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Trump-Branded Shit

Posted by DownWithTyranny on September 7th, 2017

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

-by Dorothy Reik

Never one to bypass a branding opportunity, Donald Trump has decided to increase and extend his presence in the heroin production capital of the world, Afghanistan. Under the rubric “Make Afghanistan Great Again” Trump promises to create jobs, and provide quality Trump brand Afghan heroin at a lower price. Trump will identify his heroin, packaged in reusable bindles created by Ivanka Trump’s own designers, with the golden “T” so that buyers can be sure to get the superior heroin produced under Trump family supervision. “Be sure to insist on Trump Brand Heroin when you go out to score– or when you order your product delivered. Remember, Trump brand heroin supasses War Lord Heroin and Terrorist Heroin in strength and purity. Trump Brand Heroin is certified organic by Donald Trump himself.” While it has proved difficult to “take their oil,” in Iraq, Trump seems certain that “taking their heroin” in Afghanistan will be easy.

Last week Trump also threatened a small competitor in the heroin trade– Pakistan. Stay tuned.

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Trump Flops Badly On Afghanistan

Posted by DownWithTyranny on August 22nd, 2017

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

There is only one elected official who was ever right about Afghanistan– just one: Barbara Lee, who stood alone among the entire Congress and voted against Bush’s decision to attack and occupy Afghanistan 17 years ago. After Trumpanzee read the speech someone had written for him from a teleprompter Monday night, Congresswoman Lee released a statement criticizing Trump for his “failure to outline a comprehensive strategy to bring an end to our nation’s longest war. After sixteen years at war, one thing is clear: there is no military solution in Afghanistan. Any lasting peace in Afghanistan must be secured through diplomacy. Further military engagement will only put our brave servicemen and women in harm’s way while doing little to enhance our national security. This war has already cost our nation too much, in blood and in treasure. We have lost 2,386 brave American service members, and more than 20,000 American soldiers have been wounded. It is past time to end the war and bring all of our troops home. In 2001, I opposed authorization for this war because it allowed any President a blank check to wage endless war without Congressional oversight. The Constitution is clear: Congress must provide advise and consent in matters of war and peace. At a minimum, Congress should debate and vote on a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force before we commit to another surge that will keep our troops in Afghanistan for years to come and cost billions more in spending.”

Way across the ideological spectrum, Rand Paul was also critical of Trump’s stupid, knee-jerk reaction which was based entirely on his own fears and his own vanity– exactly what you would expect from a deranged sociopath thrust into power by a kakistocracy. Paul, in an OpEd for The Hill reminded his readers that “The mission in Afghanistan has lost its purpose, and I think it is a terrible idea to send any more troops into that war. It’s time to come home now.”

We went from striking back against those who attacked us, to regime change, to nation-building, to policing their country for them. And we do it all now with an authorization that is flimsy at best, with the reason blurred, and the costs now known. We do it with an authorization that was debated and passed before some of our newest military personnel were out of diapers. This isn’t fair to them, to the American people, or to a rational foreign policy.

The Afghanistan war going beyond its original mission has an enormous cost. First and most important is the cost to our troops. Deaths, injuries and unnecessary deployments causing harm to families are certainly the most important reason as to why you don’t go to wars that aren’t necessary.

Then comes the taxpayer. We have spent over $1 trillion in Afghanistan, and nearly $5 trillion on Middle East wars in the past 15 years. Would we not be better off with $5 trillion less in debt or using these funds in other, more productive ways?

Nation-building should not be our job, and it has consistently been a fool’s errand for us, particularly in this region. There is no reason to believe we can do it in Afghanistan, and certainly no reason to believe we can do it without a permanent, costly presence in the country.

So I strongly disagree with the administration’s actions here. I’ve spoken to the president, and I know he wants to end this war. We’ve all heard him say it. But talk won’t get it done. Although I’ve been informed that the president rejected larger expansions of troops than the one announced this week, that’s not good enough. He should have rejected this one and stuck to his principles. He knows this war is over, and he– unlike the last two presidents– should have the guts to end it for real, on his watch.

Regardless of the argument over the number of troops, I also will insist my colleagues take up a larger argument over the power to declare war. I believe we have allowed the executive to exercise far too much power in recent years.

This is one of the reasons I objected just before the recess when the Senate moved to consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I have an amendment that I will insist be considered that would repeal the 2001 AUMF on Afghanistan. That AUMF is outdated, overcome by events, and provides a feeble bit of cover for people who still want to be there.

If the president and my colleagues want to continue the war in Afghanistan, then at the very least Congress should vote on it. I’ll insist they do this fall, and I’ll be leading the charge for “no.”

Derrick Crowe is currently the Blue America-endorsed congressional candidate for the TX-21 seat occupied by Trumpo rubber-stamp Lamar Smith. We first met him many years ago when he was the political director at Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan project.

Right after Trump’s speech, Crowe released a statement for TX-21 voters that I think is worthwhile for all Americans to read. “The Afghanistan War is a bipartisan failure,” he wrote, “that should end with the immediate withdrawal of troops from that country. Instead, Donald Trump is making a profoundly stupid mistake by adding military forces, despite the clear evidence that the war isn’t making us safer and isn’t worth the costs.”

Osama Bin Laden is dead, along with more than 104,000 people. This war created the second largest number of refugees and internally displaced persons behind Syria. Despite these facts, the United States continues to spend $4 million per hour on a war in which Washington, D.C. has lost the plot.

House Speaker Paul Ryan made the incredible statement on CNN Monday night that our enemies will just ‘wait us out’ if we put an end date on our military deployment in Afghanistan. I’d like to discuss with Speaker Ryan what he thinks is happening now in the longest war in U.S. history. There are people finishing graduate school now who were in fourth grade when this war started.

Continuing the Afghanistan War in any way at this point is a profoundly status quo decision, one that will send many more U.S. troops home with deep physical, psychological, and moral injuries, to say nothing of the civilian deaths and maimings that will result as we reheat the conflict. Congress must immediately repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force and bar President Trump from tearing another festering war wound into the painful history of the last two decades of U.S. foreign policy.

Meanwhile Breitbart, the Trump-supporting neo-Nazi website run by the criminal Mercer family and Steve Bannon, wasn’t all that supportive. Trump’s ‘America First’ Base Unhappy with Flip-Flop Afghanistan Speech was the headline.

