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Selective Sympathy: War’s Mayhem and Murder is Somehow Less Hard to Bear than the Humane Termination of an Injured Animal
By Dave Lindorff
The officer rested his arm holding the stock of the assault rifle on the top of a log pile, and aimed directly between the target’s eyes. She was looking directly at him, unblinking, from 30 feet away, and exhibited no fear. “I hate doing this,” he muttered, before finally pulling the trigger.
A sharp “bang!” rang out, her head jerked up and then her whole body sagged to the ground, followed by some muscle jerks, and it was over.
The officer went over and checked the body, decided no second shot was needed to finish the job, and then walked back to his squad car, took out his phone, and called in the serial number of his rifle, reporting his firing of one round, as required by regulations.
By Dave Lindorff
It’s fascinating to watch the long knives coming out for Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul, now that according to some mainstream polls he has become the front-running candidate in the Jan. 3 GOP caucus race in Iowa, and perhaps also in the first primary campaign in New Hampshire.
By Kathy Kelly
Arab Spring, European Summer, American Autumn, and now the challenge of winter. Here in Kabul, Afghanistan, the travelers of our small Voices for
Creative Nonviolence delegation share an apartment with several of the creative and determined "Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers" who’ve risked so
much for peace here and befriended us so warmly over the past two years.
Our apartment doesn’t have indoor heating or hot tap water. We bundle up, overnight, in blankets, quilts and sleeping bags, and the Westerners, unaccustomed to the indoor cold, wear at least five layers of clothing
during the daytime. Tap water is contaminated, electricity shortages are frequent, and internet access is spotty, but compared to those who live in
Kabul’s refugee camps, we’re ensconced in plenty of creature comforts.
This time of year is ideal for reflecting on the miracle of Christmas 1914, that famous temporary truce and friendship between opposing sides in the midst of a war. Here was a new type of slaughter confronted with a new type of humanism, the leading edges of two opposing trends.
An op-ed in the New York Times last week by Steven Pinker and Joshua Goldstein argues that peace, rather than war, was the dominant development, and that over the millennia, centuries, decades, and right up to this moment, "War Really Is Going Out of Style."
By Yasmeen Ali
Lahore -- Ever since 9/11 and the subsequent 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by the US, Pakistan’s world has been in turmoil.
19 December 2011 - Almost two-thirds of countries asked by human rights groups about their involvement in extraordinary rendition flights have failed to comply with freedom of information requests – with European nations in particular accused of withholding evidence of the controversial CIA programme.
Was the Attack on Pakistani Outposts Deliberate?: How Far Will the US Go to Target Pakistan's Military?
By Shaukat Qadir
This past June I posted an article by Anatol Lieven on Facebook. For those who are not familiar with his name, Anatol is from the UK and numbers among the few journalists whom I always enjoy reading. I have met Anatol a few times and he is the kind of person who likes to get acquainted with the psycho-social environment of the people he writes about. Written in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s execution, Anatol’s article was critical of the US approach to the region, particularly Pakistan.
By Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY
KABUL – Top American officials in Afghanistan say the U.S. military intends to maintain a troop presence here beyond a 2014 deadline for Afghan troops to take over.
Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the Taliban and other forces in the region need to know the U.S. military will make sure the Afghans can handle the job.
"If you been waiting for us to go, we're not leaving," he said.
NATO forces agreed last year to set a deadline of the end of 2014 for turning over security to Afghan forces and ending combat operations.
The United States has 90,000 troops in Afghanistan. There are more than 30,000 troops from NATO allies.
By the end of the summer of 2012, U.S. forces are slated to drop to about 68,000.
Allen did not say how many American troops would remain or what role they would have beyond training the Afghan air force into 2016.
By John Grant
Ft. Meade -- Saturday, December 17th was Bradley Manning’s 24th birthday, and at least 300 supporters gathered outside Fort Meade, Maryland, where the military was in its second day of a preliminary hearing process that’s expected to take about a week. Manning worked in military intelligence and is alleged to have released military secrets to WikiLeaks, which released the material publicly.
