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General’s Defence on Afghan Scandal Ducks Key Evidence

By Gareth Porter, IPS

WASHINGTON, Sep 13 2012 (IPS) - Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the former commander of NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan, denied to a U.S. Congressional panel Wednesday that he had cited the impact on Congressional elections in opposing the timing of a request for an investigation of high-level Afghan military corruption and its impact on neglect of patients at the Afghan National Military Hospital (NMH) two years ago.

But Caldwell and his former deputy, Brig. Gen. Gary Patton, both made statements suggesting that Caldwell had indeed wanted to stop the investigation by the Department of Defence Inspector General (DOD IG) because it might give ammunition to opponents of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

We Are at War

By Johnny Barber

“We are at War. Somebody is Going to Pay.” George W. Bush, Sept 11th, 2001.

Eleven years later, we are still at war. Bullets, mortars and drones are still extracting payment. Thousands, tens of thousands, millions have paid in full. Children and even those yet to be born will continue to pay for decades to come.

On a single day in Iraq last week there were 29 bombing attacks in 19 cities, killing 111 civilians and wounding another 235. On Sept 9th, reports indicate 88 people were killed and another 270 injured in 30 attacks all across the country. Iraq continues in a seemingly endless death spiral into chaos. In his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for President, Obama claimed he ended the war in Iraq, well… not quite.

2 Million Friends: A New Approach in Afghanistan

By Johnny Barber

Four decades of war.  Two million people dead. Trillions of dollars spent. Money disappearing into the pockets of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, policemen and the armed forces. No accountability. No transparency. No infrastructure. The misery and poverty of the majority of the people continues unabated, decade after decade.  Children freeze to death in the winter. They starve to death all year round. The question remains, “Who benefits from this misery?” The human cost of war doesn’t enter into any politician’s calculations.

In October 2011 Secretary of State Clinton emphasized a new three-track strategy of “Fight, talk, and build,” claiming to “pursue all three tracks at once, as they are mutually reinforcing.” One year later, it is clear that the 3rd Afghan strategy of the Obama administration can be added to the scrap heap of failed strategies along with the “Af-Pak” strategy and the “Surge”. No one is talking, nothing is being built, fighting is the only track that continues unabated. Security, even in Kabul, is tenuous. Peace seems a distant and illusory concept.

On Sunday, September 2nd, the Afghan Peace Volunteers held a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan to introduce a new strategy, called the “2 Million Friends” initiative. Built on a foundation of hope and goodwill, this initiative calls on ordinary citizens of all countries to join with ordinary Afghan citizens, who are tired of corruption, hatred and war, to be friends. When asked about the role of international people, Roz Mohammed, a young man from Midan Wardak replied, “The international people are just like us, ordinary people who want to work with us for peace.” The wish is for 2 million friends, in remembrance of each of the 2 million Afghan victims of 40 years of war in Afghanistan, to join together and appeal for peace. 2 million friends to tell our respective governments, "Enough! We wish to live without war."

Farzana, ‘2 Million Friends’ and a Ceasefire in Afghanistan

by Hakim and Kathy Kelly

“Stop fighting,” suggests Farzana, a brave 22 year old Afghan stage actress.

Significantly, her statement is in sharp contrast to what seems to be the democratic world’s unquestioned modus operandi of today, exemplified by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pet-phrase for Afghanistan, ‘Fight, talk and build.’

What Farzana and the Afghan Peace Volunteers are sensibly suggesting is a ceasefire.

A ceasefire, like the ceasefire called for in Kofi Annan’s Six Point Peace Plan for Syria which Farzana and the Afghan Peace Volunteers also supported, is a first step towards ending the equally sectarian war and incendiary global politicking in Afghanistan.

It is crucially needed to stop the color-code chaos of ‘green-on-blue’ attacks in which 45 coalition security forces, mainly Americans, have been killed by ‘allies’, Afghan security forces or insurgents posing as soldiers or police.

It is what is needed to end the four Afghan decades of using mutual killing as a method of conflict resolution. The U.N. is uniquely well-positioned to do this, empowered by their original Charter to ‘remove the scourge of war from future generations,’

Imagining a better world

Farzana suggests to Hillary Clinton and to us that we take the ‘fighting’ out of our desire to ‘talk and build.’ “To fight is to resort to convenient and rather primal instincts. To fight is to lose our human imagination,” states Farzana.

And imagination is what Farzana employs in the artistic world she thrives in, to communicate to the world that Afghans are human beings who prefer to laugh and cry than to live with wars.