President Trump’s “America First” base was the biggest loser of Trump’s speech on Afghanistan Monday night, and many quickly expressed their disappointment at the business-as-usual address from the president who had once promised to limit American intervention abroad and focus on nation-building at home.

Trump’s speech, in which he pledged to increase the number of troops in the 16-year-war, was the first since the departure of Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and confirmed the fears of many on the right that without a strong nationalist voice in the West Wing, the President would revert to the same old fare that Americans had voted to reject in November.

Using many of the same vague promises that previous presidents had used, including a repeat of Obama’s promise not to give a “blank check” to Afghanistan and a pledge to finally get tough on Pakistan, it was a far cry from the “America First” foreign policy he laid out in the months before election day.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who had been an enthusiastic supporter of Trump during the campaign and penned a book called In Trump we Trust, summed up the weariness of the nationalist right when she tweeted: “It doesn’t matter who you vote for. The military-industrial complex wins.”

They noted that neo-fascist Putin supporter Mike Cernovich was making fun of Ivanka, Jared and McMaster during the speech. He was also laughing at GOP goof-ball Marco Rubio. You can always count on Cernovich to be opposing all policies and actions viewed negatively by the Kremlin– and Trump’s Afghanistan blunder is, a blunder a president in severely over his depth was pushed into by the Military Industrial Complex Eisenhower warned us about.   

The plan– which will maintain an unspecified U.S. troop presence without withdrawal timetables and intensify pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorist safe havens– was the product of a months-long strategy review in which the president’s national security team talked him out of ending the costly 16-year war. “It wasn’t a debate,” said a senior White House aide. “It was an attempt to convince the president.”

It was also an unsatisfying outcome for a president who likes to act boldly and who has called America’s commitment to Afghanistan a waste of money. But the president conceded that the world looks different from behind the presidential desk.

“My original instinct was to pull out,” Trump conceded, adding that “decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”

…While Trump demands obedience from his civilian subordinates, his decision to recommit to Afghanistan demonstrated a willingness to change his mind on matters of national security when his military aides press him hard enough. “It shows that he’s open to reconsidering his positions on national security, which is a good thing,” said Fred Kagan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq in the late 2000s.

…McMaster and Mattis, both of whom served in Afghanistan, stressed the weakness of the Afghan government, which controls little more than half the country, and warned that an end to U.S. military support would lead to a Taliban takeover.

In one of the last senior staff meetings before the president made his decision last Friday at Camp David, chief of staff John Kelly– himself a retired Marine general– played devil’s advocate, preparing Cabinet members and top aides for a grilling from the skeptical president. Kelly peppered the group with questions that reflected much of Trump’s thinking, according to a senior White House aide, from “Why can’t we withdraw?” and “Why can’t we shift to a counter-terrorism only platform?” to “Why couldn’t we do this with paramilitary forces [supplied by the CIA] only?”

…[L]ike Obama, who later complained that his generals had boxed him into sending 30,000 more troops to the country in 2009, Trump chafed at the options presented to him by his military advisers.

“Obama was suspicious of what the generals were telling him. They were telling him to put in more troops than he wanted to,” said Eric Edelman, who served as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy under George W. Bush. “Trump does recognize that just pulling out is not an option. If the Taliban takes over and then there’s a terrorist attack, that is a big political risk for him,” Edelman added.

Although McMaster had hoped Trump would sign off on a strategy before a late May NATO summit in Brussels, allowing him to work out the new plan with allies there, White House aides say Trump’s resistance to the proposals from his national security team dragged out the process. In the spring, he told aides, including McMaster, that he had “campaigned against this” and had “been to Walter Reed and seen these guys with their arms and legs blown off.” He asked for more options and he demanded to know how he could justify an additional troop commitment.

White House aides say the president’s cabinet was united in its recommendation to the president, but there were skeptics and dissenters along the way. Chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was dismissed Friday, was a vocal opponent of the strategy endorsed by the president Monday, and though one White House adviser described him as a “ghost” in internal deliberations– he preferred to speak privately with the president or to talk to the news media– he succeeded, at least temporarily, in dubbing the effort “McMaster’s War.”

Some Trump advisers– including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Homeland Security Adviser Thomas Bossert– worried that Trump’s approach might betray the promises he made as a candidate. The president’s national security team presented him with additional options, including a plan to outsource the war to contractors overseen by Erik Prince, the former Blackwater chief.

Trump was also intrigued, in two discussions with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, by Ghani’s mention of the Afghan-istan’s huge mineral reserves– which, he told Trump, the Afghans themselves lacked the technology and the resources to exploit. By some assessments, more than $1 trillion in mineral wealth, much of it in the form of lithium, could lay in the rock and soil of Afghanistan. But many analysts say that, given conditions in the country, it could be many years before it can be tapped at a significant profit.

After Trump raised the question of mineral wealth one cabinet meeting, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson– a former ExxonMobil CEO who oversaw projects in several dangerous nations– warned him about the risk of investing in politically unstable regions.

Trump nevertheless tasked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross with examining any potential investment opportunities for the U.S. in Afghanistan, according to a senior White House aide.

Politico’s Susan Glasser had a more informed perspective. She wrote that the one thing that the Trumpanzee speech proved “beyond the shadow of a doubt” is that “after nearly 16 years of fighting America’s longest war, there are no new ideas,” despite Trumpanzee insisting that “his” plan is “dramatically different.” Only his war-mongering rhetoric was different. Pakistan is not likely to change any substantive policies towards Afghanistan despite Trump’s blustering. The only change will be that, with the disregard for collateral damage, many more Afghan civilians will die now, something that will further turn these people who never forget into eternal enemies. Meanwhile, by the by, the most historically ignorant president in history is pressuring other NATO members to send more troops into the pointless Afghan meat-grinder.

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Press for Real Diplomacy to End the Unwinnable Afghan War

Posted by Just Foreign Policy on August 22nd, 2017

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

Capitulating to his generals, President Trump has agreed to send thousands of more American soldiers to Afghanistan, even though experts agree that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable.

The only realistic alternative to endless war in Afghanistan is a negotiated peace that includes all the major Afghan factions and all the neighboring countries that are supporting major Afghan factions in the Afghan civil war, including Pakistan, India, Iran, and Russia. The Obama and Bush Administrations never seriously pursued a negotiated peace. So far, the Trump Administration is simply continuing the Bush-Obama policy of adding just enough American soldiers to prevent the Taliban from completely taking over Afghanistan, without doing anything diplomatically and politically to end the war.

