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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: I'm proud to tell you that TomDispatch Associate Editor Nick Turse has just received a prestigious Ridenhour Prize -- named after the remarkable GI who first blew the whistle on the My Lai massacre -- for "reportorial distinction." It was for his powerful piece, "A My Lai a Month," on the mass killing of civilians during the Vietnam War, published by the Nation magazine. I was at the ceremonies, and it was an event to remember. You can check out this year's prizes by clicking here -- don't miss Bob Herbert's acceptance speech -- and you can watch Nick accept his award by clicking here. You might also check out Nick's TomDispatch piece on two Vietnamese peasants who lost their legs in that war. In its wake, U.S. Vietnam veterans and others put together a small fund that provided new prosthetic limbs for those two men, a small accomplishment that also leaves TomDispatch proud.
In addition, a recommendation: The filmmaker Robert Greenwald (Outfoxed, Iraq for Sale) is now producing a new film on the Af-Pak war and -- an innovative act -- releasing it, part by part, in "real time" on-line. It's called Rethink Afghanistan and it's a must watch. Part three, "The Cost of War," has just been posted. Check out the first three parts by clicking here and visit Greenwald's website Rethink Afghanistan, all part of a documentary campaign to raise public awareness about the war and affect Congressional oversight hearings. The work of both Turse and Greenwald is germane to the piece that follows. Tom]
How Safe Do You Actually Want to Be?
By Tom Engelhardt
Almost like clockwork, the reports float up to us from thousands of miles away, as if from another universe. Every couple of days they seem to arrive from Afghan villages that few Americans will ever see without weapon in hand. Every few days, they appear from a world almost beyond our imagining, and always they concern death -- so many lives snuffed out so regularly for more than seven years now. Unfortunately, those news stories are so unimportant in our world that they seldom make it onto, no less off of, the inside pages of our papers. They're so repetitive that, once you've started reading them, you could write them in your sleep from thousands of miles away.
Like obituaries, they follow a simple pattern. Often the news initially arrives buried in summary war reports based on U.S. military (or NATO) announcements of small triumphs -- so many "insurgents," or "terrorists," or "foreign militants," or "anti-Afghan forces" killed in an air strike or a raid on a house or a village. And these days, often remarkably quickly, even in the same piece, come the challenges. Some local official or provincial governor or police chief in the area hit insists that those dead "terrorists" or "militants" were actually so many women, children, old men, innocent civilians, members of a wedding party or a funeral.
Clinton says Pakistan is abdicating to the Taliban
By Arshad Mohammed | Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistan's government has abdicated to the Taliban in agreeing to impose Islamic law in the Swat valley and the country now poses a "mortal threat" to the world, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
Surging violence across Pakistan and the spread of Taliban influence through its northwest are reviving concerns about the stability of the nuclear-armed country, an important U.S. ally vital to efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who on March 27 unveiled a new strategy that seeks to crush al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Afghanistan and those operating from across the border in Pakistan, meets the presidents of both countries May 6-7.
Reservists Might Be Used in Afghanistan To Fill Civilian Jobs
By Karen DeYoung | Washington Post
Military reservists may be asked to volunteer to fill many of the hundreds of additional U.S. civilian positions in Afghanistan called for in the Obama administration's strategy for that nation and neighboring Pakistan, officials said yesterday.
Although the State Department is still recruiting agronomists, engineers, accountants and other experts for Afghanistan, "pressure coming from the president for action is making us consider that some of the people might come from the reserves," one senior administration official said.
President Barack Obama and other top officials in his administration have made it clear that there can be no military solution in Afghanistan, and that the non-military efforts to win over the Afghan population will be central to its chances of success.
The reality, however, is that U.S. military and civilian agencies lack the skills and training as well as the institutional framework necessary to carry out culturally and politically sensitive socio-economic programmes at the local level in Afghanistan, or even to avoid further alienation of the population.
In the video...
- Andrew Bacevich is a professor of International Relations & History at Boston University. He has written several books, including The Limits of Power: The End of Military Exceptionalism and The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War.
