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Lindsey Graham Joins Newt Gingrich, Cal Thomas, and the Rest of Us in Saying: Get Out of Afghanistan
Obama's detention policies led Karzai to demand prisoners all be handed over which led Graham to say this. Illegal imprisonment ends an illegal war?
From Foreign Policy:
If Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai doesn't change his tune fast on two key U.S. demands, the U.S. military should just pack up and go home and leave Afghanistan for good, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said today.
Graham, who has been one of the strongest congressional supporters for continuing the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan beyond 2014, said today that unless Karzai relents on his demands that the United States immediately hand over control of Afghan prisoners and end night raids against insurgents, there is no way the U.S. can achieve its objectives in Afghanistan and therefore should just end its involvement there.
"If the president of the country can't understand how irrational it is to expect us to turn over prisoners and if he doesn't understand that the night raids have been the biggest blow to the Taliban ... then there is no hope of winning. None," Graham said in the hallways of the Capitol Building just before entering the GOP caucus lunch.
"So if he insists that all the prisoners have to be turned over by March 9 and that we have to stop night raids, that means we will fail in Afghanistan and that means Lindsey Graham pulls the plug. It means that I no longer believe we can win and we might as well get out of there sooner rather than later."
Graham acknowledged that those two issues were crucial in ongoing negotiations over a U.S.-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement, which would provide the legal basis for the ongoing presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of 2014, the deadline President Barack Obama has set for transferring full control of the country back to the Afghans.
"I am going to pull the plug on Afghanistan from a personal point of view if we don't get this strategic partnership signed," Graham said. "Karzai's insistence that all detainees we have in our custody be turned over by Friday to an Afghan system that will let guys walk right out the door and start killing Americans again is a non-starter."
Graham, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations' State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, visited Kabul and met with Karzai late last month. Today he said he supports a U.S.-Afghanistan agreement for a post-2014 presence of about 20,000 U.S. troops, with three or four U.S. airbases and coordination in the military, political, and economic spheres.
"But I'm not going to support signing that agreement if Karzai insists that we end night raids, which are the biggest blow available to our forces against the enemy," he said. "If he requires that we end night raids, we'll have no hope of being successful."
Regarding the prisoners, Graham said that any follow-on U.S. force would be put at risk if U.S.-held prisoners, currently numbering over 3,000, were placed under Afghan control.
"I cannot go back home to South Carolina and tell a mother, ‘I'm sorry your son or daughter was killed today by a guy we had in custody but let go for no good reason.' We want Afghan sovereignty over prisoners but they're not there yet," he said. "That's not good governance. That hurts the Afghan villagers that have been preyed on by these people and it sure as hell puts our people at risk. I want an agreement but not at all costs."
By John Grant
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (or AIPAC) is having its three-day annual meeting in Washington DC beginning Sunday March 4th. AIPAC is arriving in an atmosphere of beating war drums and rattling sabers against Iran.
Israel preemptively starting a war with Iran would be bad enough, but the assumption that the United States will be part of that war should be very disturbing to Americans -- who are just getting over one misguided, costly war in Iraq and are still involved in another in Afghanistan.
A dubious, costly effort to win hearts, minds
WASHINGTON — As the Pentagon has sought to sell wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to often-hostile populations there, it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on poorly tracked marketing and propaganda campaigns that military leaders like to call “information operations,” the modern equivalent of psychological warfare.
From 2005 to 2009, such spending rose from $9 million to $580 million a year mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pentagon and congressional records show. Last year, spending dropped to $202 million as the Iraq War wrapped up. A USA Today investigation, based on dozens of interviews and a series of internal military reports, shows that Pentagon officials have little proof the programs work and they won’t make public where the money goes. In Iraq alone, more than $173 million was paid to what were identified only as “miscellaneous foreign contractors.”
By Kathy Kelly with research by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers
Fazillah, age 25, lives in Maidan Shar, the central city of Afghanistan’s Wardak province. She married about six years ago, and gave birth to a son, Aymal, who just turned five without a father. Fazillah tells her son, Aymal, that his father was killed by an American bomber plane, remote-controlled by computer.
That July, in 2007, Aymal’s father was sitting in a garden with four other men. A weaponized drone, what we used to call an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, was flying, unseen, overhead, and fired missiles into the garden, killing all five men.
As the US continues to strenuously ignore and underfund the only development program in the country which works cheaply and effectively, the Afghan National Solidarity Program (NSP,) which is at arm's length from the Karzai government and which gets management help from the World Bank, and as it has instead wasted around $15 billion since 2001 on showcase projects that Afghans never asked for, using Washington-connected American contractors who take 40% or more in profit before the work ever begins, child malnutrition has edged up in the country from 54% in 2005 according to the World Bank to 60% according to Save the Children in a recent NBC News report. The grim statistic follows the recent freezing deaths of dozens of children under age five from the bitter cold in the squalid refugee camps in and around Kabul, the most secure area in the country.
By Dave Lindorff
I just received an object lesson into how easily we Americans are able to compartmentalize our principles and our sense of basic human decency.
My father, David Lindorff Sr., who is 89 (and an occasional contributor to ThisCantBeHappening!), recently took a bad fall, hitting the back of his head on the bedpost and suffering a concussion that has temporarily left him with some periods of confusion. In the rehab facility where he was recovering, he would sometimes, when he was tired and half-asleep, get confused about his location, and would try to climb out of the hospital bed he was in, putting him at risk of another serious fall.