Urge your Rep. & Senators to press the Trump Administration to commit to real diplomacy to end the war in Afghanistan by signing our petition at MoveOn.

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Walter Jones Understands The Tragedy In Afghanistan A Lot Better Than Señor Trumpanzee Or Paul Ryan

Posted by DownWithTyranny on June 6th, 2017

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

NC-03– the Outer Banks and most of the state’s coastal plain from the Virginia border south of Norfolk down past New Bern and Jacksonville. It’s a very red district, R+11, and Walter Jones has been congressman there since 1994 (a year after he switched from Democrat to Republican). Romney beat Obama there, 59% to 41% and Trump did even better– 60.5% to 36.9%– last year. Jones did even better– beating Democrat Ernest Reeves 67.2% to 32.8%.

Jones is a principled, libertarian-leaning social conservative. He votes for progressive legislation quite a lot. In fact his 41.18 ProgressivePunch crucial vote score for 2017 is the highest of any Republican– by far– and better than 17 House Democrats– DINOs like Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-11.11), Henry Cuellar (TX-16.67), Collin Peterson (MN-16.67), Dan Lipinksi (IL-22.22), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-27.78), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-27.78), Ron Kind (WI-27.78), Ami Bera (CA-27.78), Stephanie Murphy (FL-29.41), Kurt Schrader (OR-29.41), Scott Peters (CA-33.33), Jim Costa (37.50), Raul Ruiz (CA-38.89), Lou Correa (CA-38.89), Jacky Rosen (NV-38.89), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-38.89).

Ryan– and Boehner before him– have consistently struck out against Jones, penalizing him in committee assignments and encouraging right-wing nut jobs to run against him in primaries. Last year a deranged Trumpist, Phil Law, ran against Jones in the GOP primary and managed to win just over 20% of the Republican vote. A sleazy right-wing lobbyist, Taylor Griffin, also ran and he nearly got 15% of the primary vote. Reeves, the Democrat, raised no money for the general election but in the primary Griffin spent $345,966 and Law spent $145,404. (Jones spent a total of $693,517 for the primary and general.)

The Republican Establishment hatred for Jones seems to endear him to his own constituents, who like his independence. He’s the most anti-war of all the Republicans in Congress and is famous for once telling a conference of Ron Paul supporters that “Lyndon Johnson’s probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney.” A few days ago he told PJMedia that Congress should stop funding the war in Afghanistan. He opposes Trump sending more troops and opposes the idea of “trying to build empires around the world.” He also pointed out that Congress hasn’t had a debate about the war in Afghanistan since 2001. Jones:

I’m absolutely opposed to it, because if you increase the number of American troops that means the number of Americans to be killed and wounded goes up. And again, I come back to the point, what have we accomplished? We spent over $800 billion dollars. We are very close to $1 trillion in the past 16 years.

We’ve had over 2,200 Americans killed and 20,000 wounded. What have we accomplished? In fact, [Hamid] Karzai, the former leader of Afghanistan, is now trying to get the Russians to negotiate with the Taliban so he can go back into power. It’s now like the Wild West that is wilder than it has ever been… by increasing the number of troops, all you’re doing is increasing the odds of American troops being killed or wounded.

History has proven it doesn’t work going back to the Roman Empire. I mean, anybody that knows history– that’s what [former Marine Corps Commandant] Gen. Charles Krulak has said to me many times– if you know history, you will know that no one is going to change Afghanistan. It is a tribal nation.

More important than the money is young men and women are being killed and wounded and Congress has a constitutional responsibility to debate and vote about sending our young men and women to war, but we don’t do debates like those anymore. Yes, there have been efforts by Democrats and Republicans to put amendments on appropriations bills with money going to Afghanistan, but really no policy debate at all.

We’ve written [Paul Ryan] letters, we talked to him personally and he has not [asked the committees of jurisdiction to mark up a new Authorization for Use of Military Force]. This is going to be an effort of trying to get more and more members of Congress of both parties to come together for no other reason but to say after 16 years is it now a time to debate the issues of our country and our military in Afghanistan, and what’s the definition of victory? After 16 years we have no definition of victory. We’re saying you, not the president, but you have the authority as leader of the House to permit your members of the House to meet their constitutional responsibility of debating war. It’s not up to the president, it’s up to the Speaker of the House and he hasn’t done it.”

Goal ThermometerMatt Coffay and Jenny Marshall, progressive Democrats, running for Congress on the opposite side of North Carolina, both supports with what Jones is trying to accomplish. “I firmly agree with Rep. Jones’ opposition to a troop and spending increase in Afghanistan,” Matt told us, “and second his suggestion that Congress hold an open debate about our military involvement there. After maintaining a decade and a half-long military presence, it’s long past time that we reassess– in Jones’ words– how exactly we define “victory” in Afghanistan. America ought to have the smartest, sleekest, most efficient, and most effective military in the world. A troop increase in Afghanistan won’t get us any closer to that goal. And neither will defense spending increases, unless the spending is done intelligently. The new defense budget proposed by Trump includes the construction of 84 new fighter jets, to the tune of billions of dollars for taxpayers–but do those jets really keep us safer? Threats to the United States continue to evolve, and beyond Jones’ call to reexamine Afghanistan, I believe we also need to reexamine how and where we’re allocating our defense spending across the board. Are we spending money to keep Americans safer, and to make our military the best in the world? Or are we spending money for the benefit of the military-industrial complex?”

Jenny added that “The U.S. has spent 1.7 Trillion dollars in direct war appropriations over the last 15 years, but counting the cost of war in dollars neglects the human loss of life and the lingering effects once the bullets have stopped flying. Nita Crawford from Brown University states ‘A full accounting of any war’s burdens cannot be places in columns on a ledger, from the civilians harmed or displaced by violence, to the soldiers killed and wounded, to the children who play years later on roads and fields sown with improvised explosive devices and cluster bombs, no set of numbers can convey the human toll of the wars.’ Yet, we can know the numbers of the ever-rising death toll. 3,407 US and Allied troops, 3,540 US Contractors, 406 humanitarian workers and journalists, 31,419 civilians in Afghanistan alone. The numbers for the wounded are staggering. So, when the war hawks beat their drums remember that war must be the last option because the cost is just too high.”

