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Obama's Moment is Passing Quickly

By Dave Lindorff

The actions of Obama's Chief Financial Adviser Larry Summers and his Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in permitting the payment of $165 million in bonuses to AIG executives (Summers, according to the Wall Street Journal, actually pressed Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, to secretly remove a bar to the payment of such bonuses from the bailout bill) and storm of public outrage that has followed public disclosure of those payments, provides President Obama, whose administration is stumbling badly on many fronts, to turn things around and avoid political disaster.

He should promptly demand Geithner's and Summers' resignations, and should also fire the CEO of AIG, Edward Liddy (as 80% owner of AIG, the US has the power to do that anytime). It would also be a good idea at the same time to fire the CEOs of all the leading banks that are at this point surviving on government bailouts.

U.S. Civilians May Join Afghan Buildup

U.S. civilians may join Afghan buildup | UPI

Hundreds of U.S. civilians may be sent to Afghanistan in a program to support security, governance and local development, Obama administration officials said.

The new civilian diplomats and specialists from U.S. departments such as Agriculture and Justice, along with hundreds of "full-time, temporary" hires, would work at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the officials said.

Other civilians would be assigned to U.S. "provincial reconstruction teams" and to other efforts "to build Afghan civilian capacity around the country," The Washington Post (NYSE:WPO) reported.

The new civilian force would complement 17,000 new U.S. troops scheduled for deployment this year, bringing the total to about 55,000, administration and Pentagon officials said.

Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, Unknown Afghanistan

Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, Unknown Afghanistan | TomDispatch.com

The signals coming from the Obama administration as a "strategic review" of Afghan policy is nearing completion this week are, to say the least, confusing. While much new thinking on the Afghan War has been promised, early leaks about the review's proposals for the next "three to five years" largely seem to promise more of the same: a heightened CIA-run drone war in the Pakistani borderlands, more U.S. military and economic aid for Pakistan (and more strong-arming of the Pakistanis to support U.S. policy in the region), more training of and an expansion of the Afghan army, and of course more U.S. forces -- the president has already ordered 17,000 extra troops into the war.

Iraq Veterans Against the War Commence “OPERATION NOT CHANGE”

Iraq Veterans Against the War Commence “OPERATION NOT CHANGE” | Press Release

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans begin a tower-guard vigil across from the White House. The towers will be manned 24 hours a day March 19th
to March 21st, Saturday. (All are welcome to come speak to the vets on post and ask questions about their deployments.)

WHEN: 10:00 A.M. Thursday, March 19th

WHERE: Constitution Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets, North of the Washington Monument

WHY: To protest President Obama's deceptions about his foreign policy and mark the sixth year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Now and for the Long Run

Now and for the Long Run
By Sen. Fritz Hollings, Former South Carolina Senator | Huffington Post

The United States has always paid for its wars. For 200 years we paid for the Revolution, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, even LBJ's Great Society, and had yet to reach a national debt of $1 trillion -- until 1982. Now our government in the past eight years has borrowed, spent, and added to the national debt $5 trillion.

The Congressional Budget Office reported that in the first four years of the Bush term, deficits were caused by: 48% tax cuts, 37% wars, and 15% increased spending. We kept the government on steroids during the Bush years and household debt of $7 trillion joined the binge.

Who's Calling the Shots Now: The Death of American Empire

By Dave Lindorff

It may not be obvious today, and certainly it’s not how the corporate media reported it, but future historians are likely to look back at March 13, 2009 as the day that American imperialism began it’s inexorable decline. That’s the day that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced that his country was “worried” about its holdings of over $1 trillion in US treasury securities, and warned that he wanted the US to assure China that it would maintain its good credit and “honor its promises” and “maintain the safety of China’s assets.”

There is no way that the US can accommodate Premier Wen and still finance and operate a global military system with over 1000 overseas bases, massive aircraft carrier battle groups, and with hundreds of thousands of men and women armed to the teeth with the latest high-tech military hardware, not to mention fight endless wars on the far side of the globe.

Poll: More view Afghan war as 'mistake'

WASHINGTON — American support for the war in Afghanistan has ebbed to a new low, as attacks on U.S. troops and their allies have hit record levels and commanders are pleading for reinforcements, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows.

In the poll taken Saturday and Sunday, 42% of respondents said the United States made "a mistake" in sending military forces to Afghanistan, up from 30% in February. That's the highest mark since the poll first asked the question in November 2001 when the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban government that sheltered al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks.

In January 2002, 6% of respondents called the war "a mistake."

Those who said the war is going well dropped to 38% in the latest poll, the lowest percentage since that question was asked in September 2006.

Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, concerned about deteriorating security there, has asked for 30,000 additional U.S. troops. President Obama is sending 17,000 troops, but he has ordered a thorough review of the strategy before deciding to send any more. There are about 38,000 U.S. troops there now.

Attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) killed 32 coalition troops in the first two months of 2009, triple the number for the same period in 2008. Last year, there were 3,276 IED attacks, a 45% increase over 2007, and a record for the war. Insurgents killed four U.S. troops Sunday in Afghanistan with a roadside bomb.

John Nagl, a retired Army officer and president of the Center for a New American Security, said pessimism about Afghanistan stems from seven years of fighting and security trends continuing to point downward. Nagl said he agrees with McKiernan's strategy of using additional U.S. troops to improve security for the Afghan people, support their government and build their economy. Stabilizing neighboring Pakistan is also essential, he said.

Students and Youth Demand End to the Occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan on the 6th Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq

Press Conference with Student Organizers to Announce Actions for March 19th
Date: Wednesday March 18, 2009
Time: 11:00 am
Place: Meet at the Reflecting Pool in front of the U.S. Capitol, 3rd Street, Washington, D.C.

As the winds of change begin to rumble in DC, students and youth are still demanding an end to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. March 19th is the 6-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and the 1-month anniversary of the start of Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Our Spring Break are student run and initiated organizations that are fighting to end these occupations, refuse to let their peers continue to be cannon fodder for illegal occupations and will bring their message of a just foreign policy to the streets.

BUSH WAR CRIMES ARE JEOPARDIZING PUBLIC HEALTH IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ

By Sherwood Ross

As commander-in-chief of the military, former President George W. Bush was responsible for U.S. attacks on hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mistreatment of their personnel and patients, and the denial of medical supplies to them and to the general populations of those nations, an authority on war crimes says.

One of the most egregious of the Bush war crimes, the force-feeding of prisoners, is being continued by the Obama administration even though it is in violation of medical ethics and the first Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1977, the authority notes.

In a new book that compiles the war crimes committed by U.S. forces, “George W. Bush, War Criminal?”(Praeger), political scientist/author Michael Haas writes:

Plan to Split Taliban Lures Obama Deeper into War

By Gareth Porter, IPS

WASHINGTON, Mar 16 (IPS) - Advanced reports on the Barack Obama administration’s strategy to "peel off" a majority of insurgent commanders from the "hard core" of Taliban suggest that it will be presented as a political route to victory in Afghanistan that would not require U.S. and NATO troops to win militarily.

But experts warn that the strategy is unlikely to work. And by appearing to provide a political route to victory, the strategy is luring the administration into a renewed commitment to war in Afghanistan and diverting it away from a deal with the Taliban leadership aimed at keeping al Qaeda from having a presence there.

Omar Gives Signal, Afghan War Could Soon Be Over, Please Forward Jobs Solution to Congress

Direct link to pdf/Powerpoint presentation on Afghan Jobs Solution:
http://jobsforafghans.org/jobsforafghansa.pdf

By Ralph Lopez and Najim Dost. Dost is an Afghan citizen and recent graduate of the Kennedy School of Government.

In perhaps the most significant breakthrough since the overthrow of the Taliban, Taliban Chief Mullah Omar has given his approval for talks aimed ending the war in Afghanistan. A mediator for Saudi-sponsored peace negotiations, Abdullah Anas, said "A big, big step has happened. For the first time, there is a language of . . . peace on both sides."

The brother of the Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who has been attending talks on his behalf said,
"I have been meeting with Taliban for the last five days and I can tell you Obama's words have created enormous optimism. There is no other way left but talks. All sides know that more fighting is not the way."

Obama Afghan Plan Focuses on Pakistan Aid and Appeal to Militants

Obama Afghan Plan Focuses on Pakistan Aid and Appeal to Militants
By Helene Cooper and Thom Shanker | NYTimes

The emerging outlines of President Obama’s plan for Afghanistan include proposals to shift more American efforts toward problems in neighboring Pakistan and to seek some kind of political reconciliation with the vast majority of insurgents in the region, according to administration officials.

The plan reflects in part a conclusion within the administration that most of the insurgent foot soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are “reconcilable” and can be pried away from the hard-core organizations of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. At least 70 percent of the insurgents, and possibly more, can be encouraged to lay down their arms with the proper incentives, administration officials have said.

Gen. Petraeus: No Iraq-style Surge in Afghanistan

Gen. Petraeus: No Iraq-style surge in Afghanistan
By Pat Eaton-Robb | Washington Post

The commander of the U.S. Central Command said Friday that an Iraq-style surge cannot be a solution to the problems in Afghanistan.

