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By Jeff Leys
Jeff Leys is Co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
Fourteen peace and social justice activists were arrested on April 9 at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. The arrests occurred during a 10 day vigil at the gates to Creech–which is home to members of the Air Force who “pilot” the Predator and Reaper drones used in the Afghanistan - Pakistan war.
Participants in the Sacred Peace Walk (organized by Nevada Desert Experience) arrived at Creech in the late afternoon, after walking 14 miles that day en route to the Nevada Test Site. With the vigil’s numbers strengthened by the walkers, participants gathered together to reflect upon the lessons to be learned from the examples of the White Rose student movement in Nazi Germany and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s work to oust Hitler from power through a coup attempt.
By Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — Even as the Obama administration launches new drone attacks into Pakistan's remote tribal areas, concerns are growing among U.S. intelligence and military officials that the strikes are bolstering the Islamic insurgency by prompting Islamist radicals to disperse into the country's heartland.
Al Qaida, Taliban and other militants who've been relocating to Pakistan's overcrowded and impoverished cities may be harder to find and stop from staging terrorist attacks, the officials said.
Moreover, they said, the strikes by the missile-firing drones are a recruiting boon for extremists because of the unintended civilian casualties that have prompted widespread anger against the U.S.
Baitullah Mehsud has become the most powerful Pakistani militant and is the head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Intelligence sources believe he leads an army of over 25,000 and may have joined forces with Mulla Mohammad Omar's Taliban in Afghanistan to develop a "three-pronged strategy for their coming spring offensive" against US forces in the region.
Pakistan could collapse within six months in the face of the snowballing insurgency, a top expert on guerrilla warfare has said.
The dire prediction was made by David Kilcullen, a former adviser to top US military commander General David Petraeus.
David Kilcullen is the best known practitioner of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations and had advised Gen Petraeus on the counter-insurgency programme in Iraq. Few experts understand the nature of the insurgency in Af-Pak as well and he is now advising Petraeus in Afghanistan.
Petraeus also echoed the same thought when he told a Congressional testimony last week that the insurgency could "take down" Pakistan, which is home to nuclear weapons and al-Qaida.
By Norman Solomon
Top Democrats and many prominent supporters -- with vocal agreement, tactical quibbles or total silence -- are assisting the escalation of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The predictable results will include much more killing and destruction. Back home, on the political front, the escalation will drive deep wedges into the Democratic Party.
The party has a large anti-war base, and that base will grow wider and stronger among voters as the realities of the Obama war program become more evident. The current backing or acceptance of the escalation from liberal think tanks and some online activist groups will not be able to prevent the growth of opposition among key voting blocs.
Americans elected President Obama in part based on his promise to put diplomacy and international cooperation, rather than the use and threat of military force, at the center of his foreign policy. With respect to Afghanistan and Pakistan, while there have been some encouraging signals, in terms of actually implemented policies the folks who voted for Obama are not yet getting the "diplomacy first" that they were promised. Last week the Washington Post reported that 55% of Democrats support negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, and that 56% of Democrats think the U.S. should focus more on economic development in Afghanistan than on defeating the Taliban militarily.
“Now, I’d like to speak clearly and candidly to the American people . . .”
I believe him, with a passionate urgency — this new president, swept into office on a surge of hope and anger. I believe him without cynicism. After all, he has a terrifying job to do, a toxic legacy left to mop up. I cut him slack, listen for the sound, in his words, of the turning of the ship of state. How does he plan to engage the future? He’s an intelligent and, I think, courageous leader. And he has a global constituency to back him up. All he has to do is speak to it, clearly and candidly . . .
I was numb to the lies and simplistic rhetoric of George W. Bush. But when Barack Obama tries to fill those incredibly small shoes, to rev up the same constituency of true believers (the constituency that didn’t vote for him) and sell the same war — new! improved! — to the American people, I am not numb. The hope in my heart bursts into flying shrapnel. You’re making a serious mistake, Mr. President.
Pakistan: "The Most Dangerous Country" (Trailer)
Pakistan is in such a perilous state that Bruce Riedel, a foreign policy expert leading President Obama's Afghanistan review, has called it "the most dangerous country in the world today." Pakistan has nuclear weapons and a government disconnected from the poverty, malnutrition, and lack of healthcare afflicting its people. And though Pakistan remains a U.S. ally, tensions continue to rise as the U.S. considers broadening military strikes within Pakistan's borders. Part two of Rethink Afghanistan focuses on how the Afghanistan crisis affects Pakistan and all of us.
Click "Read more" for 11 min. movie essential for understanding the stakes in Afghanistan, petition, question submissions, and updates.