Back in 2001 there was only one member of Congress with the guts to say NO to Bush and Cheney and their bloodlust when it came to attacking Afghanistan: Oakland Democrat Barbara Lee. She is the model of courageousness in Congress and an inspiration to anyone thinking about taking a difficult vote of conscience. Last night she told us she admires Walter Jones’ own efforts in ending the Afghanistan debacle. “Congressman Jones has been a steadfast leader in the effort to rein in our endless wars and he’s completely right. After a decade and a half in Afghanistan, it’s past time to learn there is no military solution to this conflict. We will continue to urge Speaker Ryan to allow Congress to hold a debate and vote on the repeal of the 2001 AUMF, which is nothing more than a blank check for endless war. Additionally, we will keep demanding that President Trump listen to the war-weary American public and bring our troops home.”

If iron worker and union activist Randy Bryce– who was unanimously reelected by the Wisconsin Democratic Party to head their veterans division this past weekend– beats Paul Ryan in the 2018 midterms, he will be another Democrat with the kind of guts it takes to cast votes of conscience, the way Barbara Lee did. He told us that “Under a Democratic President, Osama bin Laden was taken out. Under Republican leadership, the key to the Oval Office has been handed over to the Russians. What do we have left to gain in Afghanistan after 16 years? Trump made a promise to rid the world of ISIL within 30 days of taking office. Time is up.” He continued:

It might be a subject for debate if those returning from wars were taken care of, but, we’re not. Further draconian cuts to help our heroes once returned are in the proposed budget.

I know Paul Ryan isn’t a fan of working together in a bipartisan manner (i.e. Health care) but, this should be a no brainer for anyone who looks at the subject for more than a few minutes.

When it comes to veterans, I don’t see any partisan lines. Veterans are the only reason why we continue to have the freedom to choose how to think politically.

Veterans don’t ask what party another vet identifies with before offering the shirt off a back– we help however we can because it is the correct thing to do.

Paul Ryan– even though you are afraid to face us in the 1st CD, please do something to show us that you still have some semblance of compassion by letting our troops come home. Do what we did to protect our country– work together to achieve a goal. We all took an oath.

Show us you are capable, and, maybe you won’t need to be so afraid to face us. It’s been over 600 days since you’ve had a town hall.

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Trump Decides To Repay Loyalty With Deadly Indifference– Not Just In West Virginia, But In Afghanistan Too

Posted by DownWithTyranny on March 12th, 2017

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

US soldier in Afghanistan, questions captive with the help of an Afghan translator

My friend Sonia, a Holocaust survivor and author of over 40 books, is writing a new one now about a torn-apart family of Afghan refugees who are living in the Bay Area in the late 1970s. After two long stays in Afghanistan in the 1960s and ’70s, I too was living in the Bay Area when her book is set. And in the same scene– the Mabuhay Gardens punk rock scene– her protagonist gets involved with. So I’m helping Sonia create the back story to give her characters context.

I’ve been traveling since I was a kid, when I ran away from home one Easter and hitch-hiked to Florida as a dress rehearsal for a summer escape to Tonga via California. International travel is in my blood. The countries I like to visit multiple times aren’t about the shopping opportunities or great restaurants or beautiful scenery; the big factor is always the people. All told, I spent nearly a year in Afghanistan because I thought the people were so awesome– so independent minded, so-honor bound and loyal and so true to their moral code. I’ve been back in touch with that code again– Pashtuniwali– because of Sonia’s book.

Yesterday I saw a disturbing report from NPR that Afghans who worked with U.S. forces have been told they can no longer apply for special visas. Many of these people are in mortal danger because they helped the U.S. and were explicitly promised sanctuary in America in return for their aid.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department announced that it expected the visas to be depleted by June 1 and that “No further interviews for Afghan principal applicants … will be scheduled after March 1, 2017.”

NPR’s Quil Lawrence reported, “The Special Immigrant Visa program was designed to reward Iraqis and Afghans who help U.S. forces at war, but it’s been plagued by a lengthy vetting process and changing politics in Washington.”

The special visas also apply to spouses and children of people who worked as translators, drivers and other staff for the U.S. military and other agencies.

…Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement that “It is no exaggeration to say that this is a matter of life and death as Afghans who served the U.S. mission continue to be systematically hunted down by the Taliban. The number of visas needed for those in danger far surpasses what’s provided in this bill.”

Shaheen, a Democrat, has partnered with Sen. John McCain, a Republican, to push for the program to continue, and both have condemned what they see as a shortsighted policy of limiting visas, making it more difficult for the U.S. government to persuade local allies to work with them.

“It’s not just a quid pro quo, ‘Hey you help me out [and] I’ll help you get to America,’ ” Marine veteran Zach Iscol told Quil. “It’s taking care of those who took care of us when we were in their country.”

Last month the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan asked Congress to send more troops to Afghanistan, where American soldiers have been assisting Afghan security forces since the U.S. formally ended its combat mission in 2014 and are increasingly drawn into battle there.

There are currently 8,400 U.S. service members deployed to Afghanistan.

Last year, nine former Iraqi translators sued the federal government over delays in the program. Some had been waiting five years or more to get an answer about their visa applications.

Mac McEachin of the International Refugee Assistance Project, which has helped Afghans apply through the special visa programs in both Afghanistan and Iraq, said in a statement that he believes allowing the program to lapse could affect U.S. operations outside the two countries.

“This news deals our ground efforts an especially harsh blow, as it comes on the heels of the announcement that troops from the 82nd Airborne will be deployed to Syria,” he wrote. “Now that the world has seen how we turn our backs on our Afghan allies, there is almost no chance that local allies in Syria will be inclined to work with us.”

The collapse of the U.S. special visa program is part of a larger closing of U.S. borders to people fleeing war and political violence.

What’s most repulsive about Donald J. Trump is that he is utterly devoid of any sense of honor or human dignity. He’s an amoral monstrosity– a true American Psycho– who lured voters with fake promises and is now leaving them high and dry. In West Virginia, he promised help with the opioid epidemic that is killing thousands of people. Now he’s all about making deals with the criminal PhRMA corporations that are preying on West Virginia Trump supporters. That’s who he is. The very idea of a lowlife like Trump honoring the commitments America has made to Afghans who risked their lives for our troops is at odds with the ugly essence of this ugly, despicable, dishonorable man.

