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Fighting a high-tech war with a low-tech mule
US Marines and soldiers are training to fight in Afghanistan, where mules and donkeys can haul supplies and weapons to places where Humvees and helicopters can't easily go.
By Gordon Lubold | CSM
Tucked at the base of a small mountain in the eastern Sierras is a makeshift paddock where a handful of US Marine Corps instructors reach deep into the history of warfare to give their charges a critical skill when they deploy to Afghanistan: how to pack a mule.
It is a peculiar course to teach in a military that is widely considered the best-trained, most capable, and highest-tech in the world.
But as the US girds to deploy more than 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer, the military is having to prepare for a decidedly different kind of fight from the one in Iraq.
WASHINGTON - April 29 - Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today issued the following statement after voting against H.Con.Res 13, setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for the fiscal year 2010:
"I am committed to doing everything I can to put our community and our nation on the path to economic stability. I led opposition to the bank bailout program TARP, I worked vigorously in favor of the stimulus package, and I have worked to save the automotive, steel and aerospace industries in America.
The Primacy of Healing: Politics and Combat Stress in America
By Tyler E. Boudreau | Truthout
I am a veteran of the war in Iraq. Like many, I came home bearing an unexpected skepticism toward our operations there and a fresh perspective on America's use of military power. And also like many, I found myself emotionally and psychologically harried by my experiences on the battlefield. But unlike many, I landed after discharge in a community where criticism for the war was both socially acceptable and, in fact, quite common, leaving me free to process a distress which was directly connected to US foreign policy. I was, literally and figuratively, right at home. So, I couldn't help noticing how the political dissent of my community was facilitating my mental healing. That has given me reason to consider all the ways in which politics has corresponded with and influenced the understanding and acceptance of combat stress. And while combat stress survivors have, in some ways, benefited from this relationship; they have suffered from it as well.
Combat stress has a stigmatic heritage, well-recognized now, but that was not always so. World War I was an era in which distraught soldiers were often labeled "men of deficient character"; and yet, the unspeakable carnage of its battles seemed to have offered latitude enough in the aftermath for the painful expressions of its veterans. But after the infinitely more popular World War II, veterans became known more for reticence than effusion and for a stoical veneer beneath which (we know now) a growing tumult was quietly raging. With the country so steeped in enthusiasm, it is not surprising that their invisible wounds went largely unnoticed. After all, with whom, in such a climate, might a veteran have shared his horrible stories?
Progressive Caucus Meets With President Obama on Health Care Reform and Supplemental Funding for Iraq & Afghanistan Operations
Progressive Caucus Meets With President Obama on Health Care Reform and Supplemental Funding for Iraq & Afghanistan Operations | Press Release
The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) this afternoon met with President Obama in a wide ranging discussion at the White House. The meeting was largely focused on discussions regarding healthcare reform and the upcoming supplemental appropriations request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Earlier this month the CPC Co-Chairs wrote to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid to urge inclusion of a robust public health insurance plan like Medicare, at a minimum, in any final health care reform bill.
By Dave Lindorff
For almost a generation, the Democrats in Congress have been able to pretend to be the party of ordinary working people, the party of progressives, and the inheritor of the mantel of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, all the while doing little of substance and catering primarily to the interests of Wall Street and the nation’s corporate interests.
The Democrats managed this sleight of hand for so long by claiming that while they had the best of intentions, reality, in the form of their inability to pass legislation, even when they were in the majority in both houses of Congress, that could avoid being filibustered to death by a Republican minority.
That situation has continued to this day, with the party currently having 58 seats in the Senate.
Imagine if, on the day in early April when Jiverly Voong walked into the American Civic Association Building in Binghamton, New York, and gunned down 13 people, you read this headline in the news: "Binghamton in shock as police investigate what some critics call 'mass murder.'" If American newspapers, as well as the TV and radio news were to adopt that as a form, we would, of course, find it absurd. Until proven guilty, a man with a gun may be called "a suspect," but we know mass murder when we see it. And yet, in one of the Bush administration's lingering linguistic triumphs, even as information on torture programs pours out, the word "torture" has generally suffered a similar fate.
The agents of that administration, for instance, used what, in the Middle Ages, used to be known bluntly as "the water torture" -- we call it "waterboarding" -- 183 times in a single month on a single prisoner and yet the other morning I woke up to this formulation on National Public Radio's Morning Edition: "...harsh interrogations that some consider torture." And here's how Gwen Ifill of the News Hour put it the other night: "A tough Senate report out today raised new questions about drastic interrogations of terror suspects in the Bush years." Or as USA Today typically had it: "Obama opened the door for possible investigation and prosecution of former Bush administration officials who authorized the 'enhanced interrogation techniques' that critics call torture." Or, for that matter, the New York Times: "...the Bush administration's use of waterboarding and other techniques that critiques say crossed the line into torture..."
Torture, as a word, except in documents or in the mouths of other people -- those "critics" -- has evidently lost its descriptive powers in our news world where almost any other formulation is preferred. Often these days the word of choice is "harsh," or even "brutal," both substitutes for the anodyne "enhanced" in the Bush administration's own description of the package of torture "techniques" it institutionalized and justified after the fact in those legal memos. The phrase was, of course, meant to be law-evading, since torture is a crime, not just in international law, but in this country. The fact is that, if you can't call something what it is, you're going to have a tough time facing what you've done, no less prosecuting crimes committed not quite in its name.
Never Give A Life, Or Take A Life, For A Lie
A Call to American Generals to Respect the Rights of our Troops
by Veterans For Peace and Asian Pacific Islanders Resist
There are many kinds of betrayal in human affairs. But in the affairs of state, there is no greater act of disloyalty than to send young men and women to their deaths on the basis of fraud. No soldier should ever give a life, or take a life, for a lie.<
All American ranking officers and commanders take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. For self-serving generals, to be sure, the oath is a mere ritual, of no consequence to real behavior in war. But for generals of conscience and integrity (and here is our hope and reason for writing) their oath is a solemn obligation to the American people, especially to American troops, to abide by the law. Our men and women in uniform place great trust in their superiors. They risk their lives in the belief that they will not be used falsely, illegally, or for ill-gain.
By Dave Lindorff
Enough is enough. It’s time to free John Walker Lindh, poster boy for George Bush’s, Dick Cheney’s and John Ashcroft’s “War on Terror,” and quite likely first victim of these men’s secret campaign of torture.
Lindh is in the seventh year of a 20-year sentence for “carrying a weapon” in Afghanistan and for “providing assistance” to an enemy of the United States. The first charge is ridiculously minor (after all, it’s what almost everyone in Texas does everyday). The second is actually a violation of a law intended for use against US companies that trade with proscribed countries on a government “no trade” list like Cuba or North Korea. Ordinarily, violation results in a fine for the executives involved.
Thanks to your efforts, we were able to bring Rick Reyes, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, to Congress's attention. A former Corporal in the US Marines, Reyes was powerful and truthful as he told Senator John Kerry and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "I urge you on behalf of truth and patriotism to consider carefully and rethink Afghanistan. More troops, more occupation is not the answer."
Much more inside.
[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.”