Koran Burning: Dehumanizing Muslims
by Stephen Lendman
Despite constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom, America consistently violates fundamental rights, including respecting all faiths equally.
Even a broken radioactive timebomb is right twice a day.
"And, candidly, if Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, doesn't feel like apologizing then we should say good bye and good luck, we don't need to be here risking our lives and wasting our money on somebody who doesn't care."
Now, this was preceded by the declaration that one must not apologize for burning Korans. And Newt's point is not that the military should be cut or the bombs stop falling on foreign nations.
But he does have a point, and it is the right one: Nothing is being accomplished on the terms of the warmakers themselves by staying in Afghanistan another minute. Nothing ever was. Nothing ever will be. Karzai cannot support night raids, bombs, helicopters shooting children, Nazi flags, urination on corpses, or burning Korans. He cannot and he will not and he should not.
If you're going to get out, and you're just wasting more blood and treasure first, then get the hell out. Even if Newt Gingrich agrees with you.
Everyone knows a bit about the failed U.S. efforts in Afghanistan to win the hearts and minds of the people and to install a stable government, but in historian/journalist Doug Wissing's upcoming book, “Funding the Enemy: How U.S, Taxpayers Fund the Taliban” the stark details are laid bare. Wissing spent months in country with U.S. soldiers, conducted hundreds of interviews, and his conclusions are revelatory and scandalous.
By John Grant
The United States is finding the occupation of other nations more and more challenging. Consider the burning of Korans in Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the bombing deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers and a host of other recent disasters. Economic challenges at home only add to the difficulty.
In such a frustrating quandary, Washington and Pentagon leaders are falling back on what they feel the US does best: Secret killing.
RALEIGH, NC -- In an odd political bedfellows moment, three North Carolina congressmen - two progressive Democrats and one religious-right Republican - joined forces Monday to urge the Obama administration to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
At an anti-war town hall meeting in the Legislative Building, Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones and Democratic U.S. Reps.David Price and Brad Miller sought to keep the pressure on the administration to end the American combat operations by the middle of 2013.
"Our concern is that too many times, administrations will say that the date for coming home is a year from now, 18 months from now, 24 months from now, and we the American people just accept it," Jones told 150 people in the legislative auditorium.
"Bull," Jones said. "You can't trust any of them. I'm talking about both parties."
By Gareth Porter and Shah Nouri, IPS
WASHINGTON/KABUL, Feb 20, 2012 (IPS) - Nearly a year after the Barack Obama administration began negotiations with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, both sides confirmed last week that the talks are still hung up over the Afghan demand that night raids by U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) either be ended or put under Afghan control.
Karzai has proposed the latter option, with Afghan forces carrying out most of the raids, but the U.S. military has rejected that possibility, according to sources at the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.
Karzai's persistence in pressing that demand reflects the widespread popular anger at night raids, which means that Karzai cannot give in to the U.S. insistence on continuing them without handing the Taliban a big advantage in the political-military maneuvering that will continue during peace talks.
The dilemma for both the United States and Karzai is that the United States has been planning to leave SOF units and U.S. airpower – the two intensely unpopular elements of U.S.-NATO presence in the country – as the only combat forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
A little known aspect of World War II history is that immediately after the end of major hostilities, as Europe lay in ruins, millions of Germans in Ally-occupied Germany and people in other Axis nations descended into a spiral of humanitarian crisis, and faced the specter of mass starvation as Allies bickered over the spoils of war. After a particularly harsh winter in 1946 - 1947, Assistant Secretary of State William Clayton reported to Washington that "millions of people are slowly starving." With the infrastructure ruined, and with a shortage of coal, many Germans froze to death.
By the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers
The people of the world are questioning the lazy and fearful presumption
that a few human beings are better than the vast majority;
why should the 1% unjustly hoard
unequal Wealth, Power and Privilege?
The people of the world are awakening each morning, deciding,
“We breathe the air, eat our bread,
work and sleep in the same way,
so enough of the nauseating selfishness
that dictates the captivity of millions at the commands of a few.”
It is an awakening of our souls.
We are breaking free!
We have a voice.
If a war was being waged in the U.S. we would expect Americans to demand an end to the war and to have a say as to how it should end.
Likewise, the people of Afghanistan want to have a say in the negotiations to end the Afghan war.
After all, in 2011, a record number of 3021 Afghan civilians lost their lives. Afghans who risk losing their lives should have a say in the negotiations, ironically engineered by the very players who are killing them ( the UN reported that ‘anti-government elements’ - the Taliban and other insurgent groups - were responsible for 77 per cent of conflict-related deaths in 2011, while 14 per cent were caused by ‘pro-government forces’ - Afghan, U.S. and international security forces ).
But, fatally, the 30 million people of Afghanistan have no say in these negotiations. They are not represented at the negotiation table.
The Powers have left them out, as is the routine, like the token civil society presence at the Bonn II Conference.
But in 2011, we witnessed the Protester Time Magazine Person of the Year questioning and changing the inequitable status quo, and wanting to be at the negotiation tables.
This awakening on the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Greece, Spain, Chile, Mexico and Wall Street is conscientious, and contagious.
The citizens of the world are now saying together, “We have a voice!” By far, they are non-violent protesters who are risking imprisonment and death for freedom from unsustainable socio-economic inequities, thus demonstrating that they are not the ‘savage’ 99% who must be disciplined and controlled by the ‘virtuous’ 1%.
That’s why ordinary Afghans like the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers are rooting for the ordinary Egyptian’s clear stand against military rule.