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Trump Should Suspend His Campaign And Fly Herr Force One To Afghanistan For A Week Or Two

Posted by DownWithTyranny on September 25th, 2016

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

Tuesday I’m having dinner with a friend of mine, Sonia, a Berlin-born novelist and Holocaust survivor. She’s written over 40 books and is working on a new novel about a family of refugees who have resettled in the U.S. from Afghanistan. Two of her early books, The Journey to America and Silver Days, are about German Jewish refugees who flee the horrors of the Holocaust and resettle in America. I’ve been giving her pointers, from my two lengthy stays in Afghanistan about what the family she’s inventing were likely to have gone through– and what kind of mindset they will be bringing with them– before they arrived in the U.S. Tuesday’s dinner is going to be about Pashtunwalli, the code that predates Islam Afghans live by. I sent her the post related to the mass shooting in Orlando by the son of Afghan refugees, hyper-linked above.

In their list of 31 lies that Trump spouted last week, Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns in included one that’s been driving me crazy– and that I’ve seen Trump repeat at rallies all week– namely that “We have cities that are far more dangerous than Afghanistan.” That’s not even remotely close to true.

The first time I got to Afghanistan was in 1969, a relatively peaceful time, when Mohammad Zahir Shah was still the king and gradually introducing western ways into the country. I left just before he was deposed in a coup and the country slowly but steadily descended into chaos, coups and civil war. At the end of December, 1979, the Russians invaded. The country I loved so much has experienced almost 4 decades of non-stop mega-violence. No American whop hasn’t been in a war zone– and that includes Herr Trumpf, a draft dodger– has ever seen anything like it. No American city– not even Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago– is anything like Afghanistan.

Even when I was there, in relatively peaceful times, Afghanistan was more dangerous than any city in America. Other than in Kabul, the capital city, an Afghan male would no sooner walk out of his house without a gun than he would walk out of his house without pants. And the aforementioned Pashtunwalli is so punitive and retaliatory that a minor misunderstanding could easily– and often did– result in deadly violence. Afghanistan was– and is– an extreme patriarchal society. Women and children are routinely and universally treated as property by men. Economic disparity between the very rich and everyone else is so enormous and plays such an immense role in power and status assignations that danger was everywhere at all times. Violence between ethnic groups, religious sects, clans, tribes, regions was pervasive. In many parts of the country, there was no law and no order. Most people outside of Kabul didn’t even recognize the authority of a country called Afghanistan. I was shocked in the second biggest city, Kandahar, 4-5 hours away from Kabul by car, to find that people referred to the king as the king of Kabul.

As with most things he talks about on the campaign trail, Trump doesn’t have any idea what’s he’s talking about. He says whatever pops into his primitive skull. And if it “works,” he keeps repeating it, which doesn’t make it any truer. Some say he’s severely addicted to prescription drugs. That could be. But that he’s afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder is beyond a doubt, as anyone who has ever been in contact with him will tell you. Trump’s insane. No matter how abhorrent voting for Clinton appears to be, it’s a tradeoff worth taking to prevent him from ever getting into the White House. He should be dropped off in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush for a winter– as I once was– and see if he survives. He’d be a different person, which would be much welcomed by the entire world.

Trump’s vision of American inner cities? Which ones?

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America’s Longest War Isn’t Ending… Not As Long As It Continues To Feed Endemic Corruption

Posted by DownWithTyranny on July 8th, 2016

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Keith Ellison and Raúl Grijalva issued a statement after Obama’s press conference on Afghanistan: “We are disappointed with today’s announcement that the Department of Defense will keep 8,400 troops in Afghanistan through the end of the year. Does the longest war in U.S. history– nearly 15 years long– have an end in sight? Peace in Afghanistan will only come through a comprehensive solution that does not rely on our military, but puts more emphasis on diplomatic political engagement, capacity development, and humanitarian relief. As a sovereign nation, Afghanistan must take full responsibility for its national security. Too many families have sacrificed for too long, and we have spent trillions of taxpayer dollars that could have been used to educate kids, help working people feed their families, and provide job training to our veterans. The sooner we bring our troops home and shift away from our large-scale military occupation mission, the sooner we can help the Afghan government achieve stability and focus on critical challenges here at home.”

4 years ago, writing for Global Insight, our friend and occasional DWT contributor Skip Kaltenheuser wrote that America’s long goodbye from Afghanistan was leaving a failed state crippled by corruption. Essentially, nothing’s changed since then. It was in that piece he first introduced Nasir Shansab, an Afghan-American journalist. “Shansab,” he wrote “knows the territory. His family, descended from Afghan kings, were lynchpins in the economy. In 1934, Shansab’s father built a small hydroelectric plant in Kandahar, then a large one in Puli Khumir, as well as a textile factory with 3,000 employees. Other ventures included Afghanistan’s largest industrial plant, in Golbahar, with 8,000 well-paid workers, an embarrassment to the Communist government and a ticket to a fast exit. Shansab took his family and fled in 1975. The big factory? Still locked up and deteriorating in a country that doesn’t know what to do with it.” Today, in light of Obama’s announcement Wednesday that he’s committing the U.S. to an untenable status quo approach to Afghanistan through 2017, Nasir sent us a guest post from Kabul:

Afghanistan: State of the Nation
-by Nasir Shansab

I regret having to write this piece. I had hoped to present a positive picture of what Drs. Ghani and Abdullah had achieved in the two years of their unity-government.

I carefully searched to find valid reasons to praise the Ghani administration. I looked out for a few smiling faces– people who would praise their government, not necessarily for any extraordinary achievement but for something simple, something worth mentioning.

My inquiries failed to produce the desired result. I didn’t find a single person willing to express the least sense of satisfaction for the Ghani administration.

I don’t wish to be the unrelenting critic. But I have to recount a situation as it is and not as I would like it to be. Therefore, I must admit that what I have found during the past six weeks I have spent in this country is a tragedy and, I fear, a disaster in the making.

The following examples will underscore my despondency:

The Taliban has successfully spread out its insurgency over at least 20 provinces, including the north of the country, an area formerly considered as a comparatively secure region. A few months back, the Taliban even occupied the northern city of Kunduz, the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in the last 15 years. Kunduz was only freed after NATO and U.S. ground forces– against their adopted policy– came to the aid of the Afghan military and the U.S. launched a massive air attack on the Taliban.

