It's Time for a New Strategy in Afghanistan

Tuesday, 06 Oct 2009 12:31 PM

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The death toll of American soldiers in Afghanistan continues to climb. Insurgents, according to The New York Times on October 5, “killed eight Americans and four Afghan security officers in the deadliest attack for American soldiers in more than a year.” We should remove from areas in Afghanistan all American outposts that are vulnerable to such attacks.

In that same article, the Times points out, “The assault occurred less than 20 miles from the site of a similar attack that killed nine Americans last year, which had already become a cautionary tale at the Pentagon for how not to win the war in Afghanistan.”

American soldiers in Iraq have been pulled back from major centers in preparation for leaving the country no later than Dec. 31, 2011. We should follow the same course of action in Afghanistan. From now on, until we leave, and thereafter, we should rely on air strikes and, where necessary, pinpoint in-and-out operations by special forces.

Some argue that we should continue the land war while training an Afghan army to take over. We had eight years to do that and obviously failed. I doubt an additional time investment would be successful.

There is no government in Afghanistan to which Afghans have an allegiance. The Karzai government is corrupt to the core. It is involved in the cultivation and sale of heroin. It is not worth the shedding of blood of our young soldiers.

Mr. President, end the land war and deploy our military might against the terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan from offshore.

Our Failed Cuba Embargo

There is absolutely no sense in continuing our embargo on trade and normal relations with Cuba that we imposed a half-century ago.

Every nation in the Western Hemisphere maintains diplomatic relations with Cuba except the United States. Cuba poses no threat to the U.S., and the embargo has not brought the Cuban government to its knees. Quite the opposite.

The prohibition of American investment certainly has not deprived Cuba of manufactured goods, which are available from the many countries doing business with it, including Canada, the European Union, and all of Latin America. The only major constituency supporting the continuation of sanctions by the U.S. are the Cubans now living in Florida and many of them, particularly the young, favor ending sanctions.

The Obama administration is slowly improving relations by lifting limits on remittances and travel restrictions to the island. Why not just bring the restrictions to an end, restore regular diplomatic relations, and welcome Cuba back into the family of the Americas?

We have normal relations with many governments that are far more militant, authoritarian, repressive, and hostile to us. Cuba, so far as I know, has not been a sponsor of terrorism directed at the U.S., since the nuclear facilities were withdrawn by the Soviet Union.

Remember, it was the U.S. that supported an invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, not the other way around.

Finally, I would like to vacation in Cuba, a place I have never visited. I went to China in 1979, during my second year as mayor, when it was communist and repressive. It is still communist and repressive, and it is one of our largest trading partners and the most threatening to our economic health as well as being the U.S.’s major banker.

Abortion Attitudes Shift

The public is now almost evenly divided on the right to abortion. The Pew Research Center recently released a poll showing, according to an October 2 New York Times article, that “47 percent of those surveyed said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 45 percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases — a difference within the poll’s margin of sampling error.”

In 1989, I wrote a book with John Cardinal O’Connor entitled, His Eminence and Hizzoner. We wrote of our conflicting views on a number of controversial subjects, including abortion.

I stated, “Personally, I don’t think abortion on demand is a good idea. On the moral level, I think abortion should be limited to cases of rape and incest, and to cases where the fetus is not developing normally or the mother’s life is endangered by the pregnancy. I don’t think abortion should be used as a routine form of birth control.”

The Republican platform for the last several elections called for ending any right to an abortion, not even an exception for the life of the mother. So what to do? Leading supporters of the right of abortion should plan a nationwide, educational program on why that right has to be maintained if we are not to see a return of back-alley abortions and the deaths of women treated by sleazy practitioners.

My family was very poor when I was young. My wonderful mother, who died nearly 49 years ago, told her children how she risked her life on several occasions to abort a pregnancy for economic reasons.

I can understand those who would keep legal abortions available to the poor, unless we provide federal government grants to families for children as some countries do. I confess that I am conflicted on this issue.

The battle to preserve the right to an abortion is with us every day and won’t go away. Supporters of abortion rights should, as they say, get on the stick.

Polanski Reactions

The responses that I received to my comments regarding Roman Polanski and his Hollywood supporters have been overwhelmingly favorable. The few who wrote supporting Polanski relied on the argument of Whoopi Goldberg that the rape was statutory and not, as Goldberg put it, “rape, rape,” a reference to coercion.

Statutory rape is the rape of a child. A child cannot give permission, and the act itself is heinous. To Polanski’s defenders, I pointed out what really happened, citing Jim Dwyer’s September 30 article in The New York Times.

Dwyer wrote, “In March 1977, Mr. Polanski, 43 at the time, invited a 13-year-old to pose for pictures in a magazine he was guest editing. He took her to Jack Nicholson’s house on Mulholland Drive and gave her Champagne and a Quaalude. He knew she was 13; he called her mother to tell her they were running late. Then he had oral and vaginal sex with the girl. After learning that she was not on the pill, he penetrated her anally.”

The Hollywood elite surely have been shaken by the response of the American public to the willingness of Hollywood icons to support Polanski,. e.g., Woody Allen, Whoopi Goldberg, Harvey Weinstein, Martin Scorsese, et. al., and the denunciation of Polanski by the editorial boards of both The Washington Post and The New York Times.

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