It didn't take long. Only 11 days after Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, a Newsweek cover story proclaimed the Afghan War "Obama's Vietnam." And there wasn't even a question mark. As John Barry and Evan Thomas wrote grimly in that January piece, "[T]here is this stark similarity: in Afghanistan, as in Vietnam, we may now be facing a situation where we can win every battle and still not win the war -- at least not within a time frame and at a cost that is acceptable to the American people." In the two and a half months since that piece appeared, the President and his advisors have, in fact, doubled-down on what is increasingly the Af-Pak War -- with the expanding fighting in Pakistan's tribal borderlands helping to destabilize that regional nuclear power. As a result, it would hardly be surprising if "Obama's Vietnam" became an ever more common refrain in the year ahead.
In a number of ways, however, the Af-Pak War couldn't bear less of a relationship to the Vietnam one. After all, this time around there is no superpower enemy like the Soviet Union or regional power like China supporting and arming the Taliban (or, for that matter, like the United States, which supported and armed the mujahideen to give the Soviets their own "Vietnam" in Afghanistan in the 1980s). In Vietnam, the U.S. faced a North Vietnamese professional army, well-trained, superbly disciplined, and supplied with the best the Soviets and Chinese could produce, including heavy weapons; while the guerrilla organization we fought in South Vietnam, which Americans knew as "the Vietcong," had widespread popular support, was unified, dedicated, well structured, and highly regimented.
By Dave Lindorff
As you’re mailing out that tax return again this year, it’s time to remember once again how much of your hard-earned bucks are being devoted to destruction, imperialist domination, slaughter and war, to funding ridiculous programs like the failed anti-missile system, and also to supporting a massively bureaucratic and overstaffed military.
Even with the current US budget predicted to hit a record $3.5 trillion, thanks to a whopping $800 billion, two-year economic stimulus package, and with several hundred billion being poured into a group of banks and the bottomless pit called AIG, the $800 billion budgeted for the military to date (a figure that includes an $85 billion “supplemental” request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) represents 22% of total US spending.
Apology of US Sergeant Matthis Chiroux to Afghan leader Malalai Joya
On April 21st, 2009, U.S. Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, 25, faces Army prosecution in St. Louis, Missouri for publicly refusing to deploy to Iraq last summer. Like many other resisters, Chiroux was in military service for many years before he came to the conclusion that the wars and occupations in Iraq and in Afghanistan are wrong and found the courage to speak out. Since last summer he has been a key activist in the U.S. veterans' organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).
Malalai Joya, 31, is the youngest person to become a member of the Afghan Parliament (one of 68 women elected to the 249-seat National Assembly, or Wolesi Jirga, in 2005); after she spoke out against the fundamentalists and former warlords in parliament, she was suspended. She was one of 1,000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, is one of the World Economic Forum's 250 Global Leaders for 2007, and was nominated for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament. In 2007, she was in Berlin and spoke at the Human Rights Commission of the German Parliament. She heads the non-governmental group Organization for Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities (OPAWC) in the west of Afghanistan. She has survived many assassination attempts and can only travel in Afghanistan with armed guards.
Obama's Economy Speech at Georgetown
April 14, 2009
From Liz out the outside:
CODEPINKers went to Georgetown University with a huge banner, "Stop Funding Wars & Wall Street" as President Barack Obama was speaking on campus about the state of the economy. It was rainy and cold but if not us who will be there with banners to say stop these wars and re-direct funding toward the human needs programs, starved in the name of continuing failed wars and occupations that provide little long term stability?!
Medea, Eric and Liz arrived just after 10 AM with our prop suitcase and 2 megaphones. We walked into the campus together and separated moments later to cover as much ground as possible. Medea magically slipped inside the event immediately as Eric and I set up a space for the peace team to be very visible with our banners on the exterior.
As many as 1m people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas to escape attacks by the unmanned spy planes as well as bombings by the Pakistani army. In Bajaur agency entire villages have been flattened by Pakistani troops under growing American pressure to act against Al-Qaeda militants, who have made the area their base....Jamil Amjad, the commissioner in charge of the refugees, says the government is running short of resources to feed and shelter such large numbers....Pakistani officials say drone attacks have been stepped up since President Barack Obama took office in Washington, killing at least 81 people.