By Kathy Kelly
Kabul--NATO/G8 meetings are scheduled to take place from May 19-21 next year in Chicago. Plans are ramping up everywhere. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen exulted over bringing NATO and the G8 to Chicago, and Clinton promised to call Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and convey Rasmussen's glowing opinion that Chicago, built upon diversity and determination, shares values that underpin NATO. Activists on the ground, envisioning a different kind of Chicago, and bracing themselves for the crushing, militarized police response that in recent years has consistently met protesters at these events, can only hope that this is not the case.
December 14, 2011 - One by one, the Marines sat down, swore to tell the truth and began to give secret interviews discussing one of the most horrific episodes of America’s time in Iraq: the 2005 massacre by Marines of Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha.
“I mean, whether it’s a result of our action or other action, you know, discovering 20 bodies, throats slit, 20 bodies, you know, beheaded, 20 bodies here, 20 bodies there,” Col. Thomas Cariker, a commander in Anbar Province at the time, told investigators as he described the chaos of Iraq.
By Dave Lindorff
James P. McGovern (MA)
Five-Minute Special Order
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
END THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN NOW
M. Speaker, on Saturday, the New York Times reported that our ambassador in Afghanistan, Ryan C. Crocker, told a group of journalists that U.S. troops could stay in Afghanistan long past the president’s 2014 deadline if the Afghan government asked us to stay.
The very next day, the New York Times reported Afghan President Hamid Karzai blaming foreigners, including the United States, for the corruption that is so rampant in his government. He had the audacity to say this at an event marking International Anti-Corruption Day.
M. Speaker, Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries on the face of the earth. Transparency International ranks Afghanistan as the 2nd most corrupt government, right behind Somalia and North Korea, which tied for first place.
Fact 1: It is not the case that all US troops will be removed from Afghanistan by 2015.
In his drawdown announcement this past June, President Obama did not say that all US troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. What he did say was 10,000 troops would be removed by the end of this summer, with 23,000 additional troops leaving at the end of the summer of 2012. After that, according to the President:
our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.
Notice that the President did not say that our mission in Afghanistan will end by 2014, only that it will cease to be a "combat" mission and become a "support" mission. What you should be asking yourself is, "what is a support mission?", "how many troops will be required for it?", and "how long will it last?" We will get to these questions shortly. First, it's important to highlight two things:
Fact 2: There is currently no end date for the war in Afghanistan.
Nowhere in the President's speech did he mention a deadline for the full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. No end date for the support mission has been supplied. At present, the expected duration of the war in Afghanistan is indefinite.
Fact 3: Obama's drawdown plan only removes roughly half the number of troops that he introduced into Afghanistan.
When President Obama took office, there were roughly 34,000 US troops in Afghanistan. In two "surges", Obama added to this figure over 66,000 additional troops. By reducing the US troop presence by 33,000, his drawdown plan will leave about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan next September with no timetable and no strategy for their removal.
Fact 4: The "support" mission will not necessarily be small, nor will it be free of combat missions.
A "support" mission sure sounds more reassuring than a combat mission, right? Sounds like only a few troops will remain behind to support the Afghan security forces?
Not if Iraq is any example. The combat mission in Iraq ended in August 2010, at which point troop levels were brought down to 50,000. Today, over a year later, there are still about 45,000 troops left in Iraq. Furthermore, these supposedly non-combat troops have engaged in combat missions and are described as having a "combat capacity" by administration officials, including former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in which they engage in "targeted counterterrorism operations" and work and fight alongside Iraqi security forces. In light of this, "support" seems to be nothing more than a euphemism for extended combat.
