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Rethink Afghanistan

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Ban the Cluster Bomb


Ban the cluster bomb
The U.S. should join a global treaty to curb the deadly devices. says the mother of one victim.
By Lynn Bradach | LA Times | December 2, 2008

Note: Although this article is dated, it is republished here to honor a mother's sacrifice of her son, and in support of the March 18th Cluster Bomb Treaty Signing at the United Nations. Learn how to take action here and here.

More than half the world's nations are meeting in Oslo on Wednesday to sign a global treaty banning cluster bombs. Although my government won't be there, I will.

I have a personal stake in this treaty. My son, Travis, a corporal in the Marines, was killed by one of our own cluster bomblets in July 2003. He was clearing an Iraqi farmer's field near Karbala of unexploded ordnance when one of the men from his unit mishandled a cluster submunition. It exploded, killing Travis and taking an eye and an arm from the Marine who touched it.

Italians Furious Over U.S. Base on Their Soil

Italians furious over US base on their soil
By Russia Today

The US is reorganizing its presence in Europe. It plans to close down a base in Germany and relocate some 3,000 troops to Vicenza, Italy. However, locals there are against having a US army base in their backyard.

The Italian government has approved the new base without asking the local population. After numerous requests, the government had denied them a chance to hold a referendum on the issue.

Vicenza’s mayor Achille Variati says he is powerless:

“These are military pacts Italy signed at the end of WWII, now the issue is under the competence of Rome. As a result the citizens of Vicenza have no influence over these agreements in 2009.”

Clinton Wants Nonfunctioning Weapon to Protect Europe from Nonexistent Threat of Weapons Iran Doesn't Have

Hmm, now can we ask who profits from missile offense? Or is this just a case of American officials' habitual compulsion to say crazy stuff when in Israel?

Many in Afghanistan Oppose Obama's Troop Buildup Plans

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

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

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

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

NC Military Mom Heads for Fort Benning with Kids

NC military mom heads for Fort Benning with kids
By Tom Foreman Jr. | Google News

A North Carolina woman who was recalled to the Army four years after being honorably discharged was driving nearly 400 miles and braving a Southeastern winter storm to report for duty Sunday, with her children by her side.

Lisa Pagan was en route to Fort Benning, despite the snow, and said in a phone interview she hoped to reach the Georgia post by early evening.

"I know I'm on my way doing what I need to do," Pagan said. "But I'm a little nervous."

Pagan said she wasn't expected at Fort Benning at a specific time, other than to get there by the end of the day. She said road conditions weren't too bad, but the weather had slowed her down.

Tom Gram: The Imperial Unconscious

The Imperial Unconscious: Afghan Faces, Predators, Reapers, Terrorist Stars, Roman Conquerors, Imperial Graveyards, and Other Oddities of the Truncated American Century
By Tom Engelhardt | Tom Dispatch.com

Sometimes, it's the everyday things, the ones that fly below the radar, that matter.

Here, according to Bloomberg News, is part of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's recent testimony on the Afghan War before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

"U.S. goals in Afghanistan must be 'modest, realistic,' and 'above all, there must be an Afghan face on this war,' Gates said. 'The Afghan people must believe this is their war and we are there to help them. If they think we are there for our own purposes, then we will go the way of every other foreign army that has been in Afghanistan.'"

Now, in our world, a statement like this seems so obvious, so reasonable as to be beyond comment. And yet, stop a moment and think about this part of it: "there must be an Afghan face on this war." U.S. military and civilian officials used an equivalent phrase in 2005-2006 when things were going really, really wrong in Iraq. It was then commonplace -- and no less unremarked upon -- for them to urgently suggest that an "Iraqi face" be put on events there.

Expanding Care for War Veterans a Must

Expanding care for war veterans a must
By Mary Sanchez | McClatchy

HOW TO GET HELP: Veterans can contact the VA's Health Benefits Service Center at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or go to http://www.va.gov/healtheligibility.

A former soldier once adamantly argued in an e-mail to me that no one can really be "against the war" but "for the troops."