Recently, Farzana was part of a group of Afghan stage actors and actresses who toured India, London and Germany to perform Shakespeare’s ‘Comedy of Errors’ in Dari, one of two official Afghan languages.

Farzana, in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors

“When I express the whole range of emotions on stage, I enter awareness, and a thrilling consciousness of human reality. Acting to me is my life and existence; I can never give up this sweet, sweet world. This world is similar to my everyday life; life in Afghanistan today is like a constant limp on a hurting leg. There’s definite pain, but this other world I express on stage is sweet. This better world is possible.”

Farzana’s pain was evident recently when criticisms from some conservative and religious Afghans were leveled at her costumes and her portrayals in the Shakespearean play. But Farzana has a quiet courage to transform the status quo, to introduce creativity into conventional norms.

As an Afghan woman, she also protests the conventional understanding of women’s rights in Afghanistan. You can watch Farzana, who is an Afghan Peace Volunteer, saying in this video clip, “It is just rhetoric that men and women have equal rights. Actually, there are no women’s rights. People speak against women. They say it’s a sin to hear a woman’s voice or for a woman to go on the road, or to hear her steps. Women are considered ‘faulty.’ Their heads are ‘beaten.’ It’s a sin to see the hair on their heads. They’re seen as sinful. What is left for a woman that she should still participate in building society?”

Farzana speaks clearly against the U.S./NATO military strategy, “Why do the women of the world believe that guns and bombs which kill can promote women’s rights in Afghanistan?”

The fear that the gains in women’s rights in Afghanistan over the past 11 years will be ‘reversed’ when U.S./NATO troops withdraw is not based on facts.

The limited and cosmetic gains in women’s rights in Afghanistan have not been introduced by bullets from U.S./NATO’s guns, so the reduction of U.S./NATO troops will not compromise these initial gains.

Moreover, as many as 20,000 U.S./NATO troops will be authorized to stay for another 10 years beyond 2014 when a U.S. Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement is agreed upon within the next year. The Obama administration has already ensured the continued presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in Article number 6 of the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement which states that ‘Afghanistan shall provide U.S. forces continued access to and use of Afghan facilities through 2014, and beyond as may be agreed in The Bilateral Security Agreement, for the purposes of combating al-Qaeda and its affiliates, training the Afghan National Security Forces ( who are shooting back at them!), and other mutually determined missions to advance shared security interests.’

Where are Afghan women’s rights in this strategy?

On March 14, 2011, the Washington Post featured Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s article, ‘In Afghanistan, U.S. shifts strategy on women's rights as it eyes wider priorities’. Chandrasekaran recently made waves with his description of ‘the war within the Afghan war’ in his new bookLittle America. In his 2011 article, he quoted a senior U.S. official who said, “Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities. There's no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down."

What the senior U.S. official was saying was, “Women’s rights? We have higher, ‘front-seat’ priorities. Women’s rights are ‘pet rocks’ that are ‘taking us down.”

‘Be friends, talk, and build’

 “If you want to talk and build, it is impossible to start by fighting. When you kill a human being, what is there to build?”

“I have a pain and my husband and fellow Afghan citizens, men and women, share the pain with me. It is the pain of being treated as less than humans. We are human beings. We have wishes. War has brought this pain on us. War kills our joy and hides our tears.”

“I dream that war will end in Afghanistan someday, so Afghans will exercise their right to live, study and work. Fighting brings hate and vengeful thoughts and feelings. I wish that the Shakespearean play could be performed in Afghanistan someday, though there’s concern that there’ll be trouble.”

Part of Farzana’s dream for the war to end will be enthusiastically pursued through the ‘2 Million Friends’ campaign for peace in Afghanistan, a campaign of Farzana and the Afghan Peace Volunteers to find ‘2 Million Friends’ around the world to organize activities on December 10 calling for a ceasefire in Afghanistan and in remembrance of the 2 million Afghan victims of war they have lost over the past four decades. You could ‘Be One of 2 Million Friends’ in signing a Petition to the U.N. to negotiate for a multilateral ceasefire in Afghanistan. No more killing!  

Farzana calls out to our compassionate imagination, “Instead of fight, talk and build, I suggest, ‘Be friends, talk and build!’”

 Dr. Hakim ( weeteckyoung@gmail.com) mentors the Afghan Peace Volunteers (www.ourjourneytosmile.com)

Kathy Kelly ( kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org)

How to Survive in a Perfect Mess

 

By John Grant


When we talk about
settling the world’s problems,
we’re barking up the wrong tree.

