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An engrossing struggle is breaking out. The US is unhappy with China's efforts to reach the warm waters of the Persian Gulf through the Central Asian region and Pakistan. Slowly but steadily, Washington is tightening the noose around the neck of the Pakistani elites - civilian and military - and forcing them to make a strategic choice between the US and China. This will put those elites in an unenviable dilemma. Like their Indian counterparts, they are inherently "pro-Western" (even when they are "anti-American") and if the Chinese connection is important for Islamabad, that is primarily because it balances perceived Indian hegemony.
The existential questions with which the Pakistani elites are grappling are apparent. They are seeking answers from Obama. Can Obama maintain a balanced relationship vis-a-vis Pakistan and India? Or, will Obama lapse back to the George W Bush era strategy of building up India as the pre-eminent power in the Indian Ocean under whose shadow Pakistan will have to learn to live?
A year ago, Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh made the startling revelation that his country's security forces apprehended a group of Islamists linked to the Israeli intelligence forces. "A terrorist cell was apprehended and will be referred to the courts for its links with the Israeli intelligence services," he promised.
Saleh added, "You will hear about the trial proceedings." Nothing was ever heard and the trail went cold. Welcome to the magical land of Yemen, where in the womb of time the Arabian Nights were played out.
Combine Yemen with the mystique of Islam, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and the Israeli intelligence and you get a heady mix. Read more.
Why Obama still felt compelled to add 30,000 troops to the 68,000 boots already on the ground, at $1 million per soldier per year, is not much of a mystery. The fear of being branded an appeaser and losing the House of Representatives next year and the White House in 2012 to Republicans is clearly paramount. The president is out on a limb but is staying close to the trunk, which leaves little room for Republican and lukewarm left-wing supporters who would saw it off. He can see these two adversaries pre-empting his own post-imperial agenda with a new slogan -- e.g., Americans come home … time to rebuild America (before China eats our lunch).
U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus is already being auscultated by GOP scouts parsing the potential field. They recall how Gen. Dwight Eisenhower clinched his presidential campaign with "I shall go to Korea" to end an unpopular war. Once in the White House, he gave the U.S. economy a formidable booster shot -- and ordered up the interstate highway system. It became the largest public works project in history and the largest highway system (46,876 miles) in the world.
U.S. President Barack Obama has scaled back the scope of the Afghan war, now about to enter its ninth year, to a limited military objective: deny al-Qaida a safe haven. And since we are now told there are fewer than 100 al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan -- the rest are in Pakistan's tribal areas -- a three-way deal between the Karzai government, powerful warlords and Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar would seem to be the better part of valor. After Iraq, we cannot afford another trillion-dollar war.
It took the United States 233 years (1776-2009) to amass a national debt of $1.4 trillion. This is now projected to double in the next 10 years. The national debt ceiling is going up another $2 trillion to $12.3 trillion. The federal budget deficit for 2009 hit a record $1.42 trillion; 2010 is expected to set a new record of $2 trillion. One trillion dollar bills, end to end, would cover the distance between Earth and the sun, or to the moon and back 200 times. Read more.
A basic principle taught to any young reporter is: "follow the money." A similar principle should apply to U.S. foreign policy reporting: follow the bases. As striking facts-on-the-ground, such bases tell us much about bedrock U.S. policy, whatever the policy debates in Washington. If the mainstream media ignores such bases, TomDispatch has long made it a policy of keeping an eye on them. Recently, Nick Turse, this site's associate editor and the award-winning author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, reported on a story only modestly and partially covered here: the way the Pentagon has been pouring money into building up its base infrastructure in Afghanistan.
Now, he turns to the Persian Gulf region where the news is focused on a future U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. It turns out, however, that we're withdrawing into something -- that, in fact, there's been a massive, if hardly noticed, Pentagon build-up in this region, too. You'd think it might be news. Now, at TomDispatch, thanks to Turse, it is. Tom
The Pentagon Garrisons the Gulf
As Washington Talks Iraq Withdrawal, the Pentagon Builds Up Bases in the Region
By Nick Turse
Despite recent large-scale insurgent suicide bombings that have killed scores of civilians and the fact that well over 100,000 U.S. troops are still deployed in that country, coverage of the U.S. war in Iraq has been largely replaced in the mainstream press by the (previously) "forgotten war" in Afghanistan. A major reason for this is the plan, developed at the end of the Bush years and confirmed by President Obama, to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq to 50,000 by August 2010 and withdraw most of the remaining forces by December 2011.
Getting out of Iraq, however, doesn't mean getting out of the Middle East. For one thing, it's likely that a sizeable contingent of U.S. forces will remain garrisoned on several large and remotely situated U.S. bases in Iraq well past December 2011. Still others will be stationed close by -- on bases throughout the region where, with little media attention since the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, construction to harden, expand, and upgrade U.S. and allied facilities has gone on to this day. Read more.
