no date given for complete withdrawal.

I wonder if this new "surge" is offered as a bone to pacify the right-wing and win a few more votes for passage of a national health care plan that includes a significant public option.

If so, I'll support your plan, Mr. President. Anything to get health care passed--I'm even willing to accept the Stupak amendment defunding legal abortion.

I also trust the analysis of Doyle McManus, LA Times Washington correspondent, who describes sitting in a quiet room with President Obama and a few other reporters hours before the speech at West Point. His analysis is worth reading:,0,591124.story

Doyle notes, "Obama never wanted to be a war president. His speech at West Point was more dutiful than eloquent, with little of the passion that fueled his presidential campaign, or even his Sept. 9 address to Congress calling for a healthcare reform bill." He's concerned that the cost of the war could limit his domestic agenda.

A friend invited me to join her in protesting the build-up of the war in Afghanistan today at the Federal Building on Wilshire in Westwood. During the lead-up to the bombing of Baghdad in March 2003, we protested against attacking Iraq.

But I'm so grateful that Barack Obama was elected president--I'm not yet ready to go into the streets against his policies.

Nevertheless, that word homeland disturbs me. My president is using a demagogue's word to win support for sending our children half-way around the world to kill Muslims who want to regain a totalitarian state.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai is ceding more ground to the Taliban. He's weak and he stole the election held last August. Why should we support his government? And why militarily, with the loss of more Afghan and American lives?

I admit that I'm pacifist to the core and a card-carrying liberal--but even my military brother says we should get out of Afghanistan. He served in the Army for twenty years and still works as a surgeon at Fort Lewis, the US Army post south of Tacoma, Washington.

We can't win, he says. We should leave.

Members of Military Families Speak Out are also opposed to Obama's Afghan surge.

LA Times reporter Louis Sahagun watched Obama's speech with them last night, and he quotes one young vet as saying, "In World War II, the average combat time was 60 days. Now it's 280 days of people taking pot shots at you.",0,6128336.story

These people oppose continued fighting in Afghanistan because it's their kids who are being sent there.

"We're also going to keep a candle lit in front of our homes until every troop comes home," one mother, Pat Alviso, told Sahagun. Her son, a Marine, has served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan so far.

Let's support them by lighting candles in front of our homes, too.

For the full text of Obama's speech, see:

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