Gen. David Petraeus, speaking before about 800 people at an event sponsored by the World Affairs Council, acknowledged that the situation in Afghanistan has been spiraling downward and is likely to get worse before it gets better.

In a speech that also touched on issues ranging from the nuclear threat in Iraq to pirates off Somalia, Petraeus said more resources are needed in Afghanistan, both military and especially civil to help build a stable government there.

What Are U.S. Goals in Afghanistan?

What are U.S. goals in Afghanistan
By Helen Thomas | Seattle PI

President Barack Obama is making a big mistake in escalating U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan where he already has acknowledged he doesn't believe victory is possible.

We should ask: What are we doing there seven years after the 9/11 attacks by the al-Qaida network? Historically, the country has lacked a strong central government and has been governed by locally strong tribal leaders and warlords.

Al-Qaida was able to take advantage of this loose structure and turn Afghanistan into the plotting ground for the terrorists who struck the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York.

But what are our goals there in 2009?

New York Times Editor Goofs And Lets This Appear on Their Website

LINK

Mr. Obama’s commitment to maintain perhaps 50,000 troops in Iraq after the drawdown of combat forces over the next 19 months, combined with his decision to send an additional 17,000 troops (for starters) to Afghanistan, could be the beginning of an unwanted debate about commitments abroad. If the country begins to see mounting costs in lives and money from the administration’s war policies, it risks distractions from the more urgent designs the president described in his campaign and recent messages to the Congress and the country.

How to Leave Afghanistan

How to Leave Afghanistan
By Leslie H. Gelb | NYTimes

Only if our troop levels hit 100,000 and fighting floods over into Taliban havens in Pakistan will Washington be likely to look hard at the alternative policy for Afghanistan — withdrawing most American forces and refocusing our power on containing, deterring and diplomatically encircling the terrorist threat. But by then it will be too late.

NYT Publishes Roadmap for Taliban Talks

If you're interested in a "way forward" in Afghanistan that's not built around killing a bunch of innocent people for no reason, then I strongly encourage you to read and absorb every word of Carlotta Gall's report in Wednesday's New York Times, "As U.S. Weighs Taliban Negotiations, Afghans Are Already Talking."

Some key points, based on conversations with Afghan officials and Western diplomats in Kabul:

- Far from being "pie in the sky," discussions with the Taliban leadership are already underway and could be developed into more formal talks with the support of the US. The ongoing talks were actually initiated by an overture from the Taliban: the Taliban leadership council first approached the government about peace talks last year.

Russian Advice: More Troops Won't Help in Afghanistan

Russian advice: More troops won't help in Afghanistan
By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers

The old diplomat sighed as he recalled his years in Afghanistan, and then leaned forward and said in a booming voice that no escalation of troops would bring lasting peace.

As the Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan from 1979 to 1986, Fikryat Tabeyev saw the numbers rise to more than 100,000 troops without any possibility of victory against a growing insurgency.

Can Congress Save Obama from Afghan Quagmire?

A progressive Presidency is a terrible thing to waste. It only comes around once every so often. Wouldn't it be a shame if Americans' hopes for the Obama Administration were squandered in Afghanistan?

Members of Congress who want the Obama Administration to succeed won't do it any favors by keeping silent about the proposed military escalation in Afghanistan. The actions of the Obama Administration so far clearly indicate that they can move in response to pressure: both good pressure and bad pressure. If there is only bad pressure, it's more than likely that policy will move in a bad direction. In announcing an increase in U.S. troops before his Afghanistan review was complete, Obama partially acceded to pressure from the military. If we don't want the military to have carte blanche, there needs to be counterpressure.

Intelligence Failures Crippling Fight Against Insurgents in Afghanistan, says Report

Leaked analysis condemns US for lack of co-operation • Senior officers' criticisms also cover Iraq campaign
By Peter Beaumont, The Guardian/UK

A highly critical analysis of the US-led coalition's counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan has raised serious questions about combat operations in both countries - and the intelligence underpinning them.

Based on scores of interviews with British, US, Canadian and Dutch military, intelligence and diplomatic officials - and marked for "official use only" - the book-length report is damning of a US military often unwilling to share intelligence among its military allies. It depicts commanders in the field being overwhelmed by information on hundreds of contradictory databases, and sometimes resistant to intelligence generated by its own agents in the CIA.

Top U.N. Official Accuses U.S. of Inhuman Atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan

H.E. MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY:

I urge the Council to focus on the profound problems that have been created by the massive violations human rights in Iraq. Even as the world absorbs the inhumanity of the recent invasion of Gaza, we see Iraq as a contemporary and ongoing example of how the illegal use of force leads inexorably to human suffering and disregard for human rights. It has set a number of precedents that we cannot allow to stand. The illegality of the use of force against Iraq cannot be doubted as its runs contrary to the prohibition of the use of force in article 2(4) of the UN Charter. All pretended justifications not withstanding, the aggressions against Iraq and Afghanistan and their occupations, constitute atrocities that must be condemned and repudiated by all who believe in the rule of law in international relations.