I disagreed, banking on a higher level of empathy among non-military citizenry who also hold passionate views on war.

Still, I'll concede a few points to that Vietnam veteran and VA volunteer. He was speaking largely about the experience of the Vietnam War vets, and also as a supporter of George W. Bush.

Older Soldiers Find a Niche in New Army

Older soldiers find a niche in new Army | 'GI Jorge,' a father, grandfather and struggling property appraiser, is becoming a soldier at 40 to secure his family's financial future.
By Carol Rosenberg | Miami Herald

As the South Florida real estate market disintegrated and the number of jobless rose, 40-year-old Jorge Gil Muela made a young man's decision.

The five-foot-seven, 235-pound property appraiser walked into a recruiting center in a Kendall strip mall in December to join the Army. He was told to shed 50 pounds. It's a small price, he said, for the job security and pay, family health insurance and new career as a cargo handler.

A 185-pound Muela will report for duty at Fort Sill, Okla., next month, leaving his wife, children and grandchildren behind in Miami.

Marine One Blueprints and Avionics Leaked to Iran Through Peer-to-Peer Network

Marine One blueprints and avionics leaked to Iran through peer-to-peer network | Raw Story

Thanks to a defense contractor's errant use of a peer-to-peer file-sharing network, President Obama's helicopter may not be as safe as it looks.

A Pittsburgh-area company that monitors peer-to-peer networks accessed with file-sharing software like LimeWire and Napster says it has identified a potentially serious security breach involving Marine One and an IP address in Tehran, Iran.

The company found a file detailing the helicopter's blueprints and avionics package, which it then traced to its original source, Tiversa CEO Bob Boback told NBC affiliate WPXI, which reported the story Saturday.

Soldier Mom Plans to Report for Duty with Kids

Soldier mom plans to report for duty with kids | MSNBC.com

When Lisa Pagan reports for duty Sunday, four long years after she was honorably discharged from the Army, she will arrive with more than her old uniform. She is bringing her kids, too.

"I have to bring them with me," she said. "I don't have a choice."

Pagan is among thousands of former service members who have left active duty since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, only to later receive orders to return to service. They are not in training, they are not getting a Defense Department salary, but as long as they have time left on their original enlistment contracts, they are on "individual ready reserve" status — eligible to be recalled at any time.

The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas

I've blogged before about our enslavement of workers in the Marianas, but here's a forthcoming film that tells a longer, broader history of our colonization of Guam and the Northern Marianas, and the current place of Guam in the global resistance to US military bases and the global expansion of US military bases. U.S. soldiers who are native to these islands and unrepresented by any vote in Washington are dying in Iraq at a per-capita rate four times higher than that of any U.S. state.

Would You Spend $140 Billion to Make People Hate You?

We do, on U.S. military bases in other countries. Check out this very cool site that allows you to see all of the world's military bases in Google Earth. You Congress member might like to know this, even if they claim that military spending creates jobs. Research shows that non-military spending produces more and better paying jobs in the U.S. economy, and that's when compared with military spending in the U.S. Here, most jobs created are created in nations most of whose populations do not want the bases. Of course, to save the $140 billion we'll have to spend a little to close the bases, and we'll have to decommission a lot of soldiers, not just bring them home. Why not find them jobs in green energy, mass transit, healthcare, education?

Updates on proposed base in Vicenza here.

Ron Paul Speaks at CPAC 2009

Ron Paul Speaks at CPAC

Part 1

Doomed to Repeat History in Afghanistan?

Doomed to repeat history in Afghanistan?
By Joseph L. Galloway | McClatchy Newspapers

President Barack Obama this week is laying out the road home from the war in Iraq during the next 19 months. More or less.

The President has indicated that he'll order the withdrawal of upward of 100,000 American troops from a war that began six years ago and has cost us more than 4,200 American dead, well over 70,000 wounded or injured and nearly a trillion dollars in national treasure.

This withdrawal, however, will leave tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq to train and advise Iraqi security forces, safeguard American facilities and personnel and continue tracking down and eliminating the worst al Qaida in Iraq terrorists.