McChrystal Testing the Limits
By Ray McGovern
It is not too late for President Barack Obama to follow the example of Harry Truman, who fired Gen. Douglas McArthur in 1951 for insubordination. Then, as now, the stakes were high. Then it was Korea; now it is Afghanistan.
No more slaps on the wrist for Gen. Stanley McChrystal. In my view, Commander-in-Chief Obama should fire him for cause.
In the Truman-McArthur showdown nearly six decades ago, the President and his senior advisers were preparing to engage North Korea and China in peace negotiations, when MacArthur, commander of the U.N. forces in Korea, issued an unauthorized statement containing a veiled threat to expand the war into China.
McArthur had been playing a back-channel game to win the support of like-minded Republican congressmen to widen the war, when Truman faced him down. With the backing of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the secretaries of state and defense, he rose to the occasion and fired the distinguished “old soldier.”
Today, Gen. McChrystal is conducting a subtler but equally insubordinate campaign for wider war in Afghanistan, with the backing of CENTCOM commander David Petraeus. It is now even clearer in retrospect that the President should not have appointed McChrystal in the first place, given what was already known of his role in covering up the killing of football star Pat Tillman and condoning the torture practices by troops under McChrystal’s earlier command in Iraq.
Front and center in the debate over the Afghan War these days are General Stanley "Stan" McChrystal, Afghan war commander, whose "classified, pre-decisional" and devastating report -- almost eight years and at least $220 billion later, the war is a complete disaster -- was conveniently, not to say suspiciously, leaked to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post by we-know-not-who at a particularly embarrassing moment for Barack Obama; Admiral Michael "Mike" Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has been increasingly vocal about a "deteriorating" war and the need for more American boots on the ground; and the president himself, who blitzed every TV show in sight last Sunday and Monday for his health reform program, but spent significant time expressing doubts about sending more American troops to Afghanistan. ("I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan... or sending a message that America is here for the duration.")
On the other hand, here's someone you haven't seen front and center for a while: General David Petraeus. He was, of course, George W. Bush's pick to lead the president's last-ditch effort in Iraq. He was the poster boy for Bush's military policies in his last two years. He was the highly praised architect and symbol of "the surge." He appeared repeatedly, his chest a mass of medals and ribbons, for heavily publicized, widely televised congressional testimony, complete with charts and graphs, that was meant, at least in part, for the American public. He was the man who, to use an image from that period which has recently resurfaced, managed to synchronize the American and Baghdad "clocks," pacifying for a time both the home and war fronts.
He never met a journalist, as far as we can tell, he didn't want to woo. (And he clearly won over the influential Tom Ricks, then of the Washington Post, who wrote The Gamble, a bestselling paean to him and his sub-commanders.) From the look of it, he's the most political general to come down the pike since, in 1951 in the midst of the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur said his goodbyes to Congress after being cashiered by President Truman for insubordination -- for, in effect, wanting to run his own war and the foreign policy that went with it. It was Petraeus who brought Vietnam-era counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN) back from the crypt, overseeing the writing of a new Army counterinsurgency manual that would make it central to both the ongoing wars and what are already being referred to as the "next" ones.
Before he left office, Bush advanced his favorite general to the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the former president's Global War on Terror across the energy heartlands of the planet from Egypt to Pakistan. The command is, of course, especially focused on Bush's two full-scale wars: the Iraq War, now being pursued under Petraeus's former subordinate, General Ray Odierno, and the Afghan War, for which Petraeus seems to have personally handpicked a new commanding general, Stan McChrystal. From the military's dark side world of special ops and targeted assassinations, McChrystal had operated in Iraq and was also part of an Army promotion board headed by Petraeus that advanced the careers of officers committed to counterinsurgency. To install McChrystal in May, Obama abruptly sacked the then-Afghan war commander, General David McKiernan, in what was then considered, with some exaggeration, a new MacArthur moment. Read more.
"Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union," by David Swanson is due in stores September 1st, but the publisher has it now and you can get it straight from Seven Stories Press.
Time to Look Past Obama’s Words and Face-up to His Actions
U.S. Foreign Policy Continues Rapidly in the Wrong Direction
The Peace Movement Needs to Escalate Anti-War Actions
By Kevin Zeese | Voters for Peace, Prosperity Agenda.US
There is long-time saying about politicians: you cannot trust their words, but must judge them by their actions.
President Obama is very good with words, perhaps the best communicator we have seen in the White House in a generation. But now he has been in office long enough that he should be judged on his actions.
The direction of U.S. foreign policy is moving rapidly in the wrong direction on many fronts. It is time for the peace movement to step up its activities throughout the country and demand a change in course.