Per a previous agreement between the US and Iraqi governments, all US troops are supposed to leave Iraq at the end of this year. That didn't stop the Obama administration from trying to pressure the Iraqi government to extend the deadline, allowing the US to leave up to 10,000 troops indefinitely. Fortunately, this plan has been been abandoned, and all remaining US troops will leave except for 160 attached to the US Embassy. But a similar fight over keeping to a deadline for withdrawal may erupt in the future over Afghanistan.
Fact 5: Reports indicate that the Pentagon wants to keep 25,000 US troops in Afghanistan until at least 2024.
In August, it was reported that the Pentagon is trying to strike a deal with the Afghan government to leave 25,000 US troops in Afghanistan until at least 2024. Keep in mind that there were only 34,000 troops there when Obama took office. That means that the net withdrawal would be a mere 9,000 troops. Furthermore, before 2008, troop levels were at roughly 25,000 or less. So leaving 25,000 troops in Afghanistan would be to merely return to 2007 troop levels.
If this deal goes through, the US will be at war in Afghanistan for at least 13 additional years--that's three more years than we've been at war to this point. Meaning that we wouldn't even be at the half-way mark today, let alone nearing the end!
Fact 6: Keeping 25,000 troops in Afghanistan from 2015 to 2022 would cost approximately $120 billion--that's 10% of the total debt reduction that the Congressional Super Committee is supposed to come up with for that time period.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the current cost of keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan is $694,000 per soldier per year. So, using the CRS number, the cost of keeping 25,000 troops in Afghanistan from 2015 until 2021 would be about $120 billion.
This number is just an estimate, although it is likely to be an underestimate. Costs per soldier in Iraq have increased as troop levels have decreased, in part due to the costs of maintaining the massive US controlled infrastructure being spread among fewer people. A similar situation may arise in Afghanistan.
For more information on this topic, see Robert Naiman's article on the Huffington Post.
Fact 7: Ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could save the US roughly 400,000 jobs.
$200 billion is a conservative estimate of the savings to the federal budget from 2012-2021 of withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq this December (as previously agreed) and withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 2014 (as popularly understood.)
In a 2007 paper, Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the University of Massachusetts estimated the impact of an additional billion dollars in military spending on employment compared to other uses, using a standard input-output model of the U.S. economy.
They found that an additional billion dollars in military spending would create 8,555 jobs. In contrast, an additional billion in tax cuts for personal consumption would create 10,779 jobs. Other categories of federal spending examined - education, health, mass transit - created more jobs than tax cuts for personal consumption. [See table 1, page 6.]
Thus, the net effect of moving one billion dollars from the domestic economy to military spending would be to destroy at least 2,224 jobs; moving $200 billion from the domestic economy to military spending would destroy at least 444,800 jobs. Conversely, saving $200 billion by ending the wars as previously scheduled, rather than saving it from the federal budget by using the chained CPI and raising the Medicare retirement age, would save more than 400,000 jobs.
For a more information, see Robert Naiman's original article in the Huffington Post.
Fact 8: The lack of a timetable for withdrawal is a key obstacle in peace negotiations with the Taliban.
While major media outlets were recently declaring the peace process in Afghanistan lost due to the assassination of Berhanuddin Rabbani, the Chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, they failed to point out that one of the primary barriers to peace has been in place for a long time: the refusal of the US government to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. Taliban spokesmen have made it quite clear that peace requires a willingness by the US to leave; but the US military has done just the opposite through its negotiations with the Afghan government to keep 25,000 troops in the country until at least 2024.
Fact 9: There are less than 100 al Qaeda left in Afghanistan--but there are over 670,000 Afghan and international forces there to fight them.
Last year, Leon Panetta said that there were less than 100 members of al Qaeda left in Afghanistan. According to the latest Brookings Institute Afghanistan Index, there are 130,670 international troops in Afghanistan under NATO and Operation Enduring Freedom; 305,516 Afghan Security Forces; 90,000 private Defense Department contractors; and 2,000 private contractors training the Afghan Army. Additionally, there are 150,000 Pakistani troops on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. That's a grand total of 678,195 versus 100. Seems a bit overkill.