The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers trust in the small, determined, truthful conversations they have through the Global Days of Listening program, Skype-to-cell phone conferences through which they have spoken to ordinary people from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Australia, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Germany, Italy, South Sudan, South Africa, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, France, Mexico, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, India, and others.
So, who says ordinary Afghans can’t converse decently or negotiate for genuinely peaceful relations?
We see this work of deliberate listening as our conscience, our resistance, our statement, our solidarity, our shared pain, and our participation in a global awakening to ‘Occupy!’. Through this action of listening to ordinary people, we call the world to ‘Occupy the Afghan Airwaves!”
In one of these conversations 2 months ago, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers spoke with Miss S., a young Egyptian activist. Miss S said, “Sorry we ‘forgot’ about Afghans in the busy-ness of our revolution. Like you, even till the day before the Egyptian revolution, I never thought that the day would arrive when ordinary Egyptians can overcome their utter hopelessness to stand together. But, our human hopelessness is also your human hopelessness, so we should stand with you! We face the same, root problems. ”
We won’t know what 30 million ordinary Afghans want until we ask them
For UK: Locations Open for Donations of Blankets and Warm Baby Clothes for Afghans, Following Child Freezing Deaths
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TELEPHONE: +44(0) 7 814399 646
EMAIL: info AT britishafghanwomen.org
OR RALPH LOPEZ
TELEPHONE: 617-412-9438 (USA)
EMAIL: ralphlopez AT hotmail.com
MARCH 19, 2012
After a deadlier than usual Afghan winter for young children in which at least 40 children under age 5 have frozen to death, more than half of those in and around Kabul, the British Afghan Women's Society is ready to launch an air cargo of warm baby clothes, baby formula, and other items which is the result of an outpouring of sympathy by Britons and people around the world. Londoners and others have responded overwhelmingly to calls for donations of such items last month, after it was reported in the media that many babies had frozen to death.
By John Grant
I could have been a vicious raving monster who killed and killed and left towers of rotting flesh in my wake. Instead, here I was on the side of truth, justice and the American way. Still a monster, of course, but I cleaned up nicely afterward, and I was OUR monster, dressed in red, white and blue 100 percent synthetic virtue.
Dearly Devoted Dexter
I teach creative writing in a maximum security prison in Philadelphia. During the week I scour two thrift shops for 35-cent paperbacks that I haul in to stock a small lending library I created for inmates. Amazingly, the prison had no library.
Do not outsource the war in Afghanistan - end the war!
From: The Honorable Barbara Lee
Did you know that more military contractors died in Afghanistan last year than U.S. soldiers?
I urge you to read the New York Times article from this past Saturday detailing the privatization of the war in Afghanistan. The switch over to private contractors over military professionals raises serious concerns about Congress’ role in overseeing the war effort.
By Dave Lindorff
The attacks and attempted attacks this week on Israeli embassy personnel in Georgia, India and Thailand should serve as a serious warning to the people of both Israel and the US that there will be an increasingly heavy price to pay for the kind of government-sponsored terror that both countries have long practiced, and that too many Americans and Israelis have mindlessly cheered on.
The technology of terror has become so wide-spread, and the materials needed to construct magnetically-attached car bombs, cell-phone detonators, armor-piercing IEDs, diesel/fertilizer bombs and the like, so accessable at consumer shops, hardware stores and local junkyards, that any government, and even any relatively savvy non-government group, can assemble and employ them.
US Military Leadership Says "Zero Tolerance for Murder, Assault and Hazing," But Marine Corps Courts Rule Differently
By Colonel Ann Wright, US Army Reserves (Retired)
Despite US military leadership stating there is zero tolerance for murder, assault and hazing, recent Marine Corps court-martial plea bargains and court-martial panel decisions in manslaughter and assault trials indicate strong institutional “tolerance” for those crimes.
None of 8 Marines Charged in the notorious 2005 Haditha Murder of 24 Unarmed Civilian Iraqis is Convicted
Six years after a horrific attack in 2005 on unarmed Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha, Iraq, in which 24 persons, including seven children, a toddler, three women and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, were killed by US Marines in retaliation for an IED blowing up a Marine vehicle in which one Marine died, no Marines have been found guilty of murder or manslaughter.
On January 24, 2012, the last of 8 Marines accused in the murder of 12 of the 24 unarmed civilian Iraqis, had nine counts of manslaughter dropped for a plea of guilty to a single count of negligent dereliction of duty. Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich admitted to the court that he had told his squad to “shoot first, ask questions later.”
Of the seven other Marines charged for the deaths of the civilians, one Marine was acquitted and the six others in his squad had their cases dropped by Marine prosecutors in exchange for their cooperation and testimony against the other two Marines.
However, when Wuterich’s case finally came to trial, the prosecution agreed to a plea bargain after Wuterich’s squad members began giving contradictory testimony to what they told investigators during the initial investigation six years before. The changed testimony precipitated the prosecution’s plea deal for Wuterich for the Haditha murders.
Lt. Col. Joseph Kloppel, a Marine Corps spokesman, said the plea deal was the result of mutual negotiations and does not reflect how the case was going for the prosecution. He said the government investigated and prosecuted the case as it should have.
After the Marine prosecutors’ decision to offer Wuterich a plea bargain and dropped the nine manslaughter charges, military judge, Lt. Col. David Jones, recommended a maximum sentence of three months for Wuterich. Jones said, “It’s for difficult the court to fathom negligent dereliction of duty worse than the facts of this case.” However, after seeing the prosecution and defense terms of agreement for the plea bargain, Jones said that the deal agreed to by the prosecution prevented any jail time for Wuterich.