American drone attacks on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are causing a massive humanitarian emergency, Pakistani officials claimed after a new attack yesterday killed 13 people.
On the evening of March 19, 2009, Lawrence Korb spoke at the University of Pittsburgh (video at the end of this article).
Korb was the Vice President of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) from 1998-2002. He was also the CFR’s director of National Security Studies during that same period. From 1985-1986 he was Vice President of Corporate Operations at Raytheon. He was Assistant Secretary of Defense from 1981-1985 during the Reagan Administration. He was an advisor to Barack Obama when Obama was campaigning for president. He currently is a Senior Fellow at American Progress and a Senior Advisor to the Center for Defense Information.
Cost of Iraq war will surpass Vietnam's by year's end
If Congress approves the latest funding request, as expected, the Iraq war will have cost about $694 billion, making it the second most expensive conflict in U.S. history behind World War II.
By Julian E. Barnes | LATimes
The amount of U.S. money spent on the Iraq war will surpass the cost of Vietnam by the end of the year, making it the second most expensive military conflict in American history, behind World War II, according to Pentagon figures provided Friday.
If Congress approves the supplemental funding request submitted this week by the Obama administration, the cost of the war will rise by $87 billion for 2009, including a previous supplement approved during the Bush administration.
Published on Friday, April 10, 2009 by The San Francisco Chronicle
[and yes i made that podium sign - DS]
President Obama's new $83.4 billion supplemental war request, which brings the cost of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq to $1 trillion, drew fire Thursday from anti-war North Bay Rep. Lynn Woolsey.
Former President George W. Bush disguised the cost of the wars in annual "emergency" supplementals, which then-Sen. Obama criticized. The Obama White House promises that this will be the last one.
Press secretary Robert Gibbs said the request is a Bush holdover that is needed to fund the wars this fiscal year, before the Obama budget kicks in.
Until now, anti-war Democrats had been undecided about how to position themselves against the Afghanistan escalation under one of their own.
Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who co-chairs the Progressive Caucus, had said in an earlier interview that she can't support raising troop levels. She came out Thursday with this statement:
"As proposed, this funding will do two things - it will prolong our occupation of Iraq through at least the end of 2011 and it will deepen and expand our military presence in Afghanistan indefinitely.
"I cannot support either of these scenarios. Instead of attempting to find military solutions to the problems we face in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama must fundamentally change the mission in both countries to focus on promoting reconciliation, economic development, humanitarian aid, and regional diplomatic efforts."
[But what will she do other than voting No? Will she whip others to do the same? Will anyone else join her in such an effort? Will "grass roots" groups?]
By Dave Lindorff
When I was a 17-year-old kid in my senior year of high school, I didn’t think much about Vietnam. It was 1967, the war was raging, but I didn’t personally know anyone who was over there, Tet hadn’t happened yet. If anything, the excitement of jungle warfare attracted my interest more than anything (I had a .22 cal rifle, and liked to go off in the woods and shoot at things, often, I’ll admit, imagining it was an armed enemy.)
But then I had to do a major project in my humanities program and I chose the Vietnam War. As I started researching this paper, which was supposed to be a multi-media presentation, I ran across a series of photos of civilian victims of American napalm bombing. These victims, often, were women and children—even babies.
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.
Hoyer Statement on the FY 2009 Supplemental Funding Request
WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today on the Fiscal Year 2009 supplemental funding request:
“Today, the Obama Administration sent a Fiscal Year 2009 supplemental funding request to Congress. The supplemental contains funding for ongoing military operations, making a renewed commitment to the stability of Afghanistan and beginning the process of leaving Iraq to its people. Also included are funds for a surge of diplomacy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, as well as miscellaneous emergency items. Timely consideration of the supplemental is especially important to our men and women in uniform, who depend on it for the resources they need to do their jobs. Congress looks forward to giving it that consideration in the weeks to come.”
Last week, the Congressional Progressive Caucus held its second of six scheduled forums on Afghanistan. It was the first non-classified public forum on Capitol Hill to address the Obama Administration's newly released Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson (Ret.) -- a Vietnam Veteran and former chief of staff for Secretary Colin Powell -- offered some powerful words of caution.
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.