Commentary: Afghanistan and Pakistan's wilderness of mirrors
By Arnaud De Borchgrave | UPI
The ancient Arab proverb "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" does not apply in Pakistan. Knowledge of Raumschach, or space chess, as played on "Star Trek" is more useful. It's a form of 3-D chess where one can lose on several levels.
The geopolitical nexus of Afghanistan-Pakistan-Federally Administered Tribal Areas-India is now seen in the White House as a regional crisis that requires a holistic politico-military approach. But suspicions and disinformation about each other's motives, replete with conspiracy theories, have combined to make Pakistan, the Muslim world's only nuclear power, the most dangerous place on Earth.
President Obama sees the enemy in Afghanistan as the Taliban and al-Qaida. But al-Qaida shelters and the Taliban rests and trains in the mountain fastness of the Hindu Kush in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. And while Pakistan is "a major non-NATO ally," it also assists, through its Inter Services Intelligence agency, the Taliban insurgents fighting the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Greg Mortenson: Targeted by the Taliban, the 'Three Cups of Tea' Author Never Gave Up on His Peacebuilding Efforts
"If you fight terrorism, that's based in fear. But if you promote peace, that's based in hope," Mortenson said. "And the real enemy I think is ignorance. It's ignorance that breeds hatred."
It all started accidently. In 1993 on his way down from a harrowing and unsuccessful climb of the world's second tallest mountain, K2 in northern Pakistan, an exhausted and dehydrated Mortenson stumbled into the village of Korphe. The people of the village helped him get well. While recovering he noticed the children had nowhere to learn.
"When I saw those 84 children sitting in the dirt and they asked for help to build a school I made a promise that day that I would help them," Mortenson explained.
Mortenson returned to the United States and began to try to raise money for the project. He composed letters on a borrowed electric typewriter and sent them to 580 celebrities asking for help. He got one $100 check.
"What changed things around was that my mother, who is an elementary school principal in Wisconsin, invited me to come and talk to the kids. A fourth grader named Jeffrey said I have piggy bank at home and I am going to help you," Mortenson said.
Jeffrey and his school mates raised 62,400 pennies.
The Great Afghan Bailout: It's Time to Change Names, Switch Analogies
By Tom Engelhardt
Let's start by stopping.
It's time, as a start, to stop calling our expanding war in Central and South Asia "the Afghan War" or "the Afghanistan War." If Obama's special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke doesn't want to, why should we? Recently, in a BBC interview, he insisted that "the 'number one problem' in stabilizing Afghanistan was Taliban sanctuaries in western Pakistan, including tribal areas along the Afghan border and cities like Quetta" in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.
Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President
By Ray McGovern
I was wrong. I had been saying that it would be naïve to take too seriously presidential candidate Barack Obama’s rhetoric regarding the need to escalate the war in Afghanistan. I kept thinking to myself that when he got briefed on the history of Afghanistan and the oft proven ability of Afghan “militants” to drive out foreign invaders—from Alexander the Great, to the Persians, the Mongolians, Indians, British, Russians—he would be sure to understand why they call mountainous Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires.”
By Noah Shachtman, WIRED
President Obama has just laid out his new war strategy. And he's made it clear that the fight is both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So I asked Dennis McDonough, with the National Security Council: Does that mean U.S. ground forces in Pakistan? Or more drone attacks? "I'm not going to comment on the notions you laid out there," he answered, during a White House conference call with bloggers. But during a separate press conference, Bruce Reidel, who recently completed a strategy review of the region for the White House, offered some hints. READ THE REST.
President Obama is expected to "announce" his "new" Afghanistan strategy Friday - the traditional Washington day for burying things. But there aren't likely to be many surprises. The Administration has been dribbling details out to the news media, and what has been foreshadowed includes: more troops, more civilians, narrower goals; a renewed concession, perhaps, that there is no military solution.
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.
Pakistan's embattled government announced key concessions to opposition demands Saturday, on the eve of a mass protest in Islamabad that had raised fears of bloody clashes in the streets.
The move to defuse tensions came as the army was put on standby, to be deployed in case of serious civil unrest, and the capital Islamabad was sealed ahead of the planned arrival of the protesters from across the country on Monday. The opposition is campaigning for an independent judiciary.
Obama Afghan Plan Focuses on Pakistan Aid and Appeal to Militants
By Helene Cooper and Thom Shanker | NYTimes
The emerging outlines of President Obama’s plan for Afghanistan include proposals to shift more American efforts toward problems in neighboring Pakistan and to seek some kind of political reconciliation with the vast majority of insurgents in the region, according to administration officials.
The plan reflects in part a conclusion within the administration that most of the insurgent foot soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are “reconcilable” and can be pried away from the hard-core organizations of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. At least 70 percent of the insurgents, and possibly more, can be encouraged to lay down their arms with the proper incentives, administration officials have said.