Jones recommended that Wuterich be reduced in rank to Private, which would have docked his pay, but he decided not apply this punishment as Wuterich is a divorced father with the sole custody of three children.
Wuterich read a statement apologizing to the families of the victims stating that he never fired on or intended to harm innocent women and children, but that his plea should not be seen as a statement that he believed his squad had dishonored their country.
Outrage and Anger in Iraq for No Marines Held Accountable for Murder of 24 Unarmed Civilians
As a reminder of the protest and outrage in Iraq with the plea bargain to drop nine manslaughter counts for the Marine brought to a court martial in the deaths of 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha six years ago, these are the names of the unarmed children, women and men killed by the Marines in the village of Haditha:
House #1—7 killed, 2 injured (but survived), 2 escaped
1. Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali, 76—grandfather, father and husband. Died with nine rounds in the chest and abdomen.
2. Khamisa Tuma Ali, 66—wife of Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali
3. Rashid Abdul Hamid, 30.
4. Walid Abdul Hamid Hassan, 35.
5. Jahid Abdul Hamid Hassan, middle-aged man.
6. Asma Salman Rasif, 32.
7. Abdullah Walid, 4.
Injured: Iman, 8, and Abdul Rahman, 5.
Escaped: Daughter-in-law, Hiba, escaped with 2-month-old Asia
House #2—8 killed, 1 survivor: Shot at close range and attacked with grenades
8. Younis Salim Khafif, 43—husband of Aida Yasin Ahmed, father.
9. Aida Yasin Ahmed, 41—wife of Younis Salim Khafif, killed trying to shield her youngest daughter Aisha.
10. Muhammad Younis Salim, 8—son.
11. Noor Younis Salim, 14—daughter.
12. Sabaa Younis Salim, 10—daughter.
13. Zainab Younis Salim, 5—daughter.
14. Aisha Younis Salim, 3—daughter.
15. A 1-year-old girl staying with the family.
Survived: Safa Younis Salim, 13.
House #3—4 brothers killed
16. Jamal Ahmed, 41.
17. Marwan Ahmed, 28.
18. Qahtan Ahmed, 24.
19. Chasib Ahmed, 27.
Taxi—5 killed: Passengers were students at the Technical Institute in Saqlawiyah
20. Ahmed Khidher, taxi driver.
21. Akram Hamid Flayeh.
22. Khalid Ayada al-Zawi.
23. Wajdi Ayada al-Zawi.
24. Mohammed Battal Mahmoud.
Consistency in Military "Justice" -- No Punishment for Massacres
The Haditha murders and the results of the court-martials of those accused of conducting the murders have been compared to the My Lai massacre of the Vietnam War. On March 16, 1968, somewhere between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians were murdered in the village called My Lai by soldiers of “Charlie” Company of the US Army’s Americal Division. Most of the victims were women, children (including babies), and elderly people. Some of the bodies were later found to be mutilated. 26 US soldiers were initially charged with criminal offenses, but only Second Lieutenant William Calley, a platoon leader in Charlie Company, was convicted. Calley was found guilty of killing 22 villagers and was originally given a life sentence, but he received a sentence of three and a half years, not in prison, but under house arrest on a military base.
Marine Assaults lead to Suicide
In the past two weeks at the US Marine Base in Kaneohe, Hawaii, the two of three Marines assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment have been court-martialed for their part in assault of a fellow Marine Lance Corporal Harry Lew who ended up committing suicide in Afghanistan 20 minutes after the assault. Lance Corporal Jacob Jacoby, 21, pleaded guilty to three charges of assault on Lew including kicking Lew in the head and back and punching Lew on his helmet for 3 and ½ hours.
In plea bargain, Benjamin was allowed to plea bargain for 30 days confinement and a reduction in rank to private first class and the Marine prosecutor agreed to drop the remaining two charges of wrongfully abusing, humiliating, demeaning and threatening Lew.
The court martial judge, US Navy Captain Carrie Stephens, said that there was “no evidence that there was a direct link between the assault on Lew and his suicide” that occurred 20 minutes later. The judge did not honor the prosecution’s request for a bad conduct discharge and instead reduced Jacoby in rank to Private First Class and allowed him to stay in the Marine Corps.
Lew committed suicide on April 3, 2011, after he was assaulted by the three Marines because he had fallen asleep for the fourth time in less than two weeks while on sentry duty. Besides being beaten up, Lew had been ordered to do push-ups and leg lifts with a sandbag. The accused had poured sand into his Lew’s face and had put their boots in his back.
Lew had been ordered to dig a foxhole as further punishment and while crouched in the foxhole, he put his weapon in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Congresswoman Calls Verdict a "Slap in the Face of a Young Man Who Wanted to Serve His Country"
Lew’s aunt, US Congresswoman Judy Chu, called the verdict “a slap in the face to the life of a young man who only wanted to serve his country.” Chu said the 30 day sentence for one of the assailants sends the message that “hazing will continue unabated. There has to be reform. There has to be actual enforcement instead of looking the other way.” Chu attended the January 30, 2012 court-martial at Kaneohe Marine Base, Hawaii.
Second Marine charged in Lew’s assault found not guilty
On February 10, 2012, Sergeant Benjamin Johns, the second Marine charged in the assault that led to Lew’s suicide, was found not guilty of “violating a lawful order by wrongfully humiliating and demeaning” Lew. Prosecutors alleged that Johns “hazed: Lew by ordering him to dig a foxhole as punishment for falling asleep on guard duty at their patrol base in Afghanistan. They also charged Johns with failure to intervene when another Marine, Lance Corporal Carlos Orozco, punished Lew by making him carry a sandbag around the base.