The world is perfect. It’s a mess.
It has always been a mess.

We Don’t Need No Bloody Treaties: Britain Blows a Fuse over Ecuador’s Asylum Grant to Wikileaks’ Assange

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

The concerted and orchestrated campaign to capture Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and ultimately to hand him over to the tender mercies of a kangaroo court in the US, where he would likely be tried for spying and other possibly capital offenses, continues as Britain threatens the Ecuadoran Embassy with a police assault.

 

Democracies Don't Start Wars, But Fake Democracies Sure Do!

 

 

By Dave Lindorff


We’ve all heard it said by our teachers when we were in school, we’ve all heard it said by politicians, including presidents: “Democracies don’t start wars.”


Stand together as friends of 30 million Afghans

By Hakim and Kathy Kelly

Here is a simple, reachable step towards peace in Afghanistan: build international relationships by befriending the Afghan Peace Volunteers Ali and Abdulhai and bringing their forgotten, alternative voices of non-violence to the United States - support their U.S. visa re-applications.

Ali and Abdulhai hope for ‘2 Million Friends’

Brave Young Afghan Peace Workers Denied Visas to Speak in U.S., Please Write/Call

Many of you remember the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV), a remarkable group of young people in Afghanistan who are working to create a peaceful future, through the teachings of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and others.  You may have been on, or heard of, the monthly Global Conference Calls for Peace, which has connected thousands of like-minded youth and activists around the world to discuss a vision of a world without war.  Guests of the Conference call have included Noam Chomsky.  Now two of the youth,Abdulhai and Ali, both 15, have been invited to speak to young peace activists and others in the US.

America a Democracy? Really?

By Dave Lindorff

This article was originally written forPressTV

We Americans are taught it in school. The propaganda put out by Voice of America repeats the idea ad nauseum around the globe. Politicians refer to it in every campaign speech with the same fervor that they claim to be running for office in response to God’s call: America is a model of democracy for the whole world.

But what kind of democracy is it really that we have here? 

Mission Failure: Afghanistan

A Message Written in Blood That No One Wants to Hear
By Tom Engelhardt

http://tomdispatch.org

Imagine for a moment that almost once a week for the last six months somebody somewhere in this country had burst, well-armed, into a movie theater showing a superhero film and fired into the audience. That would get your attention, wouldn’t it? James Holmes times 21? It would dominate the news. We would certainly be consulting experts, trying to make sense of the pattern, groping for explanations. And what if the same thing had also happened almost once every two weeks in 2011? Imagine the shock, imagine the reaction here.

Well, the equivalent has happened in Afghanistan (minus, of course, the superhero movies). It even has a name: green-on-blue violence. In 2012 -- and twice last week -- Afghan soldiers, policemen, or security guards, largely in units being trained or mentored by the U.S. or its NATO allies, have turned their guns on those mentors, the people who are funding, supporting, and teaching them, and pulled the trigger.

Afghanistan Needs Trees, Not Troops

Inline image 1

Trees are the lungs

of the earth

Dear Friends,

At Afghanistan Samsortya, we directly address the challenges of environmental degradation, recognizing that a healthy environment is crucial for economic and social well-being.

As a grassroots organization directly involving communities in revitalization work, in 2009 we raised funds to establish a nursery that has now produced thousands of tree saplings. In 2011 we drilled a well to supply water. In February, 2012 we began our third season, continuing to plant fast growing species – like the Moringa oleifera, known as the “magic tree” because its leaves are edible by animals and people, and support lactation.

In response to requests, we were also able to distribute fig and lemon saplings to 100 households in the Surkhrud district of Ningrahar Province. Our fig trees bear fruit year round and provide an important source of nutrition. We are happy to report these trees are already thriving, and that our revitalization efforts have been well received by the local population!

We are optimistic that despite the extreme level of environmental degradation, Afghanistan’s natural environment can be revived and rehabilitated. We now have tree nurseries in Surkhrud in Eastern Afghanistan and outside of Jalalabad City. Our most recent accomplishment is the conversion of a new four-acre plot into a nursery. We will use this nursery to plant, nurture, and harvest thousands of fig, lemon, orange and mulberry trees in the coming years.

How is this possible, and how can you help? Financial contributions combined with land and seed donations make us able to continue our reforestation projects.

