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A new start with the Muslim world, as pledged by President Obama in his inaugural speech, has a sine qua non: a Palestinian settlement, a quest that has eluded the last five U.S. presidents. Following Israel's invasion of Gaza and its 22-day campaign of airstrikes, tank and artillery bombardment that left 1,300 Palestinians killed for the loss of only 13 Israeli soldiers, a Palestinian state remains a diplomatic chimera.
Russia and neighboring Central Asian nations have agreed to let supplies pass through their territory to American soldiers in Afghanistan, lessening Washington's dependence on dangerous routes through Pakistan, a top U.S. commander said Tuesday.
Securing alternative routes to landlocked Afghanistan has taken on added urgency this year as the United States prepares to double troop numbers there to 60,000 to battle a resurgent Taliban eight years after the U.S.-led invasion.
By Saeed Shah in Islamabad, The Guardian
The US military is investigating claims that more than two dozen Afghan civilians were killed during an attack on militants. The issue has badly undermined support for the international coalition and President Hamid Karzai.
As Karzai seeks re-election later this year, he has used the issue of civilian deaths to try to distance himself from the west and has repeatedly called for more care to be taken by coalition troops.
A night-time raid on Monday killed 19 militants, some 30 miles north of Kabul, the US said. But, according to some reports, civilians died. Taliban fighters tend to use ordinary homes as cover, making it difficult for Afghan and international forces to avoid harming innocent bystanders.
U.S. General David Petraeus met Afghan President Hamid Karzai overnight, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, after the regional military chief said deals had been made on new transport routes into Afghanistan from Central Asia.
The U.S. military has had to look at new ways to help supply its troops in the landlocked country from the north after Taliban militants have attacked and torched dozens of trucks carrying supplies on the main route through Pakistan.
That need to supplement the Pakistan route is even more great now as the President Barack Obama is expected to soon approve plans to almost double the 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as part of his pledge to make the war one of his top priorities.
By Gareth Porter
The front-page story in the Washington Post Tuesday reports the intention of Barack Obama to commit a stunningly irrational blunder: to escalate dramatically the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan even though he has no clear proposal from the Pentagon on what is to be accomplished with the new "surge" in troops.
The president-elect "intends to sign off on Pentagon plans to send up to 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan," according to the Post. But it adds that Obama's national security team sees the troop increase as doing nothing more than "help buy enough time for the new administration to reappraise the entire Afghanistan war effort and develop a comprehensive new strategy...."
By Dave Lindorff
Congress should do now what it should have done back in the fall: kill the Wall Street bailout program.
After wasting $350 billion on a program that was misrepresented from the outset, and investing hundreds of billions of dollars in failing financial institutions that it could have bought outright for less than it was investing in them (AIG was worth only a few billion dollars in total at the time that the government bailed the company out with an initial investment of $85 billion and Citicorp today is worth less than the $45 billion the government has invested in that failing firm), the Treasury Department, now acting at the direction not of the Bush administration and outgoing Treasurer Hank Paulson, but the Obama administration, is asking for the other half of the Troubled Assets Relief Fund (TARP).
With Afghanistan, it always seems to be more and worse. More American (and NATO) troops "surging" in, more Taliban control in the countryside, more insurgent attacks, more sophisticated roadside bombs, more deadly suicide bombings, more dead American and NATO troops, more problems with U.S. supply lines into Afghanistan, more civilian deaths from American and NATO military operations, more U.S. bases being built, more billions of U.S. dollars needed for military operations -- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently indicated that the build-up of U.S. forces alone in that country in the next fiscal year could cost an extra $5.5 billion -- and, of course, yet more reports and studies indicating that everything yet tried to "stabilize" Afghanistan has gone desperately wrong.
by Linda Milazzo
I don't believe in god. I never have. I don't believe in religions. I study them, but I don't practice them. I try to understand them to be sensitive to the beliefs and traditions of others, and to attempt to appreciate the motivations behind religious thought and deed. But they are irrelevant to living my life.
Long ago as a freshman at CUNY's Queens College I was introduced to Taoism. Taoism began in ancient China as a religion, then morphed into a dogma free/deity free philosophy. Since my late teens I've tried hard to apply MY understanding of my Tao to my life. I have the freedom to choose my own path and not judge the paths of others. But since I have freedom of opinion, I fall prey to judge. I try not to. But I do.