Court-martial jurors were not told of Lew’s suicide. The military presiding judge Marine Colonel Michael Richardson ruled that there was no evidence to prove that Lew killed himself because of how he was treated. Jurors were told only that Lew had died.
The court-martial of the third Marine to be tried in Lew’s “hazing” assault is still pending. Lance Corporal Carlos Orozco allegedly put his foot on Lew’s back, ordered Lew to do push-ups and side planks and poured sand into Lew’s face. He is charged with assault, humiliating Lew and cruelty and maltreatment.
Another Asian-American soldier commits suicide after assaults
In another case of assault and hazing of an Asian-American, 8 US Army soldiers have been charged in the death 19 year old Private Danny Chen, who shot himself in Afghanistan on October 3, 2011 after weeks of physical abuse, humiliation and racial slurs. The soldiers, including one First Lieutenant, face charges ranging from ranging from dereliction of duty, assault, negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter in Chen’s death. The eight soldiers are assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
It is ironic that two Asian American service members have committed suicide in units that are based in Hawaii, the state that has probably the greatest proportion of Asian Americans in the United States.
Congresswoman Chu calls for Congressional hearings on assaults and suicides
Upon her return to Washington, DC from the court-martial in Hawaii of her nephew’s assailants, Congresswoman Chu sent a letter to the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee requesting a hearing on assaults on military members by fellow military members. Rep. Adam Smith, the minority head of the Armed Services committee, said that the issue is a “cultural problem within the military, and it needs to be examined.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says assaults are “isolated”
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, condemned “hazing” as intolerable in the military stating it “undermines the service’s values, tarnishes its reputation and erodes the trust that bonds us.” He added that the assault and hazing incidents appear to be “isolated.”
8 Sailors Thrown out of the Navy for “Hazing” Assault of fellow sailor
However, despite what the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff said, assaults and hazing in the military are not isolated. But, in contrast to the Marine protection of those who assault and haze, on February 4, 2012, the US Navy announced that it had thrown out of the Navy, eight sailors identified in a hazing incident aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard. The Navy quickly acted on the criminal incident and punished the eight sailors with general discharges from the Navy after they choked and punched another sailor during a “hazing” incident. The injured sailor sought medical attention from the ship's doctor.
The ship's captain investigated the hazing "initiation" after the ship’s doctor reported the sailor’s injuries. The eight assailants were discharged under the Navy's zero-tolerance hazing policy. "Pretty cut and dry," from the Navy's perspective, according to the senior U.S. Navy official. "When an incident like this happens, it's got to be taken care of," McKinney said. "It goes contrary to our core values."
Marines Urinating on Dead Taliban and Marine Unit Creates SS Flags
US Marine culture and environment has come under additional scrutiny due to a video of Marines urinating on dead Taliban and a unit posing with a flag with a Nazi SS logo.
In January, 2012, a video surfaced of 4 Marines from a sniper team assigned to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the video “utterly deplorable” and promised a full investigation.
“This conduct is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military and does not reflect the standards or values our armed forces are sworn to uphold,” he said. “Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent.”
The Marine Corps is investigating the video.
In another incident in Afghanistan coming into public view in February, 2012, a Marine sniper unit posted to its blog in September, 2010, a photo of members of the unit posing in front of a flag with a logo resembling a logo resembling that of the Nazi SS. The Marines who posed the photo are no longer with the unit. A Marine spokesperson said that the use of the SS symbol is not acceptable and that the Marine Corps had addressed the issue, but did not specify what action has been taken.
About the Author: Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army and Army Reserve and retired as a Colonel. She is also a former US diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War.
We Just Killed a Bunch More Afghan Children, But at Least It Cost Us Billions and We Lost Our Civil Liberties
NATO-led forces in Afghanistan said on Monday they found the bodies of dead children after a coalition air strike that has enraged the Afghan government, and said their deaths may have been linked to an anti-insurgent operation in the area.
The air strike took place last Wednesday near the village of Giawa, in eastern Kapisa province, and followed similar bombings that have stoked tension between the government and NATO over a civilian death toll that has risen annually for five years.
NATO aircraft and ground forces attacked insurgents on open ground in the Najrab district of Kapisa, said Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for NATO's 130,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
"Following the engagement additional casualties were discovered and these casualties were young Afghans of varying ages," Jacobson told reporters.
"At this point in our assessment we can neither confirm nor deny, with reasonable assurance, a direct link to the engagement. Nonetheless, any death of innocents not associated with armed conflict is a tragedy," he said.
Afghan government officials showed gruesome photographs of eight dead boys, and said seven of them had been aged between six and 14, while one had been around 18 years old. They were bombed twice while herding sheep in heavy snow and lighting a fire to keep warm, they said.
"Where were the rights for these children who have been violated? Did they have rights or not? Did they have rights to live as part of the world community?" said Mohammad Tahir Safi, a member of parliament sent by President Hamid Karzai to investigate the air strike.
450 Bases and It’s Not Over Yet
By Nick Turse, Tom Dispatch
In late December, the lot was just a big blank: a few burgundy metal shipping containers sitting in an expanse of crushed eggshell-colored gravel inside a razor-wire-topped fence. The American military in Afghanistan doesn’t want to talk about it, but one day soon, it will be a new hub for the American drone war in the Greater Middle East.