ISIS attacked the Kot District of the south-eastern province of Nangarhar. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) counterattacked but failed to dislodge the ISIS fighters. The fighting displaced over 500 households, adding their numbers to the hundreds of thousands of other internal refugees.

The Afghani, the national currency, has gradually but steadily been losing value in relationship to the American dollar. When the slide began about eighteen moths back, 50 Afghanis equaled one dollar. Today, 69.40 Afghanis are needed to purchase a dollar. This slide in the value of the local currency is expected to continue.

Recently, it was discovered that an important Taliban intelligence officer, who had been wounded, was being secretly smuggled out of the country with the help of a high-ranking police officer.

Afghanistan is still by far the largest producer of illegal drugs. According to new reports, the country churns out 70% of the global illegal drug production;

Complaining before TV cameras, Afghanistan’s First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum complained that Drs. Ghani and Abdullah had refused to give his party a share of government posts such as ambassadorships and the positions of deputy ministers of the defense and interior ministries. Then the First Vice President of Afghanistan ventured to speak of “black money” and complained that Drs. Ghani and Abdullah would divide even “black money 50/50” among themselves.

As the Taliban are ascending and money is getting harder to come by, internal tensions between the parties are intensifying. Recently, the armed units of Abdul Rashid Dostum’s Hezbe Jumbishe Millie Islami Afghanistan and Salahudding Rabani’s Jamiat-e-Islami engaged one another in an armed encounter. In this military-style skirmish the First Vice President of Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister were at each other in an armed confrontation.

It should be noted that Afghanistan’s laws do not permit political parties to maintain armed groups. As is overwhelmingly the case in others areas of life in Afghanistan, the law does not apply to the powerful, not even when they are members of the same government.

Afghanistan’s enduring deterioration compels us to ask the indispensable question: What should be done to save the Afghan people from the torment they suffer at the hands of warlords and drug kingpins– from within and outside the government– and to prevent extremists from taking over the country?

The answer is simple if Afghanistan’s financial supporters remain true to their values, uphold their laws, and follow their oversight standards. The answer becomes complicated, even disastrous, if donor representatives persist in disregarding their principles and canons in handing out public monies.

What they know to be against their democratic and ethical principles, they should vigorously reject for they are the guardians of both the interests of their taxpayers and aspirations of the poverty-stricken Afghan people, a people whose opportunities have been destroyed and hopes shattered by the greed and ruthlessness of a heartless elite.

Here is why I feel my harsh judgment of the political leadership is justified:

Last year the office of the U.S.-based Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found that officials of the Afghan ministry of education had profited by listing for financial support a number of schools that didn’t exist.

Some time later, SIGAR discovered that the Afghan ministry of defense was inflating the number of soldiers and collected money for none-existing military personal.

Recently it was revealed that the actual number of police officers employed in Helmand Province was exactly one half of the number of officers officially reported.

In view of the continuing unbridled corruption within the Afghan government, donor governments must overcome their hesitancy in confronting the Afghan government. The donors’ polite silence and soft and indirect criticism, has been completely ineffective in impressing Afghan officials.

It has become a habit of the Afghan government to make speeches before a major donor conference and even creating a new organization, ostensibly to show its seriousness in fighting corruption. In reality, all that is just a flurry of meaningless activities to impress donors of its good intentions.

While there already is the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption, President Ghani’s office just announced the establishment of another office to fight corruption. This is nothing more that a typical example of trying to impress donors just before the Warsaw and Brussels conferences.

President Ghani is intelligent enough to realize that constructing layers upon layers of bureaucracy will not solve anything. It is the political will that is needed to solve the country’s corruption.

When we look at cases such the Kabul Bank collapse, the multi-billion-dollar theft at the ministry of urban development and housing and the missing schools, soldiers, and police offers, Mr. Ghani’s unity-government has not shown the political will to tackle large cases of theft.

The fact is that in most significant cases a large number of powerful people– from within and outside government ranks– are involved and no one wants to rock the boat. The way Mr. Ghani’s administration is trying to solve these problems is letting time pass by and hope that they will vanish from memories and people will ultimately cease asking about them.

It is, therefore, essential, that donors ask the Afghan representatives about why the Ghani administration has failed to fulfill the solemn promises it had made to bring those festering cases to conclusion.

I hope donor representatives will not hide behind the claim of Afghanistan being a sovereign state and there were limits to what they could do. Afghanistan is not yet a sovereign country. The fact that the donor community pays for 100% of its military expenses and finances up to 80% of its regular budget, renders the country dependent.

  This gives the donors all the rights to enforce controls on the way Afghans handle the money they receive.

I sincerely wish that donor representatives will gather the courage to act in the interests of both the Afghan people and their own.

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Was The Orlando Shooter Gay?

Posted by DownWithTyranny on June 23rd, 2016

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

I just got back from my from my first visit to Azerbaijan. Corruption is rife and the government is authoritarian but those aren’t aspects tourists notice. The country is beautiful, everything is inexpensive and the people are absolutely wonderful. Aerbaijan was the first Muslim-majority state that was dedicated to secularism. A parliamentary democracy, it started worked on social reform decades ago. It shows today in the way men and women interact with each other on all levels. The role of women in Azerbaijan seems to have far more in common with Europe than it does with other Muslim-majority states I’ve spent time in, from fairly westernized Morocco, through Arab heartland countries like Egypt, Palestine and the UAE to disparate countries like Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Azerbaijan is the polar opposite of Afghanistan in the societal role of women. It could hardly be more different. And that role of women in society profoundly impacts what we in the west call homosexuality.

A few years ago I wrote about Afghanistan’s unique and pervasive bacha bazi subculture. That isn’t part of the Omar Mateen story, although the New York-born, Florida-raised Mateen comes from a traditional Afghan family where Pashtunwali– the Pashtun Code– was the basic foundation of life for the immigrant family. It’s impossible to talk intelligently about Mateen’s sexuality without reference to Pashtunwali, which, of course, has been completely left out of the discussion by the American media.

The code is an oral tradition that governs the lives of Pashtun males and goes back thousands of years, long before Islam came to Afghanistan or Pakistanand although Afs tend to not differentiate between Pashtunwali and Islam, the two are often at odds– and Pashtunwali takes precedence, even among the most conservative and fundamentalist Muslim society in the world. (I’ve read that Pashtunwali is widely followed by the Pashtun diaspora.)