Soft Necks Will Not Be Slaughtered

by Hakim and Kathy Kelly

Abdulhai remembers his father being killed by the Taliban. “Anyone who takes up a weapon in revenge, whether the Talib or any other, is acting like the Talibs who murdered my father,” he says, in a matter of fact way. “The solution does not lie in taking revenge, but in people coming together like the people of Egypt to defend themselves in a nonviolent way.”

Nine people gathered this morning for an unexpected although welcome meeting here in Kabul, in the home of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, at which Raz Mohammed, a member of the group who is from Wardak province, had arrived along with a fellow student, named Rohullah. The meeting included Tajiks, Hazaras and one Pashtoon. We were surprised and pleased to see our good friend.

Abdulhai, a Hazara, washing a quilt with Raz, a Pushtoon,at their community home.

The Sky as it Falls

By Kathy Kelly

Kabul--For the Afghan Peace Volunteers, living in a working class area of Kabul’s “Karte Seh” district, daily problem-solving requires a triage process.

Last week, upon arrival, I looked at the sagging ceilings over the kitchen, living room and entryway and felt certain that shifting to new living quarters should be the top priority. The following evening, tremors caused by a small local earthquake sent me running out of the house to interrupt a game of volleyball all the others were playing, but cooler heads prevailed and the game continued – what else was there to do? I stayed outside to watch. Later, we talked about the inevitable need to make a move away from our dangerous dwelling and do it soon, so now the daily schedule includes scouring the neighborhood for a new home with comparable space and rent.

Peace needs a chance

72% of Americans and 25% of Congress Members Say: Get Out of Afghanistan!

 

CNN/ORC Poll. March 24-25, 2012. N=1,014 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.

             

"Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?"

 
    Favor Oppose Unsure    
    % % %    
 

3/24-25/12

25 72 3

FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 485
(Republicans in roman; Democrats in italic; Independents underlined)


      H R 5856      RECORDED VOTE      18-Jul-2012      10:25 PM
      AUTHOR(S):  Second Lee of California Amendment
      QUESTION:  On Agreeing to the Amendment
 


  Ayes Noes PRES NV
Republican 8 230   2
Democratic 99 82   10
Independent        
TOTALS 107 312   12


Are Drones Moral Killing Machines? NY Times National Security Journalist Says Yes

 

By Dave Lindorff


Are weaponized drone aircraft more moral than the more traditional killing machines used in warfare? In an opinion published in Sunday’s New York Times, the paper’s national security reporter, Scott Shane, argues that they are.


Countering the U.S./NATO Narrative About "Protecting" Afghan Women

Just as I was writing this post came word that a regional head of women's affairs in Afghanistan had been assassinated.

Tokyo Conference Fails, Ensures Civil War in Afghanistan

Karzai promises to fight corruption, but what about NATO?

'Bye-bye, Miss American Pie' – then US helicopter appears to fire on Afghans

 

Video released on internet appears to show US helicopter crew singing before blasting Afghans with a missile

Link to this video

A video has surfaced online that appears to show a US helicopter crew singing "Bye-bye Miss American Pie" before blasting a group of Afghan men with a Hellfire missile.

The footage comes in the wake of a string of damaging videos and pictures showing US forces in Afghanistan urinating on the bodies of dead insurgents, and posing with the remains of suicide bombers and civilians killed for sport by a group of rogue soldiers.

If it is proved to be authentic, it could further undermine the image of foreign forces in a country where there is already deep resentment owing to civilian deaths and a perception among many Afghans that US troops lack respect for Afghan culture and people.

The posting says the video was recorded in Wardak province, which lies south-west of the capital, Kabul, in September 2009. The caption refers sarcastically to a group of "innocent farmers planting poppy seeds in the middle of the road".

Men spotted digging in Afghan roads by the US or other foreign forces are likely to fall under suspicion that they are insurgents burying home-made bombs, one of the Taliban's main weapons.

If the US military is confident it has identified them as insurgents, bombs are sometimes used to kill them, although Afghan officials have accused troops in the past of killing farmers and people working on irrigation ditches when they thought they were targeting people laying bombs.

In the video, after the bomb appears to hit the group, survivors scatter, and the helicopter aims machine gun fire at them.

"We're aware of the video that was posted that appears to be a recording of an Isaf aircraft engagement in Wardak," said Martin Crighton, a spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan.

"Unfortunately the video does not appear to have a date stamp on it to allow us to put it in an immediate context. However any impression of impropriety on the video is not representative of the professional service members who make up the Isaf coalition."

In April, the Los Angeles Times published pictures that appeared to show American soldiers posing with the bodies of dead Afghans in the south of the country, and the US president, Barack Obama, called for an investigation.