Supreme Court asked to weigh in on detainee photos
By Bill Mears | CNN
The Obama administration is turning to the Supreme Court as it seeks to block public release of photos apparently depicting abuse of suspected terrorists and foreign soldiers in U.S. custody.
Justice Department lawyers late Thursday told a federal appeals court in New York -- the same one on which high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor sits -- to hold off a ruling ordering release of the material, saying they plan to ask the justices to hear their case.
The government said it would proceed "absent intervening legislation" from Congress.
The "motion to recall" comes after President Obama ordered government lawyers this month to object to the court-ordered release of photos depicting the mistreatment of prisoners held in Iraq and Afghanistan, reversing an earlier White House decision. The Pentagon had been set to release hundreds of photos in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU -- which filed the initial lawsuit for disclosure -- has criticized the administration's about-face, saying it "makes a mockery" of Obama's campaign promise of greater transparency and accountability, and damages efforts to hold accountable those responsible for abusing prisoners.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September that the photos must be released. The president now says doing so "would pose an unacceptable risk of danger to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq." Sotomayor has served on that court since 1998 but was not involved in that particular appeal....The government has until June 9 to file its initial appeal with the Supreme Court. Read more.
Gen. Petraeus: US Violated Geneva Convention, The Court of Law Could Try Terrorists: We Made Mistakes After 9/11: Close Gitmo
Gen. Petraeus joined FOX News and Martha MacCallum today and gave a blockbuster interview, but probably not the one Fox expected. Once again, he called for the responsible closure of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. He also said that mistakes were made after 9/11 and that the Army Field Manual is all that we need to use to interrogate prisoners. In addition, he said that we have to have faith in our judicial system and we should try the Khalid Sheikh Muhammads in a court of law.
Martha tried to give him the ticking time bomb scenario to justify torture and he really didn't bite. He did say maybe an Executive Order could be appropriate, but that it really wasn't necessary.Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
The actions of Obama's Chief Financial Adviser Larry Summers and his Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in permitting the payment of $165 million in bonuses to AIG executives (Summers, according to the Wall Street Journal, actually pressed Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, to secretly remove a bar to the payment of such bonuses from the bailout bill) and storm of public outrage that has followed public disclosure of those payments, provides President Obama, whose administration is stumbling badly on many fronts, to turn things around and avoid political disaster.
He should promptly demand Geithner's and Summers' resignations, and should also fire the CEO of AIG, Edward Liddy (as 80% owner of AIG, the US has the power to do that anytime). It would also be a good idea at the same time to fire the CEOs of all the leading banks that are at this point surviving on government bailouts.
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.
By Dave Lindorff
Just two weeks after his historic inauguration ceremony, Obama’s presidency is lurching towards failure, and not because three of his administration picks have been found to be tax cheats, but because nearly all of his administration picks are corporate whores and shills.
The problem with the new Obama administration is that it is turning out to be not about change at all, as he claimed during the campaign, but rather about more of the same—and these are not times that call for more of the same. Nor is more of the same the reason Obama won the election.
The economic team President Obama has put in place is composed of the same Wall Street hacks and conservative economic theologians who helped produce the current crisis, many of them as part of the Clinton administration, and some, like Timothy Geithner, actually as appointees of the thoroughly discredited Bush administration.
By Dave Lindorff
If an article by Gareth Porter in run by InterPress is correct that CentCom Commander Gen. David Petraeus and Iraq Commander Gen. Ray Odierno, backed by a group of lower-ranking generals, are planning to mount a public campaign to try and undermine President Obama’s plan for a withdrawal from Iraq in 16 months, Obama needs to act fast and nip this dangerous act of insubordination in the bud.
Young Turks: Dick Cheney Admits To Use Of Torture
Gen. David Petraeus has recommended against any significant reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq before the end of the year, ABC News has learned.
The only drawdown Petraeus has called for, according to a senior military official familiar with his recommendation, is a modest reduction of two Marine battalions, or about 1,500 Marines, a tiny fraction of the 146,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq.
Under Petraeus's plan, the number of combat brigades -- which now stands at 15 -- would remain unchanged until next January at the earliest.
The recommendation is now being considered by top officials at the White House and the Pentagon. A final decision on future force levels is expected to be announced by President Bush early next week.
Like a Mirage in the Desert: U.S. exit from Iraq may recede into the time horizon
by Charles Knight
Key advisors to Barack Obama have put forward an Iraq withdrawal policy which they have labeled "conditional engagement." In their words:
"Under this strategy, the...time horizon for redeployment would be negotiated with the Iraqi government and nested within a more assertive approach to regional diplomacy. The United States would make clear that Iraq and America share a common interest in achieving sustainable stability in Iraq, and that the United States is willing to help support the Iraqi government and build its security and governance capacity over the long-term, but only so long as Iraqis continue to make meaningful political progress." [from Colin Kahl, Michele A. Flournoy and Shawn Brimley, "Shaping the Iraq Inheritance", Center for a New American Security, June 2008.]