Through the Tao, I'm both a peacemaker and a warrior since Taoism couples with the art of self-defense. I understand my right to protect myself when needed, and to protect the defenseless when they need me. Since I'm by nature protective, it suits my sensibilities to aid the weak, where I fancy myself absurdly as inordinately strong.
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post
Earlier this month, standing at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the United States is making a "sustained commitment" to that country, one that will last "some protracted period of time."
A series of new proposals coming out of the Pentagon make clear a significant aspect of that commitment: up to $300 million in construction projects at the base, in order to house more than 5,000 additional American forces. And the timeline of the proposals appears to indicate that these troops would arrive in Afghanistan much later in 2009 than U.S. officials have announced thus far.
by Linda Milazzo
For years since the United States invaded Iraq, I've witnessed countless photo and video images of innocent civilians - men, women, teens and children - being rudely and aggressively threatened by hired uniformed militants (mostly men), wielding guns. I've seen these images from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Haiti, Palestine, and more. Whether they be armed American military threatening Iraqis, armed Israeli soldiers threatening Palestinians, or armed Ethiopian troops threatening Somalis, the images have always disturbed me. There's an inherent injustice to such blatant imbalance of power. An injustice I suffered recently myself.
The oddity here is that unlike those less fortunate innocents in war zones who faced the guns of hired aggressors, I was not in a war zone when I faced mine. I wasn't even in a high crime zone. I was in a gentle middle class suburb, where my aggressor, an armed Brinks, Inc. security guard, was in full combat-mode performing his non war-zone duty. My aggressor more typified the machismo of a Blackwater guard than the demeanor of community-minded Brinks, when he flailed his loaded gun at me, as though he'd done it often before. My armed Brinks aggressor was not merely disrespectful. He was downright hostile and dangerous. He treated me as his enemy and freely showed me his force.
Here's how it happened:
By Sherwood Ross
President-elect Obama should drop his plans to escalate the war in Afghanistan, a country that never attacked America, out of pity for a helpless civilian population that will only suffer increasing misery from an expanded fight against the Taliban and its allies.
Recall military intervention was used to capture Panamanian military dictator Manuel Noriega for a drug charge in December 20, 1989. That illegal assault, ordered by President George H.W. Bush, killed 500 Panamanian civilians, wounded 3,000 more, and pushed 15,000 people out of their homes, an incredible price innocent people were made to pay to enable the U.S. to nail one drug-runner.
By Jodie Evans, CODEPINK Women for Peace: Action Blog
It sounds like a little boys' toy gun fight, a scuffle that, when the dust cleared, left six Afghan police and one civilian killed yesterday at the hands of shamed U.S. troops.
U.S. Special Forces opened fire Wednesday on the police near a Afghan police checkpoint, according to a U.S. military statement today, right after the police fired at them following an operation to kill an armed militant there. The troops thought the police were Taliban, and reacted -- shooting -- without checking. The troops had not warned the Afghan police that they'd be there.
Col. Jerry O'Hara, a U.S. military spokesman, stated he deeply regrets the "mistaken fire," which also collapsed the police checkpoint roof and damaged a nearby home.
By Tom Lasseter, McClatchy Newspapers
DASHT-E LEILI, Afghanistan — Seven years ago, a convoy of container trucks rumbled across northern Afghanistan loaded with a human cargo of suspected Taliban and al Qaida members who'd surrendered to Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Afghan warlord and a key U.S. ally in ousting the Taliban regime.
When the trucks arrived at a prison in the town of Sheberghan, near Dostum's headquarters, they were filled with corpses. Most of the prisoners had suffocated, and others had been killed by bullets that Dostum's militiamen had fired into the metal containers.
Dostum's men hauled the bodies into the nearby desert and buried them in mass graves, according to Afghan human rights officials. By some estimates, 2,000 men were buried there.