Fact 10: There is popular support for ending the war now.
A recent CBS poll indicates that nearly 2/3 of Americans support ending the war in Afghanistan within the next two years. Sixty-two percent said troop levels should be decreased immediately. 38 percent want large numbers to return from Afghanistan within a year; 24 percent said they'd be willing to have troops there for one to two more years; ten percent said they'd accept two to five more years; 18 percent said they'd be willing to have troops there "as long as it takes." Thus, 62% want US troops out in no less than two years. Only one in three Americans think that fighting in Afghanistan is the right thing for the United States to do.
By David Lindorff Sr.
"We Are Many" shows how mobilization in 2003 set stage for Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street
Dec 8, 2011 - On Feb. 15, 2003, the planet experienced the greatest single non-military mobilization of humanity in the history of the world. People in 800 cities (and Antarctica) marched to voice their opposition as George Bush’s countdown clock ticked away the days toward the threatened U.S. invasion of Iraq. Estimates of the total numbers of protesters vary widely but it seems plausible that 15 million took to the streets.
Bi-partisan letter to Obama: No military solution in Afghanistan, bring troops home
Washington, D.C.– Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) were joined by 40 Members of the House of Representatives in sending a letter to President Obama urging him to speed up the return of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
“We are calling on President Obama to recognize that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, and the longer we keep our troops there the longer we delay the progress of an Afghan-produced political solution,” said Congresswoman Lee, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force.
By John Grant
Following a decade of military invasion and occupation in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, the United States is becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of empires: “We get no respect!”
The undisputed post-World War Two top dog in the world, on virtually every front the United States is more and more playing catch-up with two-faced, Clintonian shuttle diplomacy around the world and a well-entrenched regime of secrecy and sophisticated public relations aimed at keeping the dismal story of decline out of the domestic mind-space.
Once again the future of Afghanistan is on the agenda. Ten years ago in Bonn, the issue was the deployment of NATO troops and the toppling of the Taliban. This time around, the summit on Monday is set to discuss the withdrawal of international forces by the end of 2014.
For German peace activists this is not fast enough. They are calling for the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. To underscore their demand protesters took to the streets of the former West German capital on Saturday under the motto, "They talk peace, but wage war."
The gathering attracted peace groups, anti-globalization organizations, like Attac, the German Green Party and Left Party, and the German trade union, Verdi.
Doubts about the will to withdraw
Malalai Joya said she doubts the willingness to withdraw Demonstrators expressed their doubts whether the goal of the Afghanistan conference was really the end of the foreign troop deployment.
But even Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked that some troops remain, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said as recently as last Friday that German troops may stay beyond the planned exit date to help train local Afghan forces.
At the demonstration rally in downtown Bonn, Afghan politician Malalai Joya, however, described as a "lie" the announcement that NATO troops would leave the country by the end of 2014.
Joya called for the immediate withdrawal of international forces, saying the foreign armies were, among other things, working with warlords. Joya said the presence of foreign troops was actually making the democratization process more difficult.
In Joya's view, the international community should, instead, support the democratic forces in Afghanistan. "Please, strengthen my people by promoting education," she said in her speech. "Education is the key to strengthening emancipation," she added. Joya and other activists are hoping for a kind of "Arab Spring" in Afghanistan.
