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Antiwar groups want Obama to forget pledge

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The antiwar left blasted former President George W. Bush for "lying" about the war in Iraq — "Bush lied, people died" — but now some feel betrayed that President Obama is keeping his word about Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama on Wednesday announced the deployment of 17,000 troops to Afghanistan in keeping with his position as a candidate that the United States needs to redouble its efforts there.

Many antiwar activists, including some who supported Mr. Obama, were angered by the move, with some saying they had hoped his war stance was "just campaign talk."

"I'm very upset; he promised change, and this is not change. It's just going to create more deaths on both sides and create more terrorists," said Jodie Evans, co-founder of Code Pink. The group, known for protests and targeting Bush administration officials, posted a statement Thursday condemning Mr. Obama's decision and urging him to replace the combat troops with "humanitarian troops."

"Afghanistan needs troops of doctors, farmers, teachers, not more troops," the statement says.

During last year's election, Miss Evans was a strong supporter of Mr. Obama and was listed as a "bundler" on his campaign Web site, raising between $50,000 and $100,000 for the future president.

Although Code Pink did not endorse any specific candidate, Miss Evans said many members campaigned for Mr. Obama for various reasons.

"The president made many promises, and many members of Code Pink did support him during the campaign, including myself," she said.

Code Pink gained notoriety for its unconventional protest tactics. In October, Code Pink activist Janine Boneparth tried to conduct a citizens arrest of former Bush aide Karl Rove at a meeting of the Mortgage Bankers Association in San Francisco. In October 2007, activist Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz waved fake-blood-stained hands in then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's face before being pushed away and detained by police.

Medea Benjamin, also a co-founder of Code Pink, said the group "was always unhappy with [Mr. Obama's] stance on Afghanistan" and has a campaign on its Web site to "Remind Obama"of his promises to promote peace, stop torture, and end the war in Iraq.

"We hoped that putting more troops in Afghanistan was just campaign talk. We feel that Obama is a smart man, he must know that Afghanistan has been a graveyard for foreign armies for centuries," Miss Benjamin said.

Supporters of Code Pink are not alone. Barbara Bearden, spokeswoman for Peace Action, said the group "strongly opposes" the addition of troops to Afghanistan and that even though the region demands urgent action, that does not involve a troop increase.

"That's not change," she said.

The liberal blog Daily Kos, headed by Obama supporter Markos Moulitsas, also includes posts that are hostile to the president's troop surge.

"What possible purpose can be served by escalating the conflict with another 30,000 troops?" asked one post Jan 30.

The Web site of activist filmmaker Michael Moore, who also worked to elect Mr. Obama, compared the troop surge to the blunders of the Soviet Union, which invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and was forced to withdraw 10 years later. Headlines on Mr. Moore's site include "Now it's his war" and "U.S. risks repeating Soviet mistakes in Afghanistan."

Mr. Obama rarely has been coy about his support for shifting the nation's military focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. In October 2002, while he was an Illinois state senator, he proclaimed his "strong support" for the war in Afghanistan while at a rally in Chicago to oppose war in Iraq.

In addition, White House officials say Mr. Obama announced plans to put more troops into Afghanistan as early as January 2007.

In August of that year, Mr. Obama gave a speech to Woodrow Wilson International Center scholars titled "The War We Need to Win," in which he described Afghanistan and Pakistan as the "right battlefield" and detailed plans to send additional combat troops into Afghanistan.

"When I am president, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy … [including] getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said.