May 21, 2012
By Harry Kelber
The average American has little understanding of why the United States went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, except to be told that it was essential we use our military to wipe out Al-Qaida, the Taliban and other world-wide militants that were threatening the security of the United States and its people.
Without the public’s actual consent, the Bush administration spent hundreds of billions of dollars in an unsuccessful attempt to crush Al-Qaida in Iraq, and President Obama continued the fight in Afghanistan, where the Taliban remains as a powerful military presence, despite the addition of U.S. troops there.
But questions persist. Why do we intend to stay in Iraq, even though we are pulling out our combat troops? What are our goals in Afghanistan? What do we expect to gain from the two wars, assuming we can claim complete victories?
And what about Al-Qaeda? Has the Obama administration decided to continue the attacks on this worldwide movement until it is completely destroyed? Is this a realistic goal for an America that is still trapped in an economic crisis?
It is to the discredit of the AFL-CIO that it gave Bush, and then Obama, a “blank check” to pursue their war policies, without any comment from organized labor, favorable or otherwise. AFL-CIO leaders decided that the wars In Iraq and Afghanistan were not “labor issues” and would cause division and conflict within labor’s ranks if they were openly discussed.
The AFL-CIO went further by banning any news of the wars, including Libya and the U.S. tensions with Iran, from appearing on the labor federation’s web sites, official statements and in its 2012 election agenda.
Future Unions Must Be Involved in U.S. Foreign Policy
The next generation of unions and their leaders must speak out when the United States is confronted with “war or peace” decisions. It should not be left to appointed diplomats to make decisions that can have a serious impact on the lives of working people. There must be “no blank checks!”
Unions should be penny-wise on how it spends taxpayers’ money on the kind of “nation building” experiments that were employed in Iraq and Afghanistan, where billions of dollars were lost in waste and corruption. Think of what those billions could mean for cities and towns in the U.S. on the verge of bankruptcy?
And future AFL-CIO leaders must open up their web sites to allow their members to discuss whatever issues affect working people.