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“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.
By Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet
On the campaign trail, Barack Obama's advisers said he "can't rule out [and] won't rule out" using mercenary forces, like Blackwater. Now, it appears that the Obama administration has decided on its hired guns of choice: Triple Canopy, a Chicago company now based in Virginia. It may not have Blackwater's thuggish reputation, but Triple Canopy has its own bloody history in Iraq and a record of hiring mercenaries from countries with atrocious human rights records. What's more, Obama is not just using the company in Iraq, but also as a U.S.-government funded private security force in Israel/Palestine, operating out of Jerusalem.
By Bill Fletcher, Jr., BlackCommentator.com
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.
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.
A new incarnation, a new name – and the same old warmongering
By Jeremy Scahill, Huffington Post
Over the past couple of weeks, the Obama administration has clearly attempted to shift the US foreign policy focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, seemingly intent on leaving the public with the impression that Iraq is under control and US withdrawal has been set in full motion; that the end of the "war" is within sight. This fantasy has been reinforced by some so-called anti-war groups, like MoveOn, which have praised Obama's Iraq plan without confronting the cold fact that Obama's vision for the country includes a sustained presence of tens of thousands of US troops, a monstrous US embassy the size of Vatican City and the continued--and likely increased-- use of corporate mercenary forces. Also, consider this fact: by September of this year, Obama will have actually sent more troops into combat than Bush.
Published on Monday, March 30, 2009 by Salon.com and CommonDreams.org
President Barack Obama may or may not be doing the right thing in Afghanistan, but the rationale he gave for it on Friday is almost certainly wrong. Obama has presented us with a 21st century version of the domino theory. The U.S. is not, contrary to what the president said, mainly fighting "al-Qaida" in Afghanistan. In blaming everything on al-Qaida, Obama broke with his pledge of straight talk to the public and fell back on Bush-style boogeymen and implausible conspiracy theories.
By Cindy Sheehan
This Saturday on April 04th, my son Casey (and at least 11 other Americans and hundreds of Iraqis) will have been dead for five years. Casey, a humvee mechanic, was killed on 04/04/04 in Sadr City, Baghdad in combat after he had been there for only five days.
Five years have passed in the blink of an eye, and besides missing Casey so much our lives have changed about as dramatically as they could have, as has life of our country.
We just passed the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq with very tepid opposition and President "Change You Can Believe In" is following the path in the Middle East that was blazed by his predecessor, George Bush. Obama’s surge in Afghanistan and on the Afghan/Pakistan border guaran-damn-tees that there will be many more “Caseys” and the people of Afghanistan should not be made subject to more “help” from The Empire.
By David Swanson
While General David "Betray Us" Petraeus must be thrilled with his conversion from traitor to saint in the eyes of the pseudo-left and amazed that such things can be accomplished simply by changing the political party of the president, the group that formerly bashed him with an ad in the New York Times and now supports whatever Obama does is not as new to supporting wars as this simple story suggests.
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.
By John Nichols, The Nation
President Obama went on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday to make the case for his great big war in Afghanistan.
The good news is that Obama says, "What I will not do is to simply assume that more troops always results in an improved situation."
The bad news is that Obama is dispatching more troops to a country that has never taken well to occupation.
So where is the MoveOn.org blast condemning the ramping up of an undeclared war and the president's refusal to rule out an even more dramatic expansion of that war to Pakistan? Where is the memo from the Center for American Progress outlining the case against giving the president "a blank check for endless war"?
By Gareth Porter, Huffington Post
After the Bush administration went to war based on charges of WMD programs that were later found to have been nonexistent, you would think there would be a strong demand for a thorough examination of the strategic rationale the next time an administration proposes a new war or a major escalation of an existing one.
Yet there has been no public examination of the Obama administration strategic argument that the United States must do whatever is necessary in Afghanistan to ensure that al Qaeda cannot have a safe haven there. The assumption seems to be that that there is no need to inquire about the soundness of that premise, because al Qaeda planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks from Afghanistan.
By Jacob G. Hornberger, FFF
Last night I participated in a great debate on Afghanistan sponsored by the Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation in New York City. There were about 150-200 people in the auditorium. I assume that the video of the debate will be posted soon on the Internet and when it is, I’ll let you know. At the post-debate dinner, one of the attendees said of all the debates she had seen at the Smith Family Foundation, this was the best one.
The debate began mildly enough, picked up steam, and then ended up with the gloves being taken off. The debaters were: Larry Woodson (U.S. Army War College), Max Boot (Council on Foreign Relations), Chris Preble (Cato Institute), and Jacob Hornberger (Future of Freedom Foundation).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that he was in "full agreement" with President Obama's newly announced strategy for Afghanistan, saying it was "exactly what the Afghan people were hoping for" and promising to "work very closely" with the United States to implement the plan.
After months of tension between the Afghan leader and officials in Washington, especially over civilian casualties caused by Western military forces, Karzai seemed pleasantly surprised by Obama's prescriptions for Afghanistan's problems, calling his plan "better than we were expecting."
Today President Obama announced his plan to send upwards of 20,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. Peace Action began organizing grassroots activists and lobbying against the escalation in late February.