Sometimes I feel like I am reliving the era of President Lyndon B. Johnson. The era of “guns and butter,” as they called it. At the same time that Johnson was launching his “War on Poverty” he was escalating the US war against the people of Vietnam and Laos, as well as carrying out the criminal invasion of the Dominican Republic (1965). Not only did these interventions (and others!) isolate the USA and set back the efforts of these various countries at self-determination, but they wrecked the US economy, siphoning off badly needed resources.
Media witnessed a Sunday night ceremony for the arrival of a Virginia airman killed in Afghanistan, marking the end of an 18-year ban on news coverage of returning U.S. war dead.
Ban lifted, media witness solemn return of fallen service member
By Mike Mount | CNN
By David Swanson
One member of Congress stood alone 7.5 years ago against the original authorization to attack Afghanistan. And one member of Congress, a different one, stood alone last week against funding a massive escalation of that war.
On September 14th, 2001, Congresswoman Barbara Lee spoke, in tears, on the floor of the House of Representatives. She, alone, would vote No on letting the president decide on going to war in Afghanistan. She, alone, would refuse to authorize the president to use powers the Constitution does not give him, and trust him to use those powers wisely. Here's video.
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.
By Kevin Zeese, VotersForPeace.US
Now, in 2012 as President Obama's first term comes to a close it is easy to say – "it should have been obvious."
In hindsight the president and Congress should have known that Afghanistan – the graveyard of Empires – was somewhere the president should have led America out of rather than further into.
Many thought the hubris of the Bush administration was behind the country when Obama was elected in 2008 but Afghanistan demonstrated that American hubris was still with the nation. Despite worn out troops from the lengthy and expensive Iraq war and occupation, despite an economic collapse greater than the United States ever saw, the Democratic president and Congress decided to up the ante in Afghanistan and Pakistan by brining in more troops, expanding the battlefield in Pakistan and emphasizing military rather than diplomatic and reconstruction solutions.
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.
In its support for the Afghan war, the Center for American Progress is aligning itself with the “experts” who have been wrong about pretty much everything
An image from the CAP report supporting Obama’s Afghanistan war.
Reading the Center for American Progress’ new report supporting President Obama’s escalation of the US war against Afghanistan is a very powerful reminder of how much neoliberals and neocons are alike. This, of course, is not some genius observation, particularly since CAP and the neocons are making it hard to miss, what with their love triangle with the war. Indeed, CAP’s launch event for its report, “Sustainable Security in Afghanistan: Crafting an Effective and Responsible Strategy for the Forgotten Front,” included a leading neocon, Frederick Kagan and was promoted by William Kristol’s new version of the Project for a New American Century, the Foreign Policy Initiative. So, here is part of what we are seeing unfold: Running parallel to the bi-partisan war machine within the official government is a coordinated campaign in the shadow government—the think tanks. Or, as Naomi Klein describes them, the people paid to think by the makers of tanks. CAPs particular role in this campaign appears to be attempting to sell Obama’s war.
Casualties caused by IEDs in Afghanistan on the rise
By Tom Vanden Brook | USA TODAY
Roadside bombs cause 75% of casualties to coalition forces in Afghanistan, up from 50% two years ago, prompting urgent pleas from commanders there for more armored vehicles to protect troops, according to data and interviews.
The growth in casualties caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) worries Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who meets Friday with a task force meant to speed Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to war zones, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.
"The secretary is concerned that with IED casualties in Afghanistan on the rise and tens of thousands of additional U.S. forces flowing into country that we have enough MRAPs to protect our troops from this increasing threat," Morrell said.
Judge Rules Some Prisoners at Bagram Have Right of Habeas Corpus
By CHARLIE SAVAGE, NY Times
WASHINGTON — A federal judge ruled on Thursday that some prisoners held by the United States military in Afghanistan have a right to challenge their imprisonment, dealing a blow to government efforts to detain terrorism suspects for extended periods without court oversight.
In a 53-page ruling that rejected a claim of unfettered executive power advanced by both the Bush and Obama administrations, United States District Judge John D. Bates said that three detainees at the United States’ Bagram Air Base had the same legal rights that the Supreme Court last year granted to prisoners held at the American naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.