Next year, that empty lot will be a two-story concrete intelligence facility for America’s drone war, brightly lit and filled with powerful computers kept in climate-controlled comfort in a country where most of the population has no access to electricity. It will boast almost 7,000 square feet of offices, briefing and conference rooms, and a large “processing, exploitation, and dissemination” operations center -- and, of course, it will be built with American tax dollars.
Nor is it an anomaly. Despite all the talk of drawdowns and withdrawals, there has been a years-long building boom in Afghanistan that shows little sign of abating. In early 2010, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had nearly 400 bases in Afghanistan. Today, Lieutenant Lauren Rago of ISAF public affairs tells TomDispatch, the number tops 450.
The hush-hush, high-tech, super-secure facility at the massive air base in Kandahar is just one of many building projects the U.S. military currently has planned or underway in Afghanistan. While some U.S. bases are indeed closing up shop or being transferred to the Afghan government, and there’s talk of combat operations slowing or ending next year, as well as a withdrawal of American combat forces from Afghanistan by 2014, the U.S. military is still preparing for a much longer haul at mega-bases like Kandahar and Bagram airfields. The same is true even of some smaller camps, forward operating bases (FOBs), and combat outposts (COPs) scattered through the country’s backlands. “Bagram is going through a significant transition during the next year to two years,” Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Gerdes of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Bagram Office recently told Freedom Builder, a Corps of Engineers publication. “We’re transitioning... into a long-term, five-year, 10-year vision for the base.”
Whether the U.S. military will still be in Afghanistan in five or 10 years remains to be seen, but steps are currently being taken to make that possible. U.S. military publications, plans and schematics, contracting documents, and other official data examined by TomDispatch catalog hundreds of construction projects worth billions of dollars slated to begin, continue, or conclude in 2012.
While many of these efforts are geared toward structures for Afghan forces or civilian institutions, a considerable number involve U.S. facilities, some of the most significant being dedicated to the ascendant forms of American warfare: drone operations and missions by elite special operations units. The available plans for most of these projects suggest durability. “The structures that are going in are concrete and mortar, rather than plywood and tent skins,” says Gerdes. As of last December, his office was involved in 30 Afghan construction projects for U.S. or international coalition partners worth almost $427 million.
The Big Base Build-Up
Recently, the New York Times reported that President Obama is likely to approve a plan to shift much of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan to special operations forces. These elite troops would then conduct kill/capture missions and train local troops well beyond 2014. Recent building efforts in the country bear this out.
A major project at Bagram Air Base, for instance, involves the construction of a special operations forces complex, a clandestine base within a base that will afford America’s black ops troops secrecy and near-absolute autonomy from other U.S. and coalition forces. Begun in 2010, the $29 million project is slated to be completed this May and join roughly 90 locations around the country where troops from Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan have been stationed.
Elsewhere on Bagram, tens of millions of dollars are being spent on projects that are less sexy but no less integral to the war effort, like paving dirt roads and upgrading drainage systems on the mega-base. In January, the U.S. military awarded a $7 million contract to a Turkish construction company to build a 24,000-square-foot command-and-control facility. Plans are also in the works for a new operations center to support tactical fighter jet missions, a new flight-line fire station, as well as more lighting and other improvements to support the American air war.
Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered that the U.S.-run prison at Bagram be transferred to Afghan control. By the end of January, the U.S. had issued a $36 million contract for the construction, within a year, of a new prison on the base. While details are sparse, plans for the detention center indicate a thoroughly modern, high-security facility complete with guard towers, advanced surveillance systems, administrative facilities, and the capacity to house about 2,000 prisoners.
At Kandahar Air Field, that new intelligence facility for the drone war will be joined by a similarly-sized structure devoted to administrative operations and maintenance tasks associated with robotic aerial missions. It will be able to accommodate as many as 180 personnel at a time. With an estimated combined price tag of up to $5 million, both buildings will be integral to Air Force and possibly CIA operations involving both the MQ-1 Predator drone and its more advanced and more heavily-armed progeny, the MQ-9 Reaper.
The military is keeping information about these drone facilities under extraordinarily tight wraps. They refused to answer questions about whether, for instance, the construction of these new centers for robotic warfare are in any way related to the loss of Shamsi Air Base in neighboring Pakistan as a drone operations center, or if they signal efforts to increase the tempo of drone missions in the years ahead. The International Joint Command’s chief of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations, aware that such questions were to be posed, backed out of a planned interview with TomDispatch.
“Unfortunately our ISR chief here in the International Joint Command is going to be unable to address your questions,” Lieutenant Ryan Welsh of ISAF Joint Command Media Outreach explained by email just days before the scheduled interview. He also made it clear that any question involving drone operations in Pakistan was off limits. “The issues that you raise are outside the scope under which the IJC operates, therefore we are unable to facilitate this interview request.”
Whether the construction at Kandahar is designed to free up facilities elsewhere for CIA drone operations across the border in Pakistan or is related only to missions within Afghanistan, it strongly suggests a ramping up of unmanned operations. It is, however, just one facet of the ongoing construction at the air field. This month, a $26 million project to build 11 new structures devoted to tactical vehicle maintenance at Kandahar is scheduled for completion. With two large buildings for upkeep and repairs, one devoted strictly to fixing tires, another to painting vehicles, as well as an industrial-sized car wash, and administrative and storage facilities, the big base’s building boom shows no sign of flickering out.
