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'Pashtunistan' holds key to Obama mission
By Jason Burke, Yama Omid, Paul Harris, Saeed Shah, Gethin Chamberlain | Guardian UK
The mountainous borderlands where Afghanistan meets Pakistan have been described as a Grand Central Station for Islamic terrorists, a place where militants come and go and the Taliban trains its fighters. Now Barack Obama has made solving the 'Af-Pak' question a top priority. But could the battle to tame the Pashtun heartland become his Vietnam?
"The situation there grows more perilous every day," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the American joint chiefs of staff, told journalists earlier this month. Holbrooke reaches for the ultimate comparison: "It's tougher than Iraq."...For Bashir, a Kabul taxi driver, the Americans would leave. "The Soviets couldn't stay in our country. How can the Americans stay?" he asked.
Talks Could Clear Way for Congressional Testimony by Rove
By Carrie Johnson | Washington Post
Luskin replied that he and Rove are awaiting advice from White House counsel Gregory B. Craig about whether Obama would back the executive privilege assertion by his predecessor. "The president is very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened," Craig said in a statement yesterday. "But he is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency. So, for that reason, he is urging both sides of this to settle."
White House lawyers and representatives for former president George W. Bush are engaged in discussions that could clear a path for congressional testimony by onetime Bush aide Karl Rove, three sources familiar with the talks said yesterday.
Word of the negotiations came on the same day that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) issued Rove a fresh subpoena regarding his role in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006, allegedly for political reasons.
Rove has deflected congressional demands for information about the dismissals by citing executive privilege and instructions from Bush. But Democrats say President Obama's view of the matter may open the door for Rove's eventual appearance on Capitol Hill.
Ron Paul: What If? ... The American People Learn the Truth!
Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
February 12, 2009
There is certainly a great deal of slack-jawed shock going around these days, especially in progressive circles, where pundits, commentators, analysts and kibitzers continually find themselves reeling from yet another "inexplicable" move by the Obama Administration to uphold the core principles of their predecessors: enriching the rich, extending the empire, and enhancing the authoritarian power of a thoroughly militarized state.
By Dave Lindorff
Hand it to Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH). The conservative senator from the Granite State turned down an appointment to the position of President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Commerce citing “irreconcilable differences.”
Citing the latest Senate vote on Obama’s economic stimulus package, for which Gregg voted “no,” Gregg said, “ We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy."
This has been a uniquely bad week for civil libertarians. The Obama Administration appears to be rushing to dispel any notions that Obama will fight for civil liberties or war crimes investigations. After Eric Holder allegedly assured a senator that there would be no war crimes investigation and seemed to defend Bush policies, Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan, Obama’s Solicitor General nominee, reportedly told a Republican senator that the Administration agreed with Bush that we are “at war” and therefore can hold enemy combatants indefinitely. In the meantime, Obama himself seemed to tie himself in knots when asked about investigating war crimes and leading democrats are again pushing for a symbolic “truth commission.” I discussed these issues in this segment of Countdown this week.
Senator Leahy Starts Bush Truth Commission Petition - Will You Sign On?
I have proposed the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate abuses during the Bush-Cheney Administration -- so they never happen again.
By Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Newspapers
Washington - The Obama administration, which vowed to usher in a "new era of openness in our country," either has delayed action on requests for access to government records or refused to disclose them in three early, high-profile tests of the pledge.
This week, Justice Department lawyers announced that they'd continue to assert the state secrets argument made by the Bush administration in a lawsuit alleging that five men were tortured abroad in U.S.-run prisons.
In a separate case, the Obama Justice Department has agreed with the Bush administration - at least initially - that the news media shouldn't have immediate access to court records in the ongoing Guantanamo detainee litigation.
by Linda Milazzo
CODEPINK Women For Peace will be traveling to Gaza on March 6th. The purpose of their mission is to provide "humanitarian and emotional support to women and women's organizations and exert pressure on US, Egyptian and Israeli governments to lift the blockade and promote peace and human rights in the region."