By Helen Thomas, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
WASHINGTON - Surprise, surprise. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, wants to put a halt to any more troop withdrawals for the foreseeable future.
The highly politicized Petraeus seemed to be dutifully following his White House marching orders when he testified before congressional committees earlier this week.
Under his scenario, there will be no drawdown of U.S. forces in that strife-ridden country until President Bush leaves office.
That’s fine with Bush, who obviously has no intention of ending this futile war on his watch. Apparently feeling no responsibility for starting the war, Bush is planning to pass the Iraqi debacle on to his successor.
You can forget accountability for the yet-to-be defined U.S. military mission which has taken more than 4,000 American lives, possibly a million Iraqi lives and destroyed a country.
Woolsey: Gentlemen, polls show that up to 80 percent of the American public supports redeployment of our troops out of Iraq. When that statistic was presented with those staggering numbers, the vice president’s response was “so.” Well, I want to tell you that “so” came from the same administration that got us into Iraq with misleading information in the first place. And I don’t feel that that is where you are coming from. I want to believe that you have more respect for the American people than our vice president.
The top US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has recommended a suspension of troop withdrawals from Iraq after July. His recommendation would leave just under 140,000 American troops in Iraq well into the fall, more troops deployed in Iraq than before the so-called "surge." Petraeus testified before two Senate committees on Tuesday alongside Ambassador Ryan Crocker. We play highlights of the hearing and host a debate with Arun Gupta of The Indypendent, Eli Lake of the New York Sun and Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service.
This is from the statement of Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Iraq, in front of the Foreign Relations Committee yesterday:
One conclusion I draw from these signs of progress is that the strategy that began with the Surge is working. This does not mean, however, that U.S. support should be open-ended or that the level and nature of our engagement should not diminish over time. It is in this context that we have begun negotiating a bilateral relationship between Iraq and the United States...The heart of this relationship will be a legal framework for the presence of American troops similar to that which exists in nearly 80 countries around the world...
By Larry Lipman, Palm Beach Post
When Rep. Robert Wexler gets his chance to question Gen. David Petraeus at the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s hearing Wednesday, he’ll be drawing on the advice of about 1,000 constituents.
Wexler sent an e-mail last week to about 90,000 people on his contact list asking folks what one question they would want to put to Petraeus if they had the chance.
Two related questions stood out in various forms, said Ashley Mushnick, Wexler’s press assistant: “When will this war be over?” and “What is the definition of winning?”
Here are some other versions:
“What is the goal and how do we accomplish the goal?”
“Are we winning and is it worth it?”
“How soon can we get our troops out?”
“Is there an exit plan?”
April 9, 2008—Ivy, VA—In light of the testimonies by Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker before Senate and House leaders, VA-05 congressional candidate Tom Perriello asserted that Americans are being offered a false choice in Iraq, and that the only solution there is a political one.
"Our generals have been winning battles but we are not winning the war because our political leaders have provided no plan for victory and ask the wrong questions. Gen. Petraeus is right that immediate withdrawal would be disastrous. But sticking with the Administration's current policy is just as dangerous. We owe it to our troops to provide a new path to victory, such as the N.E.W. Plan for Iraq I helped launch in 2006. We need to shift the debate from troop levels and timelines to a new political power-sharing arrangement that can anchor a manageable peace without a U.S. troop presence," said Perriello.
Democrats Seek Again to Influence War Policy
By Josh Rogin, CQ
After a day of sobering testimony by the top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq, Democrats in Congress are back to where they have been many times before: trying to figure out how to legislate changes to President Bush’s Iraq War policy.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker announced Tuesday that they would recommend an open-ended freeze of U.S. troop drawdowns from Iraq after July to assess the security situation there.
Democratic leaders were troubled by the announcement and said they would find ways to attach policy strings to the upcoming Iraq War supplemental spending bill and the defense authorization bill.
By Ryan Anderson, Win Without War
Yesterday's testimony by General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker before the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees left one vital question unanswered: whether the surge of U.S. forces is making things worse, not better in Iraq both militarily and politically.
With testimony last week by General William Odom (ret.) outlining the very serious danger of renting the loyalty of Sunni strongmen, and the lack of political reconciliation, there is significant evidence that the much touted progress in Iraq is only an illusion.
In a call to greater probity by our elected officials, Tom Andrews has posed these and other questions in an open letter to his former colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee.
Read Tom's letter on Huffington Post to see what questions desperately need to be asked.