US May Boycott Racism Conference

US may boycott racism conference | BBC

The US is likely to boycott a UN racism conference, reports say, saying a text drawn up for the event criticises Israel and restricts free of speech.

An unnamed state department official said the draft document for April's forum in Geneva was "unsalvageable".

Canada and Israel have also said they plan to boycott the meeting.

Afghans Protest Against Foreign Troops

Afghans protest against foreign troops
By Sayed Salahuddin | Yahoo!News | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

Six people were hurt when Afghan police opened fire on demonstrators who claimed U.S. troops had desecrated a Koran during a raid on a mosque.

The incident took place in Deh Khodaidad village in Ghazni, southwest of the capital, Kabul.

Police said a government team had been sent to investigate claims that foreign troops had raided the mosque, rounded up worshippers and tore apart copies of the Koran on Thursday night.

A spokesman for the U.S. military said he was aware of a "peaceful protest." Afghan police said any injuries had been caused by "saboteurs" in the crowd.

Santa Barbara Welcomes Author of "The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle Against America's Veterans" This Sunday

Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life at UCSB present:

Aaron Glantz, author of "How America Lost Iraq" discusses his new book:
“The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle against America's Veterans”

Sunday, 1 March / 3:00 p.m. / Free
Victoria Hall, 33 West Victoria Street, Santa Barbara

Printable Flyer

"The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle against America's Veterans" is the first book to systematically document the U.S. government's neglect of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Aaron Glantz, who reported extensively from Iraq during the first three years of this war and has been reporting on the plight of veterans ever since, offers a devastating indictment of the Bush administration for its blatant neglect of soldiers and its disingenuous reneging on their benefits.

Homeland Offense

Homeland Offense
Washington contemplates deploying the Armed Forces for domestic law enforcement.
By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos | American Conservative


Whether well-founded or not, fears abound that the new BCT assignments to the homefront foreshadow abuses of executive power; that a president could use the threat of terrorism or an actual attack to invoke the Insurrection Act and call in battle-hardened troops to suppress social disorder or political dissent....“What we have here is a little backward...We are sending the National Guard and Reserves overseas and taking the active duty out of combat fighting to remain here in the United States. What’s going on?”

Obama seeks $205 billion for Iraq, Afghan wars

Obama seeks $205 billion for Iraq, Afghan wars
By Tabassum Zakaria and Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama requested about $205 billion in war funding through the end of fiscal 2010 on Thursday, as he sought to withdraw tens of thousands of troops from Iraq and boost forces fighting a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

Obama's first budget proposal asked for $75.5 billion through September, which would bring total war spending to $141.4 billion for the current fiscal year. Obama also requested a slightly smaller $130 billion to fund the wars for fiscal year 2010, which starts on October 1.

Obama asked Congress to increase the Pentagon's regular budget to $533.7 billion next year -- up 4 percent, or $20.4 billion, from its spending plan for the current year, drawn up under the Bush administration.

Where the Money Goes

Where the money goes
By Norman Solomon | SF Gate

Early this winter, the PBS "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" interviewed the medical director at a community clinic in Northern California. He recalled the sight of military equipment moving along railroad tracks next to his office. "I've joked with my colleagues," Dr. David Katz said, "if we could just get one of those Abrams tanks we could probably fund all the primary care clinics for a year."

The comment didn't make it on the air - it was only included in video on a PBS Web site - and that was unfortunate. We need more public focus on what our tax dollars are buying.

Budget Makes No ‘Sweeping Shift’ in Security Spending Yet

By Miriam Pemberton and Suzanne Smith

In December, The New York Times reported that Obama’s Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and Defense Secretary had all “embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena…a rebalancing of America’s security portfolio after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the Bush years.”

The budget released today does show signs of a modest course correction. A “sweeping shift” will have to wait. The main cause: while the new administration has slowed the rate of increase in the base military budget, it has still requested more money for the Pentagon than the Bush administration ever did. Its request of $534 billion is $20 billion more than the amount Congress appropriated for FY 2009.