In advance of their trip, CODEPINK has created a petition that asks signers to write President Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to request that he meet with the women of Gaza. As an American Jew who opposes Israel's inhumane treatment of Palestinians, I answered CODEPINK's call, signed the petition, and wrote a letter to Mr. Mitchell. The letter that follows is my personal statement to Mr. Mitchell and not the statement of CODEPINK.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered a review Tuesday of a Pentagon policy banning media from taking pictures of flag-draped coffins of military dead, signaling he was open to overturning the policy to better honor fallen soldiers.
At least two Democratic senators have called on President Barack Obama to let news photographers attend ceremonies at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and other military facilities when military remains are returned to the United States. Obama told reporters Monday he was reviewing the ban.
For four decades, the world experimented with Keynes’ theories and the result was oversized States, punished by inflation, in which waste and a lack of efficiency grew apace with excessive public spending and bureaucracy, until the world began to return to civil society the vigor and role stolen by the governments.
FL: Daytona 500 Anti-War Protest & 911 Truth Rally This Sunday
Central Florida Veterans for Peace is doing a protest/public-awareness action out at Daytona Beach Speedway during the Daytona 500 this Sunday, February 15th, from 12:30 to 3:00 PM. Sadly, this is already the 4th year that we are doing such an action out at the Speedway to call for the troops being brought home and those in Washington responsible for sending them there to die for a lie in the first place to be fully investigated and prosecuted by the law which the soldiers take an oath to defend.
Rep. Delahunt has taken a constructive step by introducing a resolution in support of former Senator Mitchell's diplomacy for peace. Supporting this resolution should be a no-brainer - even your Representative can do it. [You can ask your Representative to sign on here; the list of co-sponsors, 50 at this writing, is here.]
Obama's "War on Terror"
by Stephen Lendman
The language is softened and deceptive. The strategy and tactics are not. The "war on terror" continues. Promised change is talk, not policy. Just look at Obama's "war cabinet," discussed in an earlier article. It assures:
- the "strongest military on the planet" by outspending all other countries combined;
- continued foreign wars;
- possible new ones in prospect; on February 7, vice-president Joe Biden outlined continuity of the Bush administration's policy toward Iran, including "preventive" wars under the National Security Strategy; demands also that Iran abandon its legal nuclear program meaning nothing going forward will change;
- permanent occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is planned;
- a reinvented "Cold War" with Russia; perhaps also with China; "draw(ing) a new 'iron curtain' (between these) formidable Eurasian powers" to prevent their alliance from challenging America, according to F. William Engdahl;
- an "absolute" commitment "to eliminating the threat of terrorism (with) the full force of our power;"
- inciting instability for imperial gain, especially in resource-rich parts of the world;
- militarizing America; keeping Bush administration police state laws in force; dealing with a deepening economic crisis by preparing for hard line crackdowns should popular unrest arise; and
- readying for another major false flag attack?
US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-In-Chief Obama suffered 27 combat casualties in the week ending Feb 10, 2009, as the official total rose to jumped sharply to at least 71,119 with monthly "non hostile" casualties posted.
The total includes 34,443 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,676 dead and medically evacuated (as of Jan 31, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*
The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries-mainly brain trauma from explosions (TBI) and PTSD diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**
During his press conference on Monday evening, President Obama pledged to look forwards rather than backwards when it came to investigating the misdeeds of the Bush administration. It was a carefully crafted answer, designed to neither anger nor encourage individuals either side of this contentious issue. For possible victims of legal and political injustice during the Bush years, however, it wasn't nearly enough.
Don Siegelman, the former Governor of Alabama arrested on trumped up bribery charges allegedly linked to Karl Rove, wrote the Huffington Post on Tuesday to offer his opinion of Obama's answer.
DC Events Tonight, 7 PM and Tomorrow in DC: Phyllis Bennis Speaks Tonight; Lincoln Memorial Action Tomorrow
Phyllis Bennis of the Institute For Policy Studies will be speaking at American University’s WARD HALL (Ward 1 – T Floor) tonight, February 11th at 7 PM.
Come to hear Phyllis, a leading peace advocate, talk about peace efforts with a new U.S. administration.
Sponsored by Witness Against Torture and American University’s Amnesty International chapter.
Thursday, February 12 - 8am
As part of the 100 Days Campaign, we have been holding a daily vigil from 11am-1pm, Monday thru Friday, at the White House.