“Women are for children, boys are for pleasure” is an Afghan (Pashtun) aphorism that flows from Pashtunwali but is unrelated to the Koran. Keep in mind and then remember that in Afghan society only the label of homosexuality causes social discomfort, never the practice, not even the open practice. When people in the West study the code, what they learn about Pashtunwali is first and foremost courage (tora), revenge (badal), hospitality (melmestia), and generosity to the defeated. It promotes self-respect, independence, justice, love, forgiveness (as well as revenge) and tolerance toward all. I found Afghanistan to be one of the best of the over 100 countries I’ve visited. I’ve been there twice– first in 1969 when I was still a kid– and I know, and regret, that I can never go back.

I want to lay out a few tenets of Pashtunwali that seem to have played a role in the sad tale of Omar Mateen. First Nyaw aw Badal (justice and revenge), which compels Afghan men to seek justice or take revenge against a perceived wrongdoer. No time limit restricts the period in which revenge can be taken. Justice in Pashtun lore includes even a mere taunt which “counts” as an insult and which usually can only be redressed by shedding the taunter’s blood. If he is out of reach, his closest male relation must suffer the penalty instead. Badal may lead to blood feuds that can last generations and involve whole tribes with the loss of hundreds of lives. And then comes Turah (bravery), compelling a Pashtun male to defend his property, honor and family from incursions. He must always stand bravely against tyranny and be able to defend what he sees as his “honor.” Death can follow if anyone offends this principle. Combine this with Sabat (loyalty), which mandates that Pashtun men owe loyalty to their family, friends and tribe members. Pashtuns can never become disloyal as this would be a matter of shame for their families and themselves.

This first hand account by a man who had sex with Marteen multiple times fits the pattern you might expect. Mateen, he said wasn’t interested in terrorism as much as he was in revenge, angry and upset after a man he had sex with later revealed he was HIV positive.

Friday, Kevin Sullivan and William Wan wrote a piece for the Washington Post, Troubled. Quiet. Macho. Angry. The volatile life of the Orlando shooter. It isn’t worthless because it gives some of the details of Mateen’s life but analysis is utterly lacking.

Right off the bat, they write about Mateen’s “lifetime of angst and embarrassment.” He was humiliated, bullied and disrespected all through his childhood and school years. Acquaintances recall him as “unpredictable, angry and sometimes threatening.” On a superficial level, he reacted by becoming a bulked-up bodybuilder who learned how to shoot guns. He worked at a Gold’s Gym and at a GNC. Sometimes he denied being a Muslim; other times he claimed kinship to Osama bin-Laden.

Mateen appeared conflicted about his religion and his sexuality, according to dozens of interviews with those who knew him. He married twice, each time to a woman he had met online, even though he also seemed drawn to gay life and culture.

…But over the years, Mateen’s inner conflict seemed to explode again and again– not only at the [police] training academy but also toward classmates, toward co-workers, toward his first wife and finally toward the 49 strangers he left massacred on the bloody floor of the Pulse nightclub.

…William Winkler, 30, of Orlando was a classmate of Mateen’s at Mariposa Elementary, where his mother taught Mateen in fourth and fifth grades.

Winkler recalled Mateen taking other kids’ toys and acting like a bully, especially toward girls. Winkler said that Mateen acted superior to others and that teachers had great difficulty with him.

“I do remember the teachers at the school wanting to get him help desperately, as he was just such an angry kid,” said Winkler, who remembered Mateen having few friends. He was not sure whether Mateen was ever diagnosed with any learning difficulties but remembers him frequently requiring one-on-one tutoring with teachers.

…Mateen’s father dropped his son off at school every day, Winkler said, and he had a reputation for being disrespectful of female teachers and dismissive of complaints about his son.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Mateen was 14 and a sophomore at the Spectrum alternative school, a campus in Stuart, Fla., for students with behavioral issues.

Months earlier, he had been expelled from Martin County High School for a fight with another student in math class, public records show. He was charged with battery and disturbing school functions. Officials declined to prosecute, but Mateen later listed the incident on job applications as an adult.

On the morning of the 9/11 attacks, one former classmate recalled a teacher turning on a television and the students watching as the second plane hit.

“[Mateen] was smiling. It was almost like surreal how happy he was about what had happened to us,” said the former classmate, who did not want his name used, because he did not want people to know he attended a school for poorly behaved students.

After watching the second tower get hit on a classroom TV, Mateen stood up and claimed that Osama bin Laden was his uncle, said the classmate, whose account was corroborated by others.

“Back then, we didn’t even really know who Osama bin Laden was,” he said. “But he talked about shooting AK-47s… He said he shot them and his uncle taught him how to shoot them.”

The classmate recalled other students becoming angry. “The teacher could tell we wanted to hurt him, so the teacher grabbed him” and sent him to the dean’s office, he said.

Mateen’s father was called and came to pick him up. “I remember his dad walking up,” the classmate said. “And in the courtyard in front of everyone, the dad slapped him right across the face.”

Other classmates described Mateen as disruptive, but some said he was more of a class clown than a troublemaker. Several said that Mateen, who was overweight, often got picked on.

“He was brutally bullied,” said Justin Delancy, who said he rode the school bus with Mateen for several years. “He was a chubby kid and got bullied about his weight. He was probably one of the only kids of [Afghan] descent. That made him stand out a bit as well.”

“He was eccentric,” Delancy said. “He was just one of those guys that people wanted to bully because he was a pushover. He’d try to get a seat [on the bus]. Couldn’t get a seat. Someone would slap him on back of head. He’d try to joke and laugh and make fun of himself to get the attention off of himself. But it didn’t work.”

…The elder Mateen said in an interview this week his son was “a very respectful person.”

“He respected his family,” he said, “especially the parents.”

…Friends and co-workers gave conflicting reports about Mateen’s religiosity and personality at the time. Some said he was extremely pious and serious, but others described him chasing girls, going to parties and drinking.

“He was fun,” said Ryan Jones, 27, who said he often hung out with Mateen.

Mateen hung out at the mall with an openly gay former classmate, Samuel King, and many of King’s gay friends.

“He had to know [we were gay], but I never got any sense of homophobia or aggression from him,” King said.

Mateen was also quickly starting to transform himself physically.

