Moore a sign of things to come for Obama?

A prominent liberal breaks, in a big way, with the president over his Afghanistan policy

Published November 30, 2009 9:50PM (EST)


On Tuesday night, President Obama is set to announce that he's sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan -- about 30,000 of them. Indeed, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that the president has already given the order, though for now Gibbs wouldn't say what the actual order was.

Michael Moore, however, wants to stop him. In an open letter published on his Web site Monday, Moore decried Obama's decision, saying he'll now be known as "the new war president." The director wrote:

Do you really want to be the new "war president"? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do -- destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they've always heard is true -- that all politicians are alike. I simply can't believe you're about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn't so.

It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That's the way General Washington insisted it must be. That's what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. "You're fired!," said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we f*#&in' hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption).

Here's the thing, though: Obama wasn't exactly hiding his position on Afghanistan during the presidential campaign. The war there was often thought of as the "good war" on the left, at least in comparison to the one the Bush administration started when it invaded Iraq. And that meant refocusing resources on Afghanistan.

Still, while it's pretty clear that Moore's open letter won't change Obama's mind, and that Obama is likely to win a fight with Moore right now, it also appears that the floodgates are opening. With former President George W. Bush out of office, liberals are coming forward to oppose escalation in Afghanistan, and Moore won't be the last prominent figure from the left to slam Obama over it.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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Afghanistan Barack Obama Michael Moore War Room