That came after several damaging months for the US military in Afghanistan that heavily undermined trust in their conduct and motives.

In March a US soldier killed 16 civilians on a solo night-time shooting rampage. Deadly violence erupted in February over the burning of copies of the Qur'an by US troops. In January a video surfaced of marines apparently urinating on Taliban corpses, and last year a group were tried for murdering three Afghan civilians for sport.

Pakistan reopens NATO supply routes to Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistani leaders on Tuesday ended a seven-month blockade on Afghanistan-bound NATO supply routes through their country, a long-awaited move that hinged on Washington's acquiescence to Islamabad's demand for an apology for the deaths of two dozen Pakistani soldiers killed by errant U.S. airstrikes last fall.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she had called her Pakistani counterpart, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, on Tuesday and issued an apology for the soldiers' deaths: "We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again."

READ THE REST AT L.A. TIMES.

Assange in Trouble, Drones in Afghanistan, and Obama's Past Ties to the CIA

The Anti-Empire Report

Julian Assange

I'm sure most Americans are mighty proud of the fact that Julian Assange is so frightened of falling into the custody of the United States that he had to seek sanctuary in the embassy of Ecuador, a tiny and poor Third World country, without any way of knowing how it would turn out. He might be forced to be there for years. "That'll teach him to mess with the most powerful country in the world! All you other terrorists and anti-Americans out there — Take Note! When you fuck around with God's country you pay a price!"

How true. You do pay a price. Ask the people of Cuba, Vietnam, Chile, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Iran, Haiti, etc., etc., etc. And ask the people of Guantánamo, Diego Garcia, Bagram, and a dozen other torture centers to which God's country offers free transportation.

You think with the whole world watching, the United States would not be so obvious as to torture Assange if they got hold of him? Ask Bradley Manning. At a bare minimum, prolonged solitary confinement is torture. Before too long the world may ban it. Not that that would keep God's country and other police states from using it.

You think with the whole world watching, the United States would not be so obvious as to target Assange with a drone? They've done it with American citizens. Assange is a mere Aussie.

And Ecuador and its president, Rafael Correa, will pay a price. You think with the whole world watching, the United States would not intervene in Ecuador? In Latin America, it comes very naturally for Washington. During the Cold War it was said that the United States could cause the downfall of a government south of the border ... with a frown. The dissolution of the Soviet Union didn't bring any change in that because it was never the Soviet Union per se that the United States was fighting. It was the threat of a good example of an alternative to the capitalist model.

U.S. building Afghanistan a huge $92 million military headquarters, because food, water, sanitation just not very important

KABUL -- The United States is spending $92 million to build Afghanistan a new "Pentagon," a massive five-story military headquarters with domed roofs and a high-tech basement command center that will link Afghan generals with their troops fighting the Taliban nationwide. ...

...

Rising amid Kabul's dusty streets, the 516,000-square-foot building, still cloaked in scaffolds and cranes, dwarfs other buildings in town.

"Once it's finished, it will be a permanent and a very significant illustration of the U.S. support for Afghanistan," Wardak said in an interview.

Even with American troops beginning their withdrawal, the U.S. government is still working its way through a $10 billion menu of construction projects.

Of the 1,150 buildings planned, more than 600 have been completed, with a total value of $4 billion.

Tab for alternate Afghan supply route hits $2.1 billion

Source.

Pakistan's refusal to let NATO access its ports and roads into Afghanistan has cost the Pentagon more than $2.1 billion in extra transportation costs to move supplies and equipment in and out of the country

Seeking a Visa for Dr. Wee Teck Young

 

by Kathy Kelly

June 30, 2012

“We love you!” 

“Stay Out!”  

Yesterday, Americans sent two very important and very different communications to our friend Dr. Wee Teck Young, a Singaporean physician and activist who lives and works in Kabul, Afghanistan.  The “We love you!” was a press release announcing that the
Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) had awarded him their “International Pfeffer Peace Prize” in recognition of his contributions to peace working with dedicated young Afghans in Kabul. The “Stay out!” was from the American government, refusing him a visa to enter the United States with these young people, in the furtherance of this work.  It seems all too likely that the actions and choices which have earned him his well-deserved award are the same factors that persuaded U.S. consular officials to deny him entry to the United States.  The question is whether we can be a voice to affirm that his work, and the work of the young Afghans working with him, has value in the United States, where awareness of the costs of war, and of the lives of ordinary Afghans, is desperately needed. 

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