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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.
By Norman Solomon
Is your representative speaking out against escalation of the Afghanistan war?
Last week, some members of Congress sent President Obama a letter that urged him to “reconsider” his order deploying 17,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
Everyone in the House of Representatives had ample opportunity to sign onto the letter. Beginning in late February, it circulated on Capitol Hill for more than two weeks. The letter was the most organized congressional move so far to challenge escalation of the war in Afghanistan.
But the list of signers was awfully short.
* California: Bob Filner, Michael Honda
* Hawaii: Neil Abercrombie
* Kentucky: Ed Whitfield
* Maryland: Roscoe Bartlett
* Massachusetts: Jim McGovern
* Michigan: John Conyers
* North Carolina: Howard Coble, Walter Jones
* Ohio: Marcy Kaptur, Dennis Kucinich
* Tennessee: John Duncan
Complicating matters is that the armed guards hired in Afghanistan most likely won't be U.S. citizens. According to Gates, only nine out of the 3,847 security contractors in Afghanistan have U.S. passports. Some lawmakers worry that arming non-U.S. citizens to protect American bases or convoys poses a security risk in a country rife with corruption and on the defensive against the militant Taliban.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The military buildup in Afghanistan is stoking a surge of private security contractors despite a string of deadly shootings in Iraq in recent years that has called into question the government's ability to manage the guns for hire.
By Tina Richards
As the mother of a Marine who served two tours in Iraq and who came home 80% disabled, he would call me and say, “Mom, I don't deserve to live anymore, I have a gun in mouth, I have to pull the trigger, I can't live with all the innocent women and children I've killed.” As the mother of a soldier, A son who sought help in the Army for his PTSD last month and the same week they said he was cured, he was arrested and put in a County jail for hitting his wife. My son, who in June will be deployed back to Iraq for his second tour, I say three more years is too long!!!
Here's some good data on U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan:
Fact sheet 1.
Fact sheet 2.
Report on future of the Department of Veterans Affairs, formerly Veterans Administration, healthcare.
Kerry Baker, DAV’s assistant national legislative director, issued an update Tuesday in which he reported that about 182 veterans are in the database. Of those, 48 have developed lymphoma, leukemia or some other form of cancer. Another 55 reported pulmonary disorders, including asthma and asthma-like symptoms. Other reported conditions include multiple sclerosis, sleep apnea and heart problems. At least 16 veterans entered into the database have died, Baker said.
The Veterans Affairs Department is gathering data to monitor potential health problems in troops who say they were made ill by exposure to smoke from open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a letter to Congress.
Afghanistan Strategy: Lure Fighters Away From Taliban
A key element of Obama’s plan is to erode militants’ power by strengthening local leaders, who can in turn provide incentives for foot soldiers to stop fighting.
Julian E. Barnes | LA Times
The Obama administration’s plan to overhaul the Afghanistan war will include a reinvigorated effort to sap the strength and influence of Taliban leaders by luring away their foot soldiers, according to advisors involved in a painstaking strategy review.
The plan is based on the assumption that top leaders of extremist groups are unlikely to switch sides wholesale, or would be unreliable allies if they did. Instead, the revised military effort will focus on eroding the power of militant leaders by drawing away low-level fighters – most of whom signed up for financial reasons.
Key to the strategy, according to administration officials, will be strengthening village elders and other local leaders as part of an overall shift in emphasis away from the country’s central government.
DC: Afghanistan: A Road Map For Progress - Seeking Global Security - 1st in 6 Part Series 3/25/09, 2:30 PM
Afghanistan: A Road Map For Progress - Seeking Global Security | Press Release
The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) - "77 Strong and Growing" - Open to New and Different Ideas - Hosts Series of Forums to Discuss Military, Political, Economic and Social Policy Options in Afghanistan
Jobless rate at 11.2% for veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan
By Gregg Zoroya | USA TODAY
The economic downturn is hitting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans harder than other workers — one in nine are now out of work — and may be encouraging some troops to remain in the service, according to Labor Department records and military officials.
The 11.2% jobless rate for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who are 18 and older rose 4 percentage points in the past year. That's significantly higher than the corresponding 8.8% rate for non-veterans in the same age group, says Labor Department economist Jim Walker.
Army records show the service has hit 152% of its re-enlistment goal this year. "Obviously the economy plays a big role in people's decisions," says Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, an Army spokesman.
With Washington carrying out war, occupation and intervention on expanding fronts, the anti-war movement is more necessary than ever. It is needed by the workers and oppressed people abroad who are the direct targets of the Pentagon and also by the masses of people in the U.S. who will pay for these military operations and have to carry them out.
The anti-war struggle is developing in the midst of the most severe economic crisis in generations. This creates a new situation for the movement and raises two burning questions: what should be the character of the movement and what should be the relationship of the struggle against the war to the struggle against the economic crisis?
Six Years of Blood and Lies
By Penny Coleman, AlterNet
"When it got really bad, I dumped 5 tons of sand into my basement to remind me of Afghanistan," Jim told me. "I would just spend the entire day down there in my sandbox, smoking marijuana and working on peace of mind. It made me realize that you can close as many doors as you want, but ghosts walk through walls."
Jim speaks with apparent ease about his war experiences and what they cost him. His stories are punctuated with vivid detail and bemused laughter, mostly at his own expense: How could he have been so naïve ... how could he have failed to see what was going on around him?