On December 5th more than 1000 delegates from 90 countries, including 65 foreign ministers, are expected in Bonn, Germany for the "Bonn II" or Petersberg II Conference to plan the future of Afghanistan after troop withdrawal in 2014. Yet parallel to Bonn II, the US is negotiating a US-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement that will allow US troops, special forces units, and air power to remain in Afghanistan until 2024 and joint military bases beyond 2024 -- even though all of Afghanistan's neighboring countries are opposed to a long-term US military presence in the region. NATO members such as Germany have announced that they will also keep troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
We, the 99% on both sides of the Atlantic, also suffer from this seemingly endless war and occupation. 63% of the US people and more than 70% in Germany oppose the war in Afghanistan. In a time of economic hardship, the military costs of NATO’s Afghanistan intervention have already passed $1 trillion, with the US spending $525 billion, the EU $400 billion, and other ISAF partners $100 billion. Meanwhile, 14 million are unemployed in the US, yet the government has no adequarte jobs plan; instead, teachers are laid off, schools and libraries are closed, our infrastructure is crumbling, and nothing is done about looming environmental disaster,
The U.S. Senate bowed to popular sentiment and called for accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on November 30, passing the Merkely amendment to the 2012 Defense Authorization bill which requires the President to present a new withdrawal plan to Congress within 90 days.
Here in the US, UFPJ will join with the Network for a NATO-Free World: Global Peace and Justice in sponsoring a counter-summit conference in Chicago, May 18-19, 2012, when both NATO and the G8 will be meeting in Chicago. The counter-summit will call for complete withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Afghanistan among other demands: http://www.inesglobal.com/NATO-call.phtml
The Bonn demonstrations are called by more than 170 German organizations and numerous individuals: http://www.afghanistanprotest.de/aufruf/liste-der-unterzeichnungen.html. They will be joined by Malalai Joya of Afghanistan, author Tariq Ali and MP Jeremy Corbyn of the UK, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Mairead Maguire of Ireland, and Alyn Ware of New Zealand. Joseph Gerson of the American Friends Service Committee, a founding member of UFPJ, will also address the Bonn rally.
We stand in solidarity with those protesting in Bonn this weekend and join with them to demand an immediate ceasefire, an end to the war in Afghanistan, withdrawal of all US-NATO troops and military facilities, and devotion of significant resources to help rebuild Afghanistan for the benefit of the Afghan people.
- UFPJ Afghanistan Working Group, December 2, 2011
United for Peace & Justice
STOP THE WAR COALITION Newsletter No.1227 2 December 2011 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 020 7801 2768 Web: http://stopwar.org.uk Twitter: http://twitter.com/STWuk Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/stopthewarcoalition 1) STOP THE BUILD UP TO WAR ON IRAN 2) NEARLY 400 DEAD... BRING THE TROOPS HOME FROM AFGHANISTAN 3) A GRAPHIC HISTORY OF STOP THE WAR TEN YEARS ON 4) NO TO INTERVENTION IN SYRIA *********** 1) STOP THE BUILD UP TO WAR ON IRAN The western powers seem to be doing everything possible to increase tension with Iran. Yesterday EU ministers imposed new sanctions on top of those agreed
Last month, when dozens of Taliban fighters attacked U.S. Combat Outpost (or COP) Margah in Afghanistan’s remote Paktika province, on the Pakistani border, the defenders called for airstrikes.
As automatic weapons fire and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) struck the compound, Staff Sergeant Seth Pena, an Air Force forward air controller, guided in Navy F-18 Hornets, which were already flying in the area, to provide close air support. Then, using military call-sign slang, he radioed for a "Dude flight" of F-15 Eagles and a "Viper flight" of F-16 Fighting Falcons from Bagram Airfield.
"I requested the Dudes and Vipers because I needed a lot of ordnance and fast," Pena said, according to an Air Force press release. "RPGs had already hit inside the COP and things were getting serious. There was a large enemy force moving towards us from multiple positions and we were taking a heavy amount of small arms fire."
In the end, the Air Force jets alone dropped more than 9,000 pounds of bombs and the Americans claimed a body count of more than 70 guerrillas.