By Norman Solomon
Sunday morning, before dawn, I read in the New York Times that “the
Pentagon is planning to add more than 20,000 troops to Afghanistan”
within the next 18 months -- “raising American force levels to about
58,000” in that country. Then I scraped ice off a windshield and
drove to the C-SPAN studios, where a picture window showed a serene
daybreak over the Capitol dome.
While I was on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” for a live interview,
the program aired some rarely seen footage with the voices of two
courageous politicians who challenged the warfare state.
So, on Sunday morning, viewers across the country saw Barbara Lee
speaking on the House floor three days after 9/11 -- just before she
became the only member of Congress to vote against the president’s
green-light resolution to begin the U.S. military attack on
“However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of
USA Today reports that Gen. McKiernan - top U.S. commander in Afghanistan - "has asked the Pentagon for more than 20,000 soldiers, Marines and airmen" to augment U.S. forces. McKiernan says U.S. troop levels of 55,000 to 60,000 in Afghanistan will be needed for "at least three or four more years." He added: "If we put these additional forces in here, it's going to be for the next few years. It's not a temporary increase of combat strength."
We should have a vigorous national debate before embarking on this course. Contrary to what one might think from a quick scan of the newspapers, there are knowledgeable voices questioning whether increasing the deployment of U.S. troops to Afghanistan is in our interest, or is in the interest of the Afghan people.
Bestselling author and former longtime New York Times foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer argues the opposite in this five minute video:
From Institute for Public Accuracy
Questioning Plans to Increase U.S. Troops in Afghanistan
The lead story in USA Today this morning reports that the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan told the newspaper "he has asked the Pentagon for more than 20,000 soldiers, Marines and airmen" to augment the American forces in that country.
Gen. David McKiernan is quoted as saying that U.S. troop levels of 55,000 to 60,000 in Afghanistan will be needed for "at least three or four more years." He added: "If we put these additional forces in here, it's going to be for the next few years. It's not a temporary increase of combat strength."
By Dave Lindorff
One impact of this deepening recession which is largely hidden because it is spread out and distributed across the land is a wave of budget crises swamping nearly every state government and every municipal government in the country.
State governments, according to the Center for Budget Priorities, are facing a $77-billion revenue shortfall for the 2009 fiscal year. Municipal governments are probably facing a total revenue shortfall of even more than that—perhaps closer to $100 billion. New York City, for example, is reportedly facing a budget shortfall of $1.5 billion over the next two years and Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth largest city, a shortfall of $1 billion over the next five years.
By Steve Weissman, t r u t h o u t
The best military advice I know supposedly comes from a subordinate of Napoleon at a time that the French emperor was facing difficulties with his ill-fated military occupation of Egypt. "One can do anything with bayonets, Sire, except sit on them." If only Gen. Jim Jones, the new National Security adviser, had the wisdom to give President-elect Barack Obama the same advice about the already planned escalation of forces in Afghanistan. But don't count on it. From all available evidence, the good general has already urged Obama to dig the United States even deeper into a far-off land that Alexander the Great, the British raj and 150,000 Soviets troops all came to know as "the graveyard of empires." Read the rest.
By Candace Rondeaux, Washington Post
KABUL, Nov. 26 -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has sharply criticized the United States and NATO, demanding a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces.
Karzai's comments came late Tuesday in a speech to a U.N. Security Council delegation visiting Kabul, the capital, this week. He accused the international community of failing "to fight the Taliban properly" since the U.S.-led war in the country began in 2001.
"This war has gone on for seven years. The Afghans don't understand anymore how come a little force like the Taliban can continue to exist, can continue to flourish, can continue to launch attacks with 40 countries in Afghanistan, with entire NATO force in Afghanistan, with the entire international community behind them," Karzai said. "Still we are not able to defeat the Taliban."
In a personal and wide-ranging interview conducted by his sister about his legacy, his faith and the influence of his father, President George W. Bush said he hopes to be remembered as a liberator of the Iraqi people.
"I'd like to be a president [known] as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace," Bush told his sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, in a conversation recorded for the oral-history organization StoryCorps for the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
By Dave Lindorff
I was listening to Robert Reich, once the left end of the spectrum in the Clinton cabinet, talking with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer a few days ago, and Reich, who has in the past sometimes made sense, was talking about how Americans’ incomes had fallen over the last eight years of the Bush/Cheney administration and that it was necessary to get their incomes back on an upward trend, so that they could “start shopping again.”