On February 12 at 8 a.m, we will gather for a presence at the Lincoln Memorial. Every year since the Memorial was dedicated, dignitaries, diplomats, and citizens have assembled in the chamber to honor Abraham Lincoln on the day of his birth.
Stopping terrorism. Preventing nuclear attack. Protecting and conserving finite sources of energy.
These are the perennial security concerns that have shaped and will continue to shape American foreign policy for the foreseeable future. However, in the last thirty years the landscape in which we address these concerns has changed dramatically, and the election of a new president and Congress brings an opportunity to accordingly redefine American engagement with the world. The heavy US reliance on the blunt instrument of military force has generated new instability and conflict, and today Americans face a more dangerous world than a decade ago. US security is tightly woven with that of our allies as well as some of our antagonists, and in this interconnected world, we need to use the right tools.
Now that their nemesis, George W. Bush, has left office, the mainstream media can be unbridled in their optimism about the future of Iraq. After 9/11, they chose to allow themselves to be duped by the Bush administration’s fairly lame reasons for the clearly unrelated U.S. invasion of Iraq and have been bitter about the quagmire ever since.
Given that Barack Obama, whom most media covered favorably during the election campaign, has taken office, their coverage of the recent Iraqi provincial elections indicates that they have flipped and now see a glass half full in Iraq rather than a glass half empty. They have touted the Iraqi elections as a wild success, with purple-thumbed Iraqi citizens depicted as supporting a centralized Iraqi state over autonomy for Iraq’s regions.
Not so fast.
Obama's Natl. Sec. Advisor Says He Takes Orders from Kissinger; So Who Does Petraeus Take Orders From?
Gen. Jones's Remarks to the Munich Security Conference
By James Jones
National Security Adviser
Hotel Bayerischer Hof
February 9, 2009
Thank you for that wonderful tribute to Henry Kissinger yesterday. Congratulations. As the most recent National Security Advisor of the United States, I take my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger, filtered down through General Brent Scowcroft and Sandy Berger, who is also here. We have a chain of command in the National Security Council that exists today.
I think my role today is a little bit different than you might expect.
Does Obama base his economic plans on liberal and conservative economists' advice because that's the best way to write a good plan?
Does he claim Iran is building nuclear weapons because nobody in that room will challenge him?
Does Obama believe that logic and information have some impact on senators? Or does he think he can get members of the public to influence senators? Or is he just afraid to put one more Democrat in the senate, eliminate the filibuster excuse, and ignore Republicans? Or is it not fear but an ideology that actually places bipartisanship above all else? Or is that a cover for a politician with an agenda that pretends to be something it isn't who actually appreciates the filibuster excuse?
A CNN reporter asked Obama when he would get out of Afghanistan and whether he would allow the media to cover the arrival of caskets with dead soldiers at Dover Airforce base, and Obama refused (at some distracting length) to answer either one.
The Washington Post's reporter chose to ask about steroid use in baseball.
Helen Thomas asked if Pakistan was harboring terrorists, and he said yes. She also asked -- perhaps in response to the nonsense about Iran -- whether the President knew of any nations in the Middle East that posessed nuclear weapons. Obama pretended he did not, naming neither Iran, which everyone knows does not possess nuclear weapons, nor Israel which everyone knows does.
Sam Stein of Huffington Post asked about Leahy's "truth and reconciliation" proposal and prosecutions of Bush officials, and Obama avoided answering either with anything he hadn't said before.
Mara Liasson of National Petroleum Radio pushed Obama for even MORE bipartisanship, and he seemed to agree.
Was there complete agreement in the room that the war on Iraq is over despite being, you know, not over? Are reporters actually forbidden to ask about it?
The President is right that we need to focus on fixing the problems that exist and improving the future for hardworking Americans. I wholeheartedly agree and expect the Judiciary Committee and the Senate to act accordingly. But that does not mean that we should abandon seeking ways to provide accountability for what has been a dangerous and disastrous diversion from American law and values. Many Americans feel we need to get to the bottom of what went wrong. We need to be able to read the page before we turn it.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy insisted on Monday in firm and passionate terms that a comprehensive investigation be launched into the conduct of the Bush administration, saying anything less would prevent the country from moving forward.
