I went to New York and all I got was a lousy photo. That might be the sentiment of Mahmoud Abbas as he heads back to Palestine.
It might also be that of Barack Obama. The summit between Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu and Abbas has been greeted widely as a predictable failure. Obama has been openly rebuffed in his attempts to halt Israeli settlements. Netanyahu and his far right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, are putting two fingers up at the very moderate demands of the Obama administration.
Obama's troubles are now much greater than this immediate issue. His domestic politics have become stuck in the mire over health care reform and that impacts onto his foreign policy decisions. The right wing staged a large demonstration in Washington recently where they used the backlash over health care to mobilise around a range of issues. As former president Jimmy Carter said, a lot of this is about racism. The coalition which helped get Obama elected seems nowhere near as mobilised.
The Israelis are not the only ones riding this wave. General Stanley McChrystal, head of US armed forces in Afghanistan, has predicted failure for the Nato mission there unless...they send in more troops. Obama is so far resisting this but behind McChrystal stand the Republican right who brought us this war in the first place.
My bet is that they will force Obama into a 'surge' of troops (the figure of 30,000 is suggested on top of the 68,000 already there) before too long. That will mean further pressure on the British and other European governments to 'do their bit' and send more troops themselves. Gordon Brown seems prepared to send another 2000 British soldiers, despite the death toll of 217 - all but 6 of those killed in the last three and a half years.
The British remain the most devoted followers of US imperialism. Even Silvio Berlusconi wants to get Italian troops out, following 6 dead in a Kabul suicide bombing last week. Afghanistan and troop withdrawal is a major issue in the German election this weekend. Canada has set a date to withdraw.
Obama is in danger of creating a new Vietnam, with more and more troops dragged in to an unwinnable war. As the right increase their pressure, anti war sentiment is also growing, with recent US polls showing a majority believing the war is wrong. Something has to give.
While on the subject of Afghanistan, my quote of the week is from home secretary Alan Johnson, who expressed his 'delight' at the 'swift and decisive' way French police cleared the makeshift refugee camp in Calais yesterday. So a Labour government minister delights in children crying and homeless, thousands of miles from their homes and families. But why not? After all, we've bombed and invaded their countries in the first place. These refugees are mostly Afghans, also Iraqis and Eritreans. Spot the connection?
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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