The First Draft: Return from Dover

October 29, 2009

President Barack Obama returned in the early hours from a trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where he saluted the flag-draped caskets of 18 soldiers and Drug Enforcement Administration agents killed in Afghanistan this week. OBAMA/

Journalists were allowed to see the transfer of the last casket. Reuters correspondent Ross Colvin was there and reports that it was cold and blustery as Obama stood at attention and saluted as six soldiers carried the casket, bearing the body of Sergeant Dale Griffin of Indiana, off the plane and onto a waiting van.

With at least 53 killed, October has been the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and public opinion polls show increasing weariness of the war.

Obama is still mulling a new U.S. strategy on Afghanistan and whether to send more American troops as General Stanley McChrystal has requested.

Back in Washington the other major issues continue to bubble. The House of Representatives unveiled healthcare reform legislation that Democrats say will reduce the budget deficit by $30 billion over the first 10 years. It includes a public option.

This is another step toward the ultimate negotiations between the House and Senate that must take place to resolve differences between their separate, and currently different, healthcare bills.

And big economic news out today. The U.S. economy grew in the third quarter for the first time in a year, unofficially ending the worst recession in 70 years. Third-quarter gross domestic product grew at a 3.5 percent annual rate.

Is the economy out of the woods?

Click here for more Reuters political coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama salutes as casket of soldier killed in Afghanistan is transferred at Dover Air Force Base)


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I hope that Obama’s trip to Dover triggers a sense of destiny in his head to search for a Dove of Peace. Otherwise, counting the bodies of fallen Americans, while accepting a Nobel for Peace, will be the ultimate insult on the face of humanity. And, certainly, to most Americans, and surely to the Fox News and to Republicans, the trip to Dover was “a public consumption” gimmick designed at the White House to show his concern for the war casualties is real – not just rhetorical.

But besides the solemn moments at Dover, there is a solemn decision for Obama ahead on whether to load the
Afghan war machinery with more troops and ammunition in order to expand the killing of Afghans opposed to the U.S. occupation (Thank you, Matthew Hoh for your courage and moral standing), and win the war. And those fallen Afghans who die to liberate their country don’t get a prayer next to their coffin by the Afghan president Hamid Karzai; Karzai is on the U.S. payroll, and his brother Walid is on the CIA payroll (The N.Y. Times, Oct.27, 2009) to serve the U.S. – as Babrak Karmal was on the USSR payroll to serve the Kremlin. But we conveniently dress out occupation in a democratic garb, and we are fool enough to believe that we
deceive the whole world, even though the anti-U.S. sentiment around the globe tells us that we don’t fool anybody!

Matthew Hoh is correct when he says that he was convinced during his service in Afghanistan that “the Taliban are not Al Qaeda stooges, but resistant fighters.” But we started this war as a war against Al Qaeda, and, if we admit that the “Taliban are not Al Qaeda,” then we will have to accept that the war in Afghanistan is irrational. And continuing it with Al Qaeda slogans, and hypocritically praying next to the coffins of the fallen Americans at Dover, doesn’t mitigate it, nor justifies the continuation of the war. It just shows that Al Qaeda and political hypocrisy have become an incurable psychosis in the mindset of our political establishment, and nobody dares to confront the truth because it will sound un-American, and politically risky. As John F. Kennedy said: “War will exist until that distant day when conscientious objectors enjoy the same reputation and prestige that the warriors do today.” Nikos Retsos, retired professor

Posted by Nikos Retsos | Report as abusive

This is something that George (“support our troops”) Bush never did.

Posted by JB | Report as abusive

As someone with a loved one in Iraq, I thought it was a classy thing to do. It brought tears to my eyes. We are no longer forgotten, hidden. It made me proud to be an American.

Posted by Suzanne | Report as abusive