Construction and Reconstruction
This year, at Herat Air Base in the province of the same name bordering Turkmenistan and Iran, the U.S. is slated to begin a multimillion-dollar project to enhance its special forces’ air operations. Plans are in the works to expand apron space -- where aircraft can be parked, serviced, and loaded or unloaded -- for helicopters and airplanes, as well as to build new taxiways and aircraft shelters.
That project is just one of nearly 130, cumulatively valued at about $1.5 billion, slated to be carried out in Herat, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces this year, according to Army Corps of Engineers documents examined by TomDispatch. These also include efforts at Camp Tombstone and Camp Dwyer, both in Helmand Province as well as Kandahar’s FOB Hadrian and FOB Wilson. The U.S. military also recently awarded a contract for more air field apron space at a base in Kunduz, a new secure entrance and new roads for FOB Delaram II, and new utilities and roads at FOB Shank, while the Marines recently built a new chapel at Camp Bastion.
Seven years ago, Forward Operating Base Sweeney, located a mile up in a mountain range in Zabul Province, was a well-outfitted, if remote, American base. After U.S. troops abandoned it, however, the base fell into disrepair. Last month, American troops returned in force and began rebuilding the outpost, constructing everything from new troop housing to a new storage facility. “We built a lot of buildings, we put up a lot of tents, we filled a lot of sandbags, and we increased our force protection significantly,” Captain Joe Mickley, commanding officer of the soldiers taking up residence at the base, told a military reporter.
Decommission and Deconstruction
Hesco barriers are, in essence, big bags of dirt. Up to seven feet tall, made of canvas and heavy gauge wire mesh, they form protective walls around U.S. outposts all over Afghanistan. They’ll take the worst of sniper rounds, rifle-propelled grenades, even mortar shells, but one thing can absolutely wreck them -- the Marines’ 9th Engineer Support Battalion.
At the beginning of December, the 9th Engineers were building bases and filling up Hescos in Helmand Province. By the end of the month, they were tearing others down.
Wielding pickaxes, shovels, bolt-cutters, powerful rescue saws, and front-end loaders, they have begun “demilitarizing” bases, cutting countless Hescos -- which cost $700 or more a pop -- into heaps of jagged scrap metal and bulldozing berms in advance of the announced American withdrawal from Afghanistan. At Firebase Saenz, for example, Marines were bathed in a sea of crimson sparks as they sawed their way through the metal mesh and let the dirt spill out, leaving a country already haunted by the ghosts of British and Russian bases with yet another defunct foreign outpost. After Saenz, it was on to another patrol base slated for destruction.
Not all rural outposts are being torn down, however. Some are being handed over to the Afghan Army or police. And new facilities are now being built for the indigenous forces at an increasing rate. “If current projections remain accurate, we will award 18 contracts in February,” Bonnie Perry, the head of contracting for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Afghanistan Engineering District-South, told military reporter Karla Marshall. “Next quarter we expect that awards will remain high, with the largest number of contract awards occurring in May.” One of the projects underway is a large base near Herat, which will include barracks, dining facilities, office space, and other amenities for Afghan commandos.
Tell Me How This Ends
No one should be surprised that the U.S. military is building up and tearing down bases at the same time, nor that much of the new construction is going on at mega-bases, while small outposts in the countryside are being abandoned. This is exactly what you would expect of an occupation force looking to scale back its “footprint” and end major combat operations while maintaining an on-going presence in Afghanistan. Given the U.S. military’s projected retreat to its giant bases and an increased reliance on kill/capture black-ops as well as unmanned air missions, it’s also no surprise that its signature projects for 2012 include a new special operations forces compound, clandestine drone facilities, and a brand new military prison.
There’s little doubt Bagram Air Base will exist in five or 10 years. Just who will be occupying it is, however, less clear. After all, in Iraq, the Obama administration negotiated for some way to station a significant military force -- 10,000 or more troops -- there beyond a withdrawal date that had been set in stone for years. While a token number of U.S. troops and a highly militarized State Department contingent remain there, the Iraqi government largely thwarted the American efforts -- and now, even the State Department presence is being halved.
It’s less likely this will be the case in Afghanistan, but it remains possible. Still, it’s clear that the military is building in that country as if an enduring American presence were a given. Whatever the outcome, vestiges of the current base-building boom will endure and become part of America’s Afghan legacy.
On Bagram’s grounds stands a distinctive structure called the “Crow’s Nest.” It’s an old control tower built by the Soviets to coordinate their military operations in Afghanistan. That foreign force left the country in 1989. The Soviet Union itself departed from the planet less than three years later. The tower remains.
America’s new prison in Bagram will undoubtedly remain, too. Just who the jailers will be and who will be locked inside five years or 10 years from now is, of course, unknown. But given the history -- marked by torture and deaths -- of the appalling treatment of inmates at Bagram and, more generally, of the brutality toward prisoners by all parties to the conflict over the years, in no scenario are the results likely to be pretty.
Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com. An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. This article is the sixth in his new series on the changing face of American empire, which is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook.
U.S. Army Pfc. Shawn Williams is evacuated after being injured by a roadside bomb in Kandahar Province on June 17, 2011.
WASHINGTON, Feb 11, 2012 (IPS) - An analysis by Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, which the U.S. Army has not approved for public release but has leaked to Rolling Stone magazine, provides the most authoritative refutation thus far of the official military narrative of success in the Afghanistan War since the troop surge began in early 2010.