By Dave Lindorff
I can’t count how many people have bombarded me with criticisms, usually laced with insults and often obscenities, when I have written articles calling for pressure on Democratic politicians to do the right thing, whether that is impeaching the last president and vice president for war crimes or in the case of our new president, standing and fighting for a people’s bailout, instead of a Wall Street bailout.
The common refrain I hear is that the Democrats and Republicans are the same, and that we need a third party. Another common refrain is that “all you suckers” who voted for Obama are to blame. We should have voted for Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader, they say.
Now I have nothing against McKinney and Nader. That ticket would make for a wonderful administration, I agree. But I also have to point out that there is zero chance of these two people being elected in my lifetime (I’m 59 and pretty healthy) or theirs.
By Dave Lindorff
If the disaster of the so-called "stimulus" bill just passed by the Senate doesn't convince President Obama and his advisers that the strategy of "bipartisanship" that he has been espousing is a political suicide, nothing will.
The Republican Party, with the willing help of conservative Democrats like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Democratic turncoats like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), has forced Obama to agree to a joke of a stimulus package that is nearly half composed of tax breaks which will do nothing to bolster the economy (since most of the money will end up either paying down credit card debt or buying Chinese and Sri Lankan imports) and that is stripped of $40 billion to help struggling state and local governments.
Fresh from its rout in November, the GOP is, in fact, openly trying to sabotage Obama's economic stimulus plan, because the last thing Republicans want to see is an economy on the upturn in 2010 or 2012.
Lieutenant-Colonel Yvonne Bradley, an American military lawyer, will step through the grand entrance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London tomorrow and demand the release of her client - a British resident who claims he was repeatedly tortured at the behest of US intelligence officials - from Guantánamo Bay. Bradley will also request the disclosure of 42 secret documents that allegedly chronicle not only how Binyam Mohamed was tortured, but may also corroborate claims that Britain was complicit in his treatment.
By Dave Lindorff
Amid the news that retail sales have fallen for the fourth straight month, that housing prices continue to slump, and that another 600,000 workers were laid off in the month of January—the largest number in one month since 1974—comes word from some experts in the business community that things are not going to be getting better soon, and that when they do, they will not get back to the way things were in 2006 or early 2007, before the recession began.
In an interview I did for the trade publication Investment Management Weekly on Thursday, Putnam Investments’ global asset allocation head Jeffrey Knight said that while the stimulus could “help to prevent a Great Depression sequel,” at the same time “Those who measure prosperity against the Faustian opulence of the last 10 years may find that stability, equilibrium and even recovery will still feel like a deep depression.”
Whistling Past the Afghan Graveyard: Where Empires Go to Die
By Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch.com
It is now a commonplace -- as a lead article in the New York Times's Week in Review pointed out recently -- that Afghanistan is "the graveyard of empires." Given Barack Obama's call for a greater focus on the Afghan War ("we took our eye off the ball when we invaded Iraq..."), and given indications that a "surge" of U.S. troops is about to get underway there, Afghanistan's dangers have been much in the news lately. Some of the writing on this subject, including recent essays by Juan Cole at Salon.com, Robert Dreyfuss at the Nation, and John Robertson at the War in Context website, has been incisive on just how the new administration's policy initiatives might transform Afghanistan and the increasingly unhinged Pakistani tribal borderlands into "Obama's War."
A New Administration, Tired Old Policies
by Stephen Lendman
In Part I of his year-end analysis, money manager and market strategist Jeremy Grantham assessed the global economic crisis:
"Greed + Incompetence + A Belief in Market Efficiency = Disaster. Greed and reckless overconfidence on the part of almost everyone caused (risk avoidance) to a degree that is probably unparalleled in breath and depth in American history." The aftershocks hit everywhere. Tremors continue. No safe harbors exist. Buckle up. Turbulence and convulsions are ahead. Grantham is worried and angry.
The current disaster could have been avoided by moving early against asset bubbles. We didn't, so it will "be devilishly hard" to fix things. "We are deep in the pickle jar, and it seems likely that, in terms of economic pain, 2009 will be the worst year (ever) in the lives" of most everyone.