Tomgram: Karen Greenberg, The Missing Prison

Tomgram: Karen Greenberg, The Missing Prison | TomDispatch.com

Today is a good moment to give some thought to one of the worst remaining legacies of the Bush era, the prison where that administration's grotesque offshore detention policies -- the beatings, the torture, the works -- were first put into play, the prison that has yet to go away. And as Karen Greenberg, the Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law and the author of a striking new book, The Least Worst Place, Guantanamo's First 100 Days, points out, it's not, as you might expect, Guantanamo, but our grim prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

US Invites Iran to Join Afghan Talks

US invites Iran to join Afghan talks
By James Blitz, Daniel Dombey, & Guy Dinmore | FT.com

The Obama administration on Thursday marked a clear break with George W. Bush’s policy of isolating Iran by declaring its intention to invite the Islamic republic to an international conference on stabilising Afghanistan.

Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, announced in Brussels that Tehran was likely to be invited to a meeting that would bring together all “interested parties” on Afghanistan. Administration officials later confirmed Iran would be on the guest list.

Iran has already signalled its willingness to attend. A firm date for the conference has not been fixed. Italy, as holder of the G8 presidency this year, has proposed hosting such a conference in Trieste in June.

Rights Council Urged to Investigate Massive Violations in Iraq

(UN Human) Rights Council urged to investigate massive violations in Iraq | Relief Web

UN General Assembly President, Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann on Wednesday urged the Human Rights Council to investigate "massive human rights violations" in Iraq.

The Nicaraguan diplomat describes Iraq as "a contemporary and on-going example of how the illegal use of force leads inexorably to human suffering and disregard for human rights."

He says "it sets a number of precedents that we cannot allow to stand."

Rethink Afghanistan

Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films writes:

Watch the video

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Many of you reading this e-mail worked diligently to support President Obama and his call for change.

Obama and Holder Must Prosecute War Crimes or Become Guilty of Them Himself

By Dave Lindorff

The dithering and ducking going on in the Obama White House and the Holder Justice Department over the crimes of the Bush administration are taking on a comic aspect.

On the one hand, we have President Obama assuring us that under his administration, there will be respect for the rule of law, and on the other hand we have this one-time constitutional law professor and his attorney general declaiming that there is no need for the appointment of a prosecutor to bring charges against the people in the last administration, in the CIA, in the National Security Agency and in the Defense Department and the military who clearly have broken the law in serious and felonious ways.

What gets silly is that America is either a nation of laws…or it isn’t. It is either a place where “nobody is above the law”…or it isn’t.

There is really no middle ground here.

Many in Afghanistan Oppose Obama's Troop Buildup Plans

Many in Afghanistan oppose Obama's troop buildup plans
Frustration and fear is sparking opposition to plans that would nearly double the size of US forces there.
By Anand Gopal | CS Monitor | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

The lack of public support could provide fertile recruiting ground for the Taliban and hinder US operations..."They don't respect our tradition, culture, or religion."...locals saw two boys practicing their fledgling English with American soldiers who were passing by. The Taliban later executed the children, accusing them of being spies...."The fighting will be intense, and a lot of us villagers are talking about fleeing to Kabul. We are worried our families will be caught in the middle..."

Parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai says she has an innovative amendment to Washington's planned injection of up to 30,000 new troops here.

"Send us 30,000 scholars instead. Or 30,000 engineers. But don't send more troops – it will just bring more violence."

Shouldn't MoveOn Oppose Obama on Afghanistan?

By John Nichols, The Nation

MoveOn.org became a meaningful force in American politics when it emerged as a muscular network of activists that was willing to challenge not just Republicans but Democrats when they were wrong about foreign policy.

Democratic leaders in Congress might have been willing to compromise with the Bush administration on Iraq back in 2002. But MoveOn said "no."

And MoveOn was right.

Now, more than ever, we need MoveOn to remain true to its historic mission.

We need MoveOn to be right about Afghanistan.

For that reason, I certainly hope that Justin Ruben, the new MoveOn executive director, was wrong when he told my colleague Ari Melber that he did not think the group would be letting President Obama know he is wrong to be surging more U.S. troops into Afghanistan.

Here's what Ruben said about MoveOn's agenda for the coming months:

Speaking Events

2015

April 25 Houston

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May 30 NYC here and here

August 27, Chicago

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