The Senate just voted against the Afghanistan war. Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted by voice vote to pass an amendment that concludes thus:
"Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that—
1) the President of the United States should expedite the transition of the responsibility for military and security operations to the Government of Afghanistan;
2) the President shall devise a plan based on inputs from military commanders, the diplomatic missions in the region, and appropriate members of the cabinet, along with the consultation of Congress, for expediting the drawdown of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan and accelerating the transfer of security authority to Afghan authorities prior to December 2014; and
Council for a Livable World Welcomes Senate Vote In Favor of An Accelerated Withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan
Washington, D.C. — Council for a Livable World applauded the Senate vote today in favor of the Merkley amendment asking the President to accelerate the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
The Senate approved the amendment by a voice vote in a surprising rebuke to those who want to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely – including Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
Clearly Senator McCain, who opposed the amendment, did not call for a roll call vote because he was not sure he could win.
17 Members Define Specific Goals for Dec. 5 Bonn International Conference
Washington D.C. (November 29, 2011) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and 16 of his colleagues wrote to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton urging leadership to secure a commitment from the international community to protect the people and natural resources of Afghanistan. These resources are worth an estimated $3 trillion, and if managed properly, could provide for a prosperous, stable Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
See the full letter here.
“The U.S. has an obligation and the opportunity to address this core issue which has profound implications for Afghanistan’s economic development, its social development and its stability at the upcoming December conference in Bonn. We urge you to secure a commitment from the international community and the Government of Afghanistan to the sound management of these critical resources over the medium and long term at this conference,” wrote Kucinich et al.
In the letter, Kucinich and colleagues call for a “clear, credible and transparent processes for the award of concessions that provide the Afghan people with information on how, to whom and on what grounds contracts are awarded.”
“A multinational agreement on language at the Bonn conference that incorporates the above elements would be a historic milestone for the people of Afghanistan. We look forward to working with you to ensure that, as we begin to bring the troops home, Afghanistan is on the path to a prosperous, peaceful and secure future.”
The letter was signed by Representatives Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers, Jr., Raul M. Grijalva, Barbara Lee, Michael M. Honda, Keith Ellison, Bob Filner, Fortney Pete Stark, Gwen Moore, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Howard L. Berman, Maurice D. Hinchey, John Lewis, Janice D. Schakowsky, Jared Polis, Danny K. Davis and James P. Moran.
By John Grant
The most little-understood fact of war, in my opinion, is the sheer, mind-boggling, nearly incomprehensible magnitude of the money which is spent on a daily basis to keep the occupation and boom-and-zoom operations going. Former General Barry McCaffrey put the "burn rate" of US taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan at $9 billion per month, which is fully one-half the average yearly state budget for the 50 states. Two months of this kind of spending is the entire Pell Grant appropriation for 2010.
More than one-third of that "burn rate" (and you have to hand it to McCaffrey for not caring how this sounds to the public, literally burning taxpayer money) is fuel costs, both aviation and ground. Time reports that:
Six Afghan Children Are Killed in NATO Airstrike
By New York Times
... “The plane chased them, the insurgents entered a street where children were playing and as a result of its shooting, seven people have been killed, including six children, and two girls also have been injured,” Mr. Ayoubi said. The victims were members of two families.
Abdul Samad, an uncle of four of the children who were killed, disputed the government’s version of the attack. He said his relatives were working in fields near their village when they were attacked without warning by an aircraft.
His brother-in-law, Mohammad Rahim, 50, had his two sons and three daughters with him. They were between 4 and 12 years old and all were killed, except an 8-year-old daughter, who was badly wounded, Mr. Samad said.
“There were no Taliban in the field, this is a baseless allegation that the Taliban were planting mines,” Mr. Samad said. “I have been to the scene and haven’t found a single bit of evidence of bombs or any other weapons. The Americans did a serious crime against innocent children, they will never ever be forgiven.”
American soldiers have destroyed numerous dwellings in Zhare to deny insurgents hiding places, and they have also built new roads across farmland because existing ones were so heavily mined. Residents were quickly compensated by the military, however, and in recent months the area, one of several districts near Kandahar city that were once Taliban strongholds, has been relatively quiet.