Longer version with more detail and advice: HERE.
For Meetings with Congress Members and Senators
During April 4-19, 2009, Recess
Adjust to your communities’ priorities and to fit your representative and senators. Make the case to them of the necessary trade-off in defunding war in order to fund human needs. Make alliances with activist groups wishing to pressure elected officials on domestic funding needs and workers’ rights.
Oppose Escalation of War in Afghanistan and Pakistan
A bipartisan group of fourteen members of Congress recently wrote to the president asking him to reconsider his proposal to send more troops to Afghanistan. Your representative and senators should send similar letters, and should include opposition to missile strikes or the introduction of troops into Pakistan.
By Gareth Porter, IPS
WASHINGTON, Mar 28 (IPS) - The argument for deeper U.S. military commitment to the Afghan War invoked by President Barack Obama in his first major policy statement on Afghanistan and Pakistan Friday - that al Qaeda must be denied a safe haven in Afghanistan - has been not been subjected to public debate in Washington.
A few influential strategists here have been arguing, however, that this official rationale misstates the al Qaeda problem and ignores the serious risk that an escalating U.S. war poses to Pakistan.
Those strategists doubt that al Qaeda would seek to move into Afghanistan as long as they are ensconced in Pakistan and argue that escalating U.S. drone airstrikes or Special Operations raids on Taliban targets in Pakistan will actually strengthen radical jihadi groups in the country and weaken the Pakistani government’s ability to resist them.
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 Jim Hightower, Creators Syndicate, Alternet
Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to war we go!
As President Barack Obama begins winding down the Bush war in Iraq, he is building up his own war farther east. We're told that it will be a new, expanded, extra-special American adventure in Afghanistan, involving a vigorous surge strategy to "stabilize" this perpetually unstable land.
Courage of Conscience Speaking Tour Combatants for Peace: Israel and Palestine
WHEN: Friday March 27th 7:30-9:30 PM
WHERE: St. Columbia's Episcopal Church 4201 Albemarle St. NW DC 20016 - One block from the Tenleytown Metro.
Former Soldier, Former Fighter - Yaniv Reshef and Bassam Aramin.
Israeli Yaniv Rashef, whose home is range of Gaza missiles, was a soldier in a sabotage unit of the Israeli Army - and chose to fight no more.
Palestinian Bassam Aramin served seven years in jail for planning an attack against Israeli soldier - and chose no more violence. Just two years ago, Bassam lost his daughter to an Israeli soldier's rubber-coated bullet. Their movement, Combatants for Peace, numbers over 600 former Israeli soldiers and former Palestinian fighters, working together without revenge to build justice, peace, and a playground in memory of Abir Aramin.
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.
A progressive Congressional staffer once told me: "The first rule of Congress is - if you have the opportunity to vote both ways on the same issue, do it."
In "narrowing" the goals for the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, President Obama appears to have obeyed the first rule of Congress. In his speech on Afghanistan, Obama had it both ways.
He asserted that "we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future" and that "we are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future."
Today, President Barack Obama announced his plans to send another 21,000 troops to Afghanistan: he is girding the nation for a long and costly military occupation there.
While he also made some good statements on increasing diplomacy and economic aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the emphasis is clearly on military operations. Predictably, the Pakistan and Afghan factions of the Taliban are already uniting to oppose our escalation of troops. As the spring fighting season approaches, only one thing is certain -- more death, destruction, and misery in a desperately poor country that has had little respite from war for decades.
Here in the U.S., Obama's escalation in Afghanistan and the continuing occupation of Iraq threaten our nation's urgent economic and domestic agenda. Now is the time for more diplomacy, not more war!
United For Peace and Justice calls for immediate action for peace in Afghanistan. Here are three things you can do:
If you thought you couldn't stand to hear any more chatter about "benchmarks" on Iraq, get ready for Afghanistan: The Revenge of the Benchmarks.
By ANNE GEARAN and PAMELA HESS, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama plans to dispatch additional U.S. troops plus hundreds of civilian advisers in hopes of turning around a faltering war in Afghanistan and will recommend increasing aid to neighboring Pakistan so long as leaders there confront militancy, people familiar with the forthcoming plan said Thursday.
Obama plans to lay out his revamped strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Friday. Several sources told The Associated Press it includes 20 recommendations for countering a persistent insurgency that spans the two countries' border.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs would not discuss specifics of the plan, but said Obama is beginning to discuss its findings with members of Congress and others. Obama's top military advisers briefed key lawmakers Thursday.
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.
Floridians Gathering in Melbourne This Saturday to Say: "Hey, Obama, Yes, We Can! Troops Out of Afghanistan!"
When: Saturday, March 28, 2pm
Florida Mass March - Front Street Park to Melbourne City Hall
Join several hundreds from more than 10 cities, Miami to Atlanta, in demanding our government fund human needs instead of war and corporate greed. Bail out the people and the troops, not the banks. ("Hey, Obama, yes, we can. Troops out of Afghanistan.") In addition to sending a message to elected officials, our coming together for this mass march for peace will stir the consciousness of the broader public, educate the uninitiated, and cultivate a new bond between citizens, peace and justice activists and those from more than 60 local, statewide, and national groups.