In the 84-page unclassified report, Davis, who returned last fall after his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, attacks the credibility of claims by senior military leaders that the U.S.-NATO war strategy has succeeded in weakening the Taliban insurgent forces and in building Afghan security forces capable of taking primary responsibility for security in the future.
The report, which Davis had submitted to the Army in January for clearance to make it public, was posted on the website of Rolling Stone magazine by journalist Michael Hastings Friday. In a blog for the magazine, Hastings reported that "officials familiar with the situation" had said the Pentagon was "refusing" to release the report, but that it had been making the rounds within the U.S. government, including the White House.
Hastings wrote that he had obtained it from a U.S. government official.
Maybe Pakistan Should Call for a Free New Mexico: Pakistan Outrage as US Congress Calls for a Free Baluchistan
By Yasmeen Ali
Pakistan parliamentarians should promptly table a resolution calling for efforts to carve the state of New Mexico away from the United States and to either make it independent, or restore it to its status prior to the Mexican-American War (1846-48), when it was a part of Mexico.
MRFF Demands that Marine Corps Leadership Immediately Investigate Usage of Nazi SS Flag by Marines in Afghanistan
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org) is absolutely sickened by the disgusting images of members of the U.S. Marine Corps 1st Recon Battalion, Charlie Company, proudly posing in front of the U.S. flag juxtaposed alongside a symbol associated with the unspeakable horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, the genocide of religious minorities throughout Europe, and the forces of white supremacist racial hatred.
The fact that United States service personnel were caught proudly posing with the emblem of the Nazi SS, which symbolizes the vile ideology of Hitlerian fascism, sends a menacing signal to religious minorities within the United States Armed Forces. The symbol's usage conveys a message that the U.S. Military is an organization within which white supremacists can feel at home, free to espouse their murderous ideology and proudly don their symbols of hatred.
This brazen display of a symbol which is synonymous with death squads, gas chambers, and brutal occupation reflects a sociopathic, marauding attitude which violently jars with the supposed "nation-building" efforts which the NATO forces have embarked upon. It exacerbates the anti-Americanism felt by the people of the region who we claim to be helping in the context of a UN-mandated, NATO-led security mission.
In short, this shameful display of SS "lightning bolts" by U.S. service personnel enrages our regional allies, emboldens the extremist Islamist forces with whom we are contending, and eviscerates good order, morale, and discipline within the U.S. Marine Corps. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation immediately calls for the leadership of the United States Military to condemn this stomach-turning display without equivocation or delay and severely punish ALL of those responsible.
Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, Esq.
Founder & President
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Ongoing News Coverage of this Scandalous Outrage:
On February 1, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the United States will end its combat missions in Afghanistan by “mid- to the latter part of 2013.”
This announcement – whether intended by the Obama Administration at this time is not clear – marks a welcome and accelerated withdrawal timetable. Previously, combat operations were supposed to end in 2014.
The New York Times called the pronouncement “a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan.”
The sooner American military forces exit from Afghanistan – after spending so many lives and treasure – the better.
This step was pressed for in amendments offered last year in the Senate by Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and in the House by Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC).
Many questions still remain. While Sec. Panetta has indicated a shift towards an "training, advice and assist" role, there has been too little clarity on what this means, including whether there will be what Panetta calls “an enduring presence” in Afghanistan that could continue for years and what will be the actual timetable for the withdrawal.
In support of the Administration’s decision, a bipartisan group of six House members is circulated for signatures a letter to go to President Obama.
The 20 signers thus far as of 2/8 are (and this list will be updated daily):
Justin Amash (MI)
Bruce Braley (IA)
Lois Capps (CA)
Judy Chu (CA)
John Conyers, Jr. (MI)
Jimmy Duncan, Jr. (TN)
Sam Farr (CA)
John Garamendi (CA)
Raul Grijalva (AZ)
Janice Hahn (CA)
Martin Heinrich (NM)
Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL)
Walter Jones (NC)
Barbara Lee (CA)
John Lewis (GA)
Ben Ray Luján (NM)
Jim McGovern (MA)
Gary Peters (MI)
Henry Waxman (CA)
Lynn Woolsey (CA)
The letter follows:
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We write to express our support for the Administration’s announcement on February 1st that the United States will complete combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of next year.
From information reported in the media, the U.S. intends to transition from major combat operations in Afghanistan to a “training, advice and assist role” by the middle-to-latter part of 2013. We applaud this announcement by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to accelerate the transition away from combat operations, and it provides assurance that the timeframe outlined in your 2009 speech at West Point will be carried out. As you know, many of us support an even more rapid withdrawal of all our troops from Afghanistan.
The majority of Americans want a safe and orderly military withdrawal from Afghanistan as quickly as possible, as recent public opinion polls indicate. The desire by the American people for an accelerated transition in Afghanistan was reflected in votes taken in Congress last year, in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate during their respective debates on amendments offered by Representatives McGovern and Jones and by Senator Merkley to the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. These votes show there is strong bipartisan political support to take bold steps regarding U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
The past 10 years have cost America dearly in the blood and sacrifice of our military servicemen and women and their families, and in our nation’s fiscal health and security. The United States intervened in Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda’s safe haven, remove th Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursue those who planned the September 11th attacks on the United States; those objectives have largely been met and no longer require a large presence of combat troops in Afghanistan. While questions remain about the details of the announced transition – when and how quickly U.S. troops will be coming home, the number and purpose of troops that might remain in Afghanistan and for how long a period, the costs and the savings of accelerating the completion of combat operations – the February 1st announcement clearly signals that now is the moment to initiate the transition, end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home.
Members of Congress