Friends at the time said the chubby teenager, who stood just under 6 feet tall, was working out constantly and starting to add massive amounts of muscle– with a little help from chemical “juice.”

Margaret Barone, a former manager of the GNC where Mateen worked in 2006, recalled Mateen as a sweet young employee who always called her “Miss Margaret.” She said she and other employees always assumed Mateen was gay.

She remembered Mateen and other employees talking about drugs they had taken and Mateen saying that he had taken ecstasy. Barone recalled another employee, an assistant manager who was also Muslim, becoming upset after going out with Mateen a few times and seeing him drink to the point of blacking out.

“He said he didn’t like the things Omar was doing,” she said. “He says to me: ‘He gets too crazy. He blacks out. He starts fighting. He didn’t care whether he got beat up or killed, the way he was acting.’”

Barone also remembered Mateen’s outward transformation.

“If his arms were 20 inches, he had them over 40,” she said. “He was doing massive steroids that he said he was getting through the mail. He’d come in and buy $50 or $60 worth of protein powders, and also the supplements we sold.”

…“This kid bulked up so fast and so quick that he had stretch marks on his skin,” Barone said. “When I tell you he bulked up, oh my Lord, it was like seeing a puny little kid turn into the Hulk.”

…Once an overweight kid who’d been bullied on the school bus, Mateen was now a hulking bodybuilder packing a gun.

He wasn’t quite a police officer, but nobody was pushing him around anymore.

Mateen also found a wife.

In April 2009 in Port St. Lucie, he married Sitora Yusifiy, a New Jersey real estate agent who said she met Mateen through an online dating service.

At first, she said, they lived with his parents and he seemed “normal,” but then the physical and emotional abuse started.

“He was not a stable person,” she said. “He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.”

She said he would slap her with an open hand and pull her hair.

Yusifiy said Mateen was not a devout Muslim and preferred spending his free time working out at the gym. She said she never saw signs that he held radical beliefs.

They separated after just nine months.

In September 2011, three months after his divorce was final, Mateen remarried, to another woman he met online.

…From as early as his days at Indian River Community College, some friends and co-workers wondered whether Mateen was gay. Some simply assumed it.

One former classmate at the college told the Palm Beach Post that he believed Mateen was gay and that Mateen once tried to pick him up at a bar.

The classmate, who is gay but was not out yet in 2006, said he and Mateen and other classmates would sometimes go to gay nightclubs after classes. On one such evening, the classmate said, Mateen asked him whether he was gay, which he denied.

“He said, ‘Well if you were gay, you would be my type.’ I said okay and just went on with the night,” said the classmate, who was not identified by the newspaper. “It was not anything too crazy, but I take that as a pickup line.”

David Gonzalez, 34, a gay man who lives next door to Mateen’s parents, remembers how Mateen used to look at him “in a certain way like he wanted me to approach him. He knew I was gay.”

If Mateen were interested in men, it would have been difficult to tell his father.

The elder Mateen has expressed strict conservative views about homosexuality, posting a video on his Facebook page saying that “God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality. This is not for the servants” of God.

Seddique Mateen said he didn’t believe his son was gay, telling reporters, “I don’t believe he was a whatever-you-call-it.”

He said his son Mateen had become enraged a few months earlier at the sight of a pair of gay men being affectionate with each other.

“We were in downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry,” he told reporters. “They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said: ‘Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that.’”

But a number of men have told media outlets in the past week that they traded messages with Mateen on gay dating apps such as Jack’d.

…One Orlando man, Cord Cedeno, 23, told The Post that Mateen reached out to him on Grindr, another gay dating app. Cedeno said Mateen tried to flirt with him but he was not interested. “It was the picture of him wearing a tie,” Cedeno said. “I blocked him.”

…Investigators tracing the ­often-conflicting details of Mateen’s life are still struggling with the “why” of his rampage Sunday. Was he a radicalized Islamist militant, or was that just bravado? Was it Islamic State ideology or some personal demon that drove him to target gay people? Was it something else entirely that snapped in Mateen’s troubled mind?

The “why” is elusive, but investigators have learned a few key details about the final days of his life:

Mateen purchased an assault-style rifle and a handgun at a Port St. Lucie gun shop in the first week of June.

At some point, Salman [his second wife] accompanied Mateen on a shopping trip to buy ammunition.

Between June 5 and 9, Mateen and Salman traveled to Orlando and visited Pulse, the popular gay nightclub, for “reconnaissance.”

Last Friday, June 10, Mateen went to the Fort Pierce mosque to pray and spent more than an hour there with his 3-year-old son.

On Saturday, Mateen posted messages on Facebook pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr ­al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.

“America and Russia stop bombing the Islamic state,” he wrote. “I pledge my alliance to abu bakr al Baghdadi… may Allah accept me.”

He added: “The real muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the west,” and, “You kill innocent women and children by doing us airstrikes… now taste the Islamic state vengeance.”

That evening, as Mateen was preparing to leave their Fort Pierce home, Salman warned him against anything he might be planning.

Then Omar Mateen got into his car, drove to Orlando, and walked into the nightclub.

The U.S. military has a tremendous amount of experience in and knowledge of Afghan society. After all, our occupation of that country is America’s longest war. These observations about what we call homosexuality in Afghanistan  are all unclassified

Some of its root causes lie in the severe segregation of women, the prohibitive cost of marriage within Pashtun tribal codes, and the depressed economic situation into which young Pashtun men are placed.

Other root causes include a long-standing cultural tradition in which boys are appreciated for physical beauty and apprenticed to older men for their sexual initiation. The fallout of this pattern of behavior over generations has a profound impact on Pashtun society and culture.

Homosexuality is strictly prohibited in Islam, but cultural interpretations of Islamic teaching prevalent in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan tacitly condone it in comparison to heterosexual relationships in several contexts.

Pashtun men are freer with companionship, affection, emotional and artistic expression, and the trust bred of familiarity with other men. They often lack the experience of these aspects of life with women.

This usurping of the female role may contribute to the alienation of women over generations, and their eventual relegation to extreme segregation and abuse.

One of the primary and obvious causes of this cultural tendency toward sexual expression between males is Pashtun society’s extremely limited access to women. Heterosexual relationships are only allowable within the bounds of marriage, and Pashtun honor demands that a man be able to demonstrate his ability to support a wife and family, as well as produce abundant wedding-gifts for the