You are hereAfghanistan
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.
(Photo by Linda Milazzo)
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.
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."
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Obama Peace Shirt
Why Threaten Sweet Delusion
Another Drone Strikes
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.
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
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
"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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
* "Open the Gates that the Righteous Nation May Enter": Rumsfeld Used Biblical Quotes in Top-Secret Iraq War Briefings for Bush *
GQ Magazine has revealed former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly gave President Bush top-secret briefings adorned with Biblical quotes during the early days of the invasion of Iraq. One briefing paper showed an image of a US soldier in Baghdad below the Biblical quote, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."
* Jeremy Scahill: "Little Known Military Thug Squad Still Brutalizing Prisoners at Gitmo Under Obama" *
Jeremy Scahill reports the Obama administration is continuing to use a notorious military police unit at Guantanamo that regularly brutalizes unarmed prisoners, including gang-beating them, breaking their bones, gouging their eyes and dousing them with chemicals. This force, officially known as the Immediate Reaction Force, has been labeled the "Extreme Repression Force" by Guantanamo prisoners, and human rights lawyers call their actions illegal.
* Bill Clinton to be Named UN Special Envoy to Haiti *
Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill examines how Clinton helped to destabilize Haiti in the 1990s. While Clinton and his advisers publicly expressed their dismay with the US-backed 1991 coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, they simultaneously refused to support the swift reinstatement of the country’s democratically elected leader and would, in fact, not allow Aristide's return until Washington received guarantees that, one, Aristide would not lay claim to the years of his presidency lost in forced exile and, two, US neoliberal economic plans were solidified as the law of the land in Haiti.
Ill. Senate takes stand against Afghanistan war
By Christopher Wills, Chicago Tribune
The Illinois Senate has jumped into the deep water of foreign policy by passing a resolution that criticizes President Barack Obama’s plan to step up military efforts in Afghanistan.
The resolution calls for the United States to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan rather than send more, as Obama plans to do.
“The people of the United States have indicated that this war has gone on long enough,” says the resolution, which passed last week. “The Senate believes that it is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Afghanistan.”
This puts state senators at odds with Obama, who once served in the Illinois Senate, and with public opinion.
Pakistan said Tuesday it was racing to help refugees fleeing a military offensive against the Taliban in its northwest — an exodus of some 1.5 million with a speed and size the U.N. said could rival the displacement caused by Rwanda's genocide.
The humanitarian challenge comes as the military said its troops are fighting street battles against insurgents in key towns in Pakistan's Swat Valley and amid government denials that the country is expanding its nuclear stockpile.
Lt. Gen. Nadeem Ahmed, who leads a group tasked with dealing with the uprooted Pakistanis, told reporters that the government had enough flour and other food for the displaced but said it needed donations of fans and high energy biscuits. He also said the refugees would get money and free transport when it was safe enough to return.
A "camp is not a replacement for home," Ahmed said, adding there are at least 22 relief camps operating.