Afghanistan's Complex Nature of Fighting

Afghanistan's Complex Nature of Fighting

Anti-war Protesters Take Cause to Churches

Anti-war protesters take cause to churches

Since October 2007, a small group of demonstrators has visited 20 Westchester churches during Sunday morning services, silently unfurled banners of protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and waited for a reaction.

They have received scattered applause in a few churches and have been invited to stay for coffee in several.

But they have been thrown out of other churches - often with anger and sometimes with a touch of force - and have been called communists, narcissists, morons, pinkos, wackos, fools and words that can't be printed.

Some church pastors support the group's anti-war stance, if not their methods of protest, while others condemn the unannounced visits as tactless intrusions on worship.

The group of six main demonstrators has no name and is not affiliated with any larger organization or movement. But word has spread in the church community that they are out there - and could be coming your way.

In fact, the protesters plan on visiting at least one church a month until American troops are out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We usually don't get the greatest response," said Nora Freeman, 53, of Port Chester.

"Most of the time it's dead silence at first, which is kind of eerie," said Debbie Kair, 52, of Hartsdale.

Indict Bush and Impeach Obama

Indict Bush and Impeach Obama
Liberal Leaders Betray Antiwar Cause To Serve Dems and Obama -- Again
By John V. Walsh | Dissident Voice

In the Wall Street Journal of January 24, the loathsome McCarthyite neocon David Horowitz gazed approvingly on the inauguration of Barack Obama. To Horowitz it meant the removal of an obstacle to war. Thus he wrote:

Targeting Israel with Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions, and Prosecutions

Targeting Israel with Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions, and Prosecutions
by Stephen Lendman

Enough is enough. After 61 years of Palestinian slaughter, displacement, occupation, oppression, and international dismissiveness and complicity, global action is essential. Israel must be held accountable. World leaders won't do it, so grassroots movements must lead the way.

In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:

"The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure - in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation."

Barney Frank to Obama: Cut Military Spending

By Nick Baumann, Mother Jones

Representative Barney Frank is one of the most powerful Democrats in the House of Representatives. As chairman of the Financial Services Committee, he's overseeing the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars to bailout Wall Street and stave off the mortgage crisis. The White House needs him, and he's been a dependable ally so far. Now he's leaning on President Barack Obama to cut the Pentagon budget.

Obama's Address: Smooth? Yes. Transformative? No.

By Dave Lindorff

Barack Obama’s first address to Congress provided Americans with yet another example of competent speechmaking, and I suppose, given that we’ve just endured eight painful years of oratorical farce, being able to listen to your president without wincing is something.

The problem is that the way forward proposed by the president as laid out in this address was almost always half-hearted, wrong-headed or doomed.

Obama declared at the outset of his address that the economic crisis was the major issue confronting the country, and while one could argue that this crisis is merely a symptom of much bigger issues, like the nearly completed deindustrialization of the nation, the death grip of militarism, and the growing political power of corporations, one could also concede that there is an urgent need to deal with the deepening recession.

New Book Examines Pentagon Practices, Excesses

The Center for Defense Information wrote:

At a Feb. 19 discussion of the new anthology "America's Defense Meltdown," a veteran of five decades of experience with the Department of Defense acquisition system described just how broken the system has become. Pointedly, Thomas Christie made it clear in his presentation that some of the worst practices were developed during the Clinton administration, and now many of those responsible for that are now back haunting the halls of the Pentagon. People who think that nothing could get worse than the incompetence of the Bush-Rumsfeld years might want to wait a bit before they claim that any corner has been turned in the Obama-Gates Pentagon.

PENTAGON OFFICIALS MUST SIGN BUDGET SECRECY PLEDGE

http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy

Department of Defense officials who are involved in preparation of the Fiscal Year 2010 budget request are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement pledging not to divulge budget-related information to unauthorized persons.

A copy of the non-disclosure agreement, which was obtained by Defense News, is available here (pdf).

In President Obama's January 20, 2009 inaugural address, he promised a new degree of transparency specifically on budget matters: "And those of use who manage the public's dollars will held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."

But the light of day evidently does not extend to the budget development process, and perhaps it should not.

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