American Economy, Election and Endless Wars

Is America on a wrong track? Is the Obama administration failing to fulfill people’s aspirations and expectations?

On October 28, a 26-year-old soldier from Fort Carson, Colorado set to return to Afghanistan intentionally shot himself in the shoulder to avoid deployment.[1]

On November 5, a 39-year-old army psychiatrist, who had faced repeated harassment for his ethnicity and faith from his fellow soldiers, shot dead 13 people at the "Soldier Readiness Center" in Fort Hood, Texas, military base.[2] He was opposed to the war and upset about his impending deployment to Afghanistan. This tragedy once again shows how the very individuals that are trained to help victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are themselves losing their own mental balance. Suicide and killings amongst returning soldiers from their duties in Iraq and Afghanistan are at an all time high now. Researchers report that the rate of PTSD and other mental difficulties tied to war may be as high as 35%.

On November 6, a 15-year-old boy shot a 17-year-old fellow student with a history of bullying the young shooter on a school bus in west Philadelphia.[3] The same day a 40-year-old fired engineer opened fire in the offices of an engineering firm where he was let go more than two years ago killing one person and injuring five others.[4] Just a few days ago a young man, in his early twenties, shot himself to death in my neighborhood. My neighbors told me that he had difficulty coping with stresses of life.

While the stock market has picked up, allowing some investors to recover losses suffered during the last couple of years, and the country appears to be pulling out of the recession, a full economic recovery may not happen anytime soon. The unemployment number is really bad in the world’s biggest economy! In a fresh sign of financial misery at grassroots level, in October it rose to 10.2% from September’s 9.8%, reaching its highest level since April 1983. Monthly figures from the US department of labor revealed that employers cut a higher-than-expected 190,000 jobs in October. There is a hiring freeze with many big corporations, especially for skilled workers. If any company is hiring, they want to hire for less pay. It seems it will take at least three years to recover the lost jobs.

It is not difficult, therefore, to understand why for the first time under President Obama, majority of Americans says the U.S.A. is on the wrong track (Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted Oct. 22-25, 2009). Fifty-two percent say the country is on the wrong track compared to 36% who say it is headed in the right direction with 9% saying conditions are mixed and 3% undecided. President Obama’s job approval rating stands at 51%, the same number it had been during the previous two months. But the approval ratio for his handling of the economy has slid down from 51 in September to 47% in October. Forty-nine percent are very dissatisfied with the state of the economy and another 31% are somewhat dissatisfied. Seventeen percent are somewhat satisfied and only 2% are very satisfied. What is also worrisome is that 58% percent say that worst has not yet come. Twenty-nine percent believe the economy has bottomed out. Forty-two percent believe things will get better in the next 12 months compared to 33% who say they will stay the same and 22% who predict things will be worse. Sixty-three percent believe that current conditions are due to factors President Obama inherited while 20% say he is responsible for them. Well, one can surmise that a majority of those 20% were die-hard Republicans who still refuse to come to terms with the mess that George W. had left the country with.

Predictably, Bob McDonnell led a Republican sweep in Virginia on Tuesday night defeating the democratic contender in the gubernatorial race. So did the Republican Chris Christie who won the New Jersey governor’s race, defeating the incumbent Jon Corzine. The latter seemed to have run out of ideas other than raising taxes to balance a looming $8 billion state budget deficit. The state also had an alarming 9.7% unemployment rate. President Obama’s multiple visits to rally Democrats to Corzine’s side did not help. As can be seen, however, from a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, conducted on Monday, just a day before the election, the defeat was by no means a verdict on Obama’s presidency. The poll found 68% saying the country was heading in the right direction while only 34% saying that about New Jersey.