Now I understand Reich was trying to make the case that the bailout so far has been focused on the banks and the insurance industry, and that none of this will help unless ordinary people start getting some relief, but still, there’s something completely twisted and out of whack when the best we can come up with is that we need to get Americans back into the malls.
In fact, that is a good part of what’s wrong with the US economy: Fully 75 percent of GDP in America is consumer spending.
Canada will proceed with its plan to end military mission in Afghanistan in 2011, even if United States President-elect Barack Obama appeals to it to stay, Defense Minister Peter MacKay reiterated Friday.
MacKay made the remarks when defense ministers from eight NATO countries with troops stationed in southern Afghanistan gathered in eastern Canada to talk about ways to better manage the mission.
Ministers of the United States, Britain, Holland, Australia, Estonia, Denmark and Romania were meeting at a training base in the village of Cornwallis in the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia.
MacKay complained that some NATO countries are not pulling their weight in Afghanistan, leaving the eight countries "carrying a disproportionate share of the load".
Why Bush Can't Allow Habeas Corpus -- And Why We Need to Leave Afghanistan
Posted by Time for Change | Democratic Underground/General Discussion
The whole rationale for our war in Afghanistan probably would be exposed to the world as the farce that it is if the Bush administration allowed its "War on Terror" prisoners to use the writ of habeas corpus to challenge their detentions. That appears to be a major reason, if not the major reason, why the Bush administration has for several years fought tooth and nail to deny its prisoners the habeas corpus rights that are guaranteed under our Constitution. And it is also probably a major reason why whenever our courts have over-ruled the Bush administration in specific cases, Bush has released the respective prisoners rather than allow them a fair and open trial.
"Gen. David...McKiernan employed unusual candor in describing Afghanistan as 'a far more complex environment than I ever found in Iraq.' The country's mountainous terrain, rural population, poverty, illiteracy, 400 major tribal networks, and history of civil war make it a unique challenge, he said."
It may become a biennial ritual. Every two years, if the commander-in-chief (or the commander-in-chief-elect) says he wants to throw more troops into an unwinnable war for no clear reason other than his political advantage, panderer-in-chief Robert Gates will shout "Outstanding!"
Never mind what the commanders in the field are saying — much less the troops who do the dying.
The Pentagon is considering a plan to send more than 20,000 troops to Afghanistan over the next 12 to 18 months to help safeguard elections and quell rising Taliban violence, officials said on Friday.
U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said he and top commanders had discussed sending five brigades to Afghanistan, including four brigades of combat ground forces as well as an aviation brigade, which a defence official said would consist mainly of support troops. An Army combat brigade has about 3,500 soldiers.
Gates said much of the infusion could take place before Afghanistan holds elections by next autumn.
By Dave Lindorff
The ongoing and deepening global economic crisis, to which Barack Obama owes his presidential election victory, is no small thing, to be sure. It also presents us on the left with a lot of openings to press for progressive change.
The USG Open Source Center translates an article from the Persian Afghan press alleging that French troops were at one point close to capturing Usamah Bin Ladin in Afghanistan, but that American forces stopped them from doing so. It says that a forthcoming French documentary containing interviews with the French soldiers provides proof for the allegation. The argument is that the Bush administration needed Bin Ladin to be at large in order to justify its military expansionism. READ THE REST.
To End All War: Restoring America as a Champion of Peace and Law
By Mary Ellen O'Connell | Jurist
The First World War ended November 11, 1918. It was to be the end of the war to end all wars. But war did not end, and this country, the champion of the new peace order that followed World War I, is currently involved in the unlawful use of force in four countries. On this 90th anniversary of the end of World War I, America’s new president-elect will do the right thing by recommitting this country — if not to end all war - to end all unlawful war.
Pakistani officials told General David Petraeus on his recent visit to Pakistan to stop the lethal U.S. raids on their country. America has been carrying out attacks on Pakistani soil without Pakistan’s consent. The raids violate Pakistan’s sovereignty; they are a serious violation of Pakistan’s rights under international law, which no state interested in remaining independent can tolerate.