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As Wars’ Death Toll Passes 5,000, Military Families Urge President Obama to Bring All Our Troops Home Now

5,000 U.S. TROOPS KILLED IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN

Nationwide – As the nation awaits confirmation from the Pentagon of the 5,000th death of a U.S. service member in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, members of Military Families Speak Out are mourning the dead and calling on President Obama to honor the sacrifices of these service members and their families and honor all of those who serve by acting swiftly to end both wars.

Warren Henthorn of Choctaw, OK, the father of Army Spc. Jeffrey Henthorn who died in Iraq on Feb 8, 2005, says:

Former Interrogator Presses for McChrystal’s Stance on Abuse

General Tapped by Obama to Lead Afghanistan War Testifies Tuesday
By Spencer Ackerman

A former military interrogator who contributed to the manhunt for a senior Iraqi terrorist has urged the Senate Armed Services Committee staff to press Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the Obama administration’s nominee to lead U.S. troops in the Afghanistan war, on what he knew about detainee abuse committed by troops in Iraq under his command when McChrystal goes before the panel Tuesday morning for his confirmation hearing.

READ THE REST.

Obama Has 250,000 "Contractors" in Iraq and Afghan Wars, Increases Number of Mercenaries

Obama Has 250,000 "Contractors" in Iraq and Afghan Wars, Increases Number of Mercenaries

Newly released Pentagon statistics show that in both Iraq and Afghanistan the number of armed contractors is rising. The DoD says it sees “similar dependence on contractors in future.”

By Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports

A couple of years ago, Blackwater executive Joseph Schmitz seemed to see a silver lining for mercenary companies with the prospect of US forces being withdrawn or reduced in Iraq. “There is a scenario where we could as a government, the United States, could pull back the military footprint,” Schmitz said. “And there would then be more of a need for private contractors to go in.”

When it comes to armed contractors, it seems that Schmitz was right.

LT. Dan Choi Takes "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Directly To Obama

By Linda Milazzo

On Wednesday evening, in an act of daring befitting a West Point graduate and veteran of Iraq, recently discharged New York National Guard Lieutenant Daniel Choi defied the orders of dozens of crowd control police and stepped into the 'no protest zone' street to ceremoniously salute his Commander in Chief, Barack Obama, out of site at a star-studded fundraiser at the posh Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Pride

(Photo by Linda Milazzo)

MoveOn Remains Silent on Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan

By Tom Hayden, AlterNet

The most powerful grassroots peace movement organization, MoveOn, has not pushed Obama or Congress on U.S. conflicts raging across the planet.

The most powerful grassroots organization of the peace movement, MoveOn, remains silent as the American wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan simmer or escalate.

Maybe the US Prison System Should Take Lessons from Guantanamo

By Dave Lindorff

You’d have to say that the American prison system is a rank failure. With two million inmates, it is the largest and at over $60 billion a year, the costliest prison system in the world, not just in the percent of the population that is kept behind bars, but in actual numbers. But it is also a failure because it doesn’t prevent crime, and might even increase it. According to a recent study, two-thirds of inmates who are released from jail after serving their time are re-arrested for new crimes within three years, and half of those so arrested end up being sent back to jail on new charges.

Memorial Day, 2009: How Do You Ask a Man to Be the Last Man to Die for a Mistake?

Watch C-SPAN's Soldiers' Stories, coverage of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. One of those testifying, Col. Andrew Bacevich (Ret.) eloquently recalled how John Kerry, then a youthful, highly decorated military veteran, asked a famous question: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? Listen to Kerry's poignant, passionate anti-war speech from 1971 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the committee he now chairs.

Pakistan Rally Against Swat Assault

Pakistan rally against Swat assault | al Jazeera | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

Hundreds of supporters of Pakistan's opposition Jamaat-i-Islami party have demonstrated in what is believed to be the first major protest against the military's offensive against the Taliban in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

The demonstration in the capital, Islamabad, on Sunday took place as the army fought bloody street-to-street battles in Mingora, the main city in the Swat valley.

"To this point there has been absolutely total political support for the ongoing operation in Swat valley," Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna, reporting from Islamabad, said.

"But now there is the first sign that there are sectors in society who are opposed to what is going on."