The WSJ/NBC poll numbers are equally bad for the Congress and on other burning issues. For example, 65% disapprove of the job Congress is doing compared to 24% who approve with 11% undecided. On health care, 42% say the reform plan Obama is pushing is a bad idea, 38% say it’s a good idea and 16% have no opinion, with another 4% unsure. Forty-five percent say it is better to pass his plan compared to 39% who disagree. Forty-eight percent disapprove Obama’s handling of the health care issue while 43% approve with 9 percent undecided, a ratio that has grown more negative since last month. On foreign affairs, the public approves of his handling of this area by 51% to 39% with 10% undecided. On Afghanistan, Americans support a troop increase by 47% to 43% with 10% undecided. However, when asked about specifics about increasing the number of troops, Americans oppose sending large contingents of troops, and nowhere close to the number requested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan. The public is divided at 45% each on the option of withdrawing nearly all troops and using Predator drones and Special Forces to attack al Qaeda camps.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost some 5,000 dead American soldiers, a trillion dollars, and a divided America facing an endless war. General McChrystal needs at least another 40,000 soldiers to avoid the risk of "mission failure" in Afghanistan. Pakistan, which sided with the USA in Afghanistan, now has a war of her own to fight inside. As if these were not enough of a wake-up call to revise America’s interventionist policies, Israel and its powerful lobby are trying to push America to open yet another warfront with Iran. It goes without saying that Israel has mastered the art of exploiting regional instability to prolong her illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.

On November 3, the House of Representatives passed H.Res.867, condemning the Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (known informally as the Goldstone Report) as "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy," by a vote of 344 to 36 with 22 abstentions. Through its vote, the U.S. Congress has once again proven that it has lost moral compass and is too reluctant even in the post-Bush era to shed its image as Israel’s “Amen Corner.” As the current events have also proven the Obama administration is simply impotent against Israel. It is not difficult to understand why Mahmoud Abbas will not seek re-election.

President Obama is now under tremendous pressure to decide as to what to do with Bush’s Global War on Terror. His anti-war supporters, the independents — who played the decisive role in the last year’s election to put him to the White House, are noticing how he is failing them, compromising at every step to please the war party. Will he embrace the same fate as President Johnson? Will he just be a one-time president?

For those of us who are tired of America’s pyrrhic wars, not everything is lost. On Nov. 4, an Italian court convicted 22 CIA operatives and a U.S. Air Force colonel of orchestrating the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003 and flying him to Egypt where he was allegedly tortured. The Americans were all tried in absentia. A Milan prosecutor said his office would seek to have them extradited from the United States, but a formal decision will be made later by the Italian Justice Ministry. The case is the only instance in which CIA operatives have faced a criminal trial for the controversial tactic of extraordinary rendition, under which terrorism suspects are seized in one country and forcibly transported to another without judicial oversight. The verdict, first of its kind, sends a strong signal against the crimes of the CIA and puts the so-called Global War on Terror on trial.[5] A similar case involving a German citizen kidnapped in the Balkans has resulted in arrest warrants and a civil lawsuit but has not gone to trial.

These are some of the tell tale signs that things are rotting inside America. Seemingly, the American nation is suffering from PTSD. She needs psychiatric help. She needs an overhaul and not false promises. She has to get out of the vicious culture of war that is responsible for her breakdown –” mental, moral, social and economical.

Until Americans understand that wars are bad for the economy (especially when these are not short-term wars) and are not the prudent ways to promote national security or settle scores on terrorism, they will continue to send warmongers –” sold to the military industrial complex — into power that will prefer war over peaceful resolutions of such problems. If Americans have failed to learn anything from their recent troubles, nothing probably will educate them.

One can only hope that America will have the hindsight to abandon her outdated methods and do things that are morally right, just, fair and lawful. The sooner the better!



[2]. According to a Killeen police report in August, an Army employee was charged with scratching Major Nidal Hasan’s car, causing $1,000 in damage. Apartment manager John Thompson said the man charged was a soldier back from Iraq, who objected to Hasan’s faith and ripped a bumper sticker off the major’s car that said: "Allah is Love." Kim Rosenthal, another neighbor, said Hasan didn’t seem too upset by his scratched vehicle, even though it was damaged so badly that he got a new one. "He said it was Ramadan and that he had to forgive people," Rosenthal said. "He forgave him and moved on." (