Britain and the US are trying to broker a compromise between Pakistan's two major political parties as confrontation threatens to push the country towards collapse.
For the past two days British and American officials have been involved in intense mediation between President Asif Ali Zardari's government and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif. London and Washington are concerned that Pakistan, a key ally, is engulfed in political infighting rather than tackling extremists.
Political sources in Pakistan said Sharif looks unlikely to back down as a "long march" protest against Islamabad kicked off yesterday, drawing a heavy-handed response from the government.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – At least eight people were killed Sunday in two suspected US missile strikes in northwest Pakistan near to the border with Afghanistan, security officials said.
"Two missiles fired by a suspected US drone hit a compound in Sararogha, in tribal South Waziristan region, killing at least eight suspected militants," a security official told AFP.
The region is a known haven for Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists.
"It was a Taliban sanctuary, which was destroyed in the attack," another security official said.
"Some foreigners were possibly among those killed in the attack," he said.
The compound, which had underground bunkers, was in the area controlled by militant commander Baitullah Mehsud's tribe, he said.
US congressman Ron Paul says US military interventions around the world show that American politicians are in pursuit of a "world empire".
US statesmen from both sides of the aisle "are all interventionists, they all believe in the world empire," said the outspoken Republican congressman in an interview with Russia Today.
Paul made the remarks when asked about President Barack Obama's decision to assign 17,000 American troops to Afghanistan contingents.
The Texas congressman called Obama's decision an "outrage", saying the US has suffered "the most because we're paying for our foreign intervention overseas."
"But foreign policies don't change; it doesn't change with Democrats or Republicans," Paul said.
Within a few years, some members of Congress, and leaders of some progressive groups with huge email lists, will look back with regret as they recall their failure to clearly and openly oppose the pivotal escalation of the Afghan war.
Hours after President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress, the New York Times printed the news that he plans to gradually withdraw "American combat forces" from Iraq during the next 18 months. The newspaper reported that the advantages of the pullout will include "relieving the strain on the armed forces and freeing up resources for Afghanistan."
Afghanistan's Complex Nature of Fighting
By Tom Santoni | Central Florida Veterans For Peace
Note: Mr. Santoni’s views expressed in this article do not represent an official statement of position on behalf Veterans For Peace in regards to the Impeachment of President Barack H. Obama …yet.
How many Obama-ordered civilian deaths in foreign lands will you tolerate before speaking out and taking action? Three Pakistani children are three too many for me.
In a blatant and unmistakable act of war against a sovereign nation, Barack Obama, four days into his administration on Friday, January 23, 2009, as commander in chief of US armed forces, ordered the US military to launch Hellfire missile strikes on homes in northwest Pakistan, killing dozens of civilians including at least three children. The military was aiming to bomb al Qaeda and Taliban “suspects,” but there was some unfortunate “collateral damage”. Oops.
In the Wall Street Journal of January 24, the loathsome McCarthyite neocon David Horowitz gazed approvingly on the inauguration of Barack Obama. To Horowitz it meant the removal of an obstacle to war. Thus he wrote:
By Dave Lindorff
Barack Obama’s first address to Congress provided Americans with yet another example of competent speechmaking, and I suppose, given that we’ve just endured eight painful years of oratorical farce, being able to listen to your president without wincing is something.
The problem is that the way forward proposed by the president as laid out in this address was almost always half-hearted, wrong-headed or doomed.
Obama declared at the outset of his address that the economic crisis was the major issue confronting the country, and while one could argue that this crisis is merely a symptom of much bigger issues, like the nearly completed deindustrialization of the nation, the death grip of militarism, and the growing political power of corporations, one could also concede that there is an urgent need to deal with the deepening recession.
New York : After targeting al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in their 'safe havens' on the Pak-Afghan border, US forces have now also started hitting Pakistani Taliban.
US President Barack Obama has broadened the list of radical groups to be targeted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the group led by Baitullah Mehsud is one of them, 'The New York Times' reported.
The strikes are another sign that Obama is continuing, and in some cases extending, Bush administration policy in using American spy agencies against terrorism suspects in Pakistan, as he had promised to do during his Presidential campaign.
The missile strikes on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud represent a broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan, which has been largely carried out by drone aircraft.
The US was secretly flying unmanned drones from the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan as early as 2006, according to an image of the base from Google Earth.
The image — that is no longer on the site but which was obtained by The News, Pakistan's English language daily newspaper — shows what appear to be three Predator drones outside a hangar at the end of the runway. The Times also obtained a copy of the image, whose co-ordinates confirm that it is the Shamsi airfield, also known as Bandari, about 200 miles southwest of the Pakistani city of Quetta.
An investigation by The Times yesterday revealed that the CIA was secretly using Shamsi to launch the Predator drones that observe and attack al-Qaeda and Taleban militants around Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.