Public discontent

Many of the protesters were carrying banners carrying slogans condemning the role of the United States in Pakistan.

"This is a great point of contention for many Pakistanis, not just the supporters of the political party gathered here," Hanna said.

"The speakers are basing part of their criticism on their belief that Pakistan is doing ... the work of the United States in its so-called 'war on terror'." Read more.

Obama Betrays The Liberals

Obama Betrays The Liberals
By Sherwood Ross

America’s liberals stand betrayed. Their new president, the one they sweated to elect----a brilliant, charismatic leader with a professional background in constitutional law---has transmogrified himself from the champion who denounced in his campaign the illegalities of the Bush White House into a president bent on their perpetuation.

Liberals are stunned by Obama’s plan to “restart Bush-era military tribunals” for some Guantanamo detainees, reviving what the Associated Press pointed out, is “a fiercely disputed trial system he once denounced.”(May 15). Liberals are appalled by Obama’s May 21st proposal to hold terrorism suspects in “prolonged detention” inside the U.S. without a trial. “Such detention,” Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) wrote him, “is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world.”

Aerial Bombing Makes Terrorists

Aerial Bombing Makes Terrorists
By Abdul Malik Mujahid | Truthout

During the last thirty years of wars in Afghanistan, Afghan civilians have had one safe place to escape to: Pakistan.

They fled the Soviet invasion. They fled civil wars. They fled US bombing. Pakistan took care of millions of these Afghan refugees.

Now that safe haven with its lush green valleys is burning with bombs.

And the hosts, the people who themselves welcomed Afghan refugees, at times literally into their homes or into campsites on their farms, are on the run. They are streaming out of Swat, Dir and Buner and registering as refugees in Mardan and the fertile valleys of Pakistan. The UN says about two million Pakistanis have been displaced during the last year of drone attacks, bombing and fighting.

Land of the Weak and Home of the Wussy

By Dave Lindorff

There may have perhaps have been a time when America was a land of at least some brave people. although arguably a nation that celebrates as heroic a history that features lots of people with modern guns and cannons conquering and destroying another people who were living in the stone age and fighting back with bows and arrows, and that built its economy on the backs of men and women held in chains certainly has a tough case to make. What is clear though is that there is nothing brave about modern-day America.

Obama’s AfPak War Engulfs Pakistan’s Swat Valley

Obama’s AfPak war engulfs Pakistan’s Swat Valley
By James Cogan | WSWS

A humanitarian catastrophe is taking place in areas of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP), as a result of the Obama administration’s expansion of the occupation of Afghanistan into the so-called “AfPak war”.

Over the past seven years, ethnic Pashtun Islamist movements in NWFP and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have lent assistance to the resistance being waged against the American-led forces in Afghanistan by the Pashtun-based Taliban, including by disrupting US and NATO supply routes through Pakistan.

On Washington’s insistence, the Pakistani government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has ordered the military to embark on operations to crush the militants. In late April, Pakistani forces deployed into the Lower Dir and Buner districts of NWFP to drive out a small number who had moved into the area from their strongholds to the north, in the Swat Valley district.

Since May 8, the operation, which now involves up to 18,000 Pakistani troops, backed by air support and heavy artillery, has extended deep inside the Swat Valley. Over the past two weeks they have engaged in a series of battles against the vastly outnumbered and outgunned Islamist fighters.

There is virtually no independent reporting from the conflict zone. Most information coming out of Swat is sourced directly from the military, making its accuracy questionable.

What is clear, however, is that the assault into Buner, Lower Dir and the Swat Valley has rapidly degenerated into the savage collective punishment of entire Pashtun communities. Hundreds of thousands of terrified civilians have taken to the roads to get out of the conflict zone. By the beginning of this week, the United Nations had registered 1.45 million internally displaced persons.

Read more.

McChrystal was Cheney's Chief Assassin

McChrystal was Cheney's Chief Assassin | Press TV

Seymour Hersh says that Dick Cheney headed a secret assassination wing and the head of the wing has just been named as the new commander in Afghanistan.

In an interview with GulfNews on May 12, 2009 Pulitzer prize-winning American investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, said that there is a special unit called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that does high-value targeting of men that are known to be involved in anti-American activities, or are believed to be planning such activities.

According to Hersh, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was headed by former US vice president Dick Cheney and the former head of JSOC, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal who has just been named the new commander in charge of the war in Afghanistan.

Evening Haiku

Obama Peace Shirt
Why Threaten Sweet Delusion
Another Drone Strikes

Can We Create Peace in Afghanistan By Providing Peaceful Jobs There?

That's what's being worked on here, and it's very valuable work regardless, but the idea that bringing down violence from the Afghan side will end the occupation seems incomplete at the very least, as it assumes the United States has a desire to leave Afghanistan and ignores our government's history of using both increases and decreases in violence as reasons to continue occupations.

NYT: Taliban Offer Afghan Peace Plan

With the passage of the war supplemental by the Senate, President Obama and Congress are "doubling down" on war in Afghanistan. Are we - and the Afghan people - doomed to endure many more years of war?

There is no reason that we need be, according to yesterday's New York Times, which reports that talks between Taliban leaders and Afghan government representatives have accelerated since Obama's election, and that Afghan officials say they have the tacit blessing of Washington for the talks.

Furthermore, the demands being put forward by the Taliban in the negotiations appear, on the face of it, to be eminently reasonable.

Daoud Abedi, one of the intermediaries in the talks, told the Times he had hammered out a common set of demands between the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's group. The groups agreed to stop fighting if those conditions were met, Abedi said.

Freshman Democrat Alan Grayson Attacks Obama's War Policy

Freshman Democrat Alan Grayson Attacks Obama's War Policy
by Christopher Bateman | Vanity Fair

In 2007, Vanity Fair’s David Rose wrote about an ambitious lawyer and entrepreneur named Alan Grayson, who at the time was suing KBR and other defense contractors in Iraq for alleged fraud on behalf of whistleblowers and American taxpayers. Grayson, who ran for Congress unsuccessfully in 2006, ran again in 2008, and this time was elected to represent Florida’s 8th district, which encompasses part of Orlando....

Have you been pleased at all with the Obama administration’s policies in Iraq and what they’ve done there so far?

Elsa Rassbach Interviews Zoya of the Foreign Committee of RAWA

Elsa Rassbach interviews Zoya of the Foreign Committee of RAWA

"The U.S. government has never supported democratic organizations..."

In June, 2008, the Afghan activist Zoya of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) testified to the Human Rights Commission of the German Parliament (Bundestag) in an effort to persuade the German government to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. At that time Elsa Rassbach, a U.S. citizen living in Germany, interviewed Zoya in Berlin. This is the first release of the interview in English.

U.S. Pullout a Condition in Afghan Peace Talks

By DEXTER FILKINS

KABUL, Afghanistan — Leaders of the Taliban and other armed groups battling the Afghan government are talking to intermediaries about a potential peace agreement, with initial demands focused on a timetable for a withdrawal of American troops, according to Afghan leaders here and in Pakistan.

READ THE REST AT THE NY TIMES.

A Failsafe Plan to Reduce AfPak Civilian Deaths from U.S. Operations

If civilian deaths from U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan were CO2 emissions, perhaps we'd be having a more effective discussion about reducing them.

The pattern seems to be this. When there are complaints about civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes and night raids, first the Pentagon denies there were any. When civilian deaths are documented, the Pentagon says civilian deaths are regrettable but we are doing everything we can possibly do to reduce them. When the complaints grow too strong to be dismissed in this way, the Pentagon announces that we are taking new steps to reduce civilian casualties (passing over the fact that this contradicts the previous claim that we were doing everything we could before to reduce civilian casualties.)

Then the cycle repeats.

Going for Broke: Six Ways the Af-Pak War Is Expanding

Going for Broke: Six Ways the Af-Pak War Is Expanding
By Tom Engelhardt | Tom Dispatch.com

Yes, Stanley McChrystal is the general from the dark side (and proud of it). So the recent sacking of Afghan commander General David McKiernan after less than a year in the field and McChrystal's appointment as the man to run the Afghan War seems to signal that the Obama administration is going for broke. It's heading straight into what, in the Vietnam era, was known as "the big muddy."

General McChrystal comes from a world where killing by any means is the norm and a blanket of secrecy provides the necessary protection. For five years he commanded the Pentagon's super-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which, among other things, ran what Seymour Hersh has described as an "executive assassination wing" out of Vice President Cheney's office. (Cheney just returned the favor by giving the newly appointed general a ringing endorsement: "I think you'd be hard put to find anyone better than Stan McChrystal.")

McChrystal gained a certain renown when President Bush outed him as the man responsible for tracking down and eliminating al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The secret force of "manhunters" he commanded had its own secret detention and interrogation center near Baghdad, Camp Nama, where bad things happened regularly, and the unit there, Task Force 6-26, had its own slogan: "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." Since some of the task force's men were, in the end, prosecuted, the bleeding evidently wasn't avoided.

The March of Folly, Continued

By Norman Solomon

To understand what’s up with President Obama as he escalates the war in Afghanistan, there may be no better place to look than a book published 25 years ago. “The March of Folly,” by historian Barbara Tuchman, is a chilling assessment of how very smart people in power can do very stupid things -- how a war effort, ordered from on high, goes from tic to repetition compulsion to obsession -- and how we, with undue deference and lethal restraint, pay our respects to the dominant moral torpor to such an extent that mass slaughter becomes normalized in our names.

National Media Day of Action on Afghanistan Thursday, May 21

What's the first step for us to stop the war in Afghanistan? Shift American public opinion.

That's why UFPJ is calling for all of us to join in a National Media Day of Action on Thursday, May 21 to reach out to every local, regional, and national media source! How do we do all that? It's much easier than you think. We'll provide you resources, tool and tips, and a Media Training conference call on Thursday, May 14 to teach you how to get our voices there!

If you post or publish something, click here to tell us what you did and give us the link so we can add up our collective impact!

Will Speaker Pelosi Stand Up to the IMF?

It would be an exaggeration to say that Congress has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this week to reform the policies of the International Monetary Fund. If the future is like the past, if Congress misses this opportunity, another one will come along - in about 10 years or so.

This week, House and Senate leaders are meeting in a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the supplemental appropriations bill. The Senate version of the bill is likely to include $100 billion and new authorities for the IMF, but the House version of the supplemental bill did not include funds for the IMF. The Senate is debating amendments now as I write. The conference committee will almost surely meet soon after Senate passage; the stated goal is to pass the supplemental before the Memorial Day recess.

Judge Permits Only Limited Illegality in Detentions Outside the Rule of Law

Judge rejects Obama view on detaining Al Qaeda supporters

A federal judge has rejected aspects of the Obama administration's definition of who can legally be held as a prisoner in the war on terror.

In a 22-page decision issued Tuesday evening, U.S. District Court Judge John Bates ruled that members in Al Qaeda or the Taliban could be detained, but that mere support for Al Qaeda activities is not a sufficient basis for the government to hold prisoners at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere.

READ THE REST AT POLITICO.

The Disease of Permanent War

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig, Alternet

The embrace by any society of permanent war is a parasite that devours the heart and soul of a nation. Permanent war extinguishes liberal, democratic movements. It turns culture into nationalist cant. It degrades and corrupts education and the media, and wrecks the economy. The liberal, democratic forces, tasked with maintaining an open society, become impotent. The collapse of liberalism, whether in imperial Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Weimar Germany, ushers in an age of moral nihilism. This moral nihilism comes is many colors and hues. It rants and thunders in a variety of slogans, languages and ideologies. It can manifest itself in fascist salutes, communist show trials or Christian crusades. It is, at its core, all the same. It is the crude, terrifying tirade of mediocrities who find their identities and power in the perpetuation of permanent war.

READ THE REST.

It’s Obama’s War Now

By Michael Schwartz, Stony Brook State University

By replacing his commanding general in Afghanistan, President Obama has taken authorship of the two-front war in the Middle East.

This was not an orderly succession, but a rare event fraught with historical significance. The firing of battlefield commanding General David D. McKiernan—and his replacement by his former subordinate Lt. General Stanley A. McChrystal—is the first since President Truman famously removed General Douglas A. MacArthur from the Korean command. And before that headline producing event, Lincoln’s replacement of McClellan with Grant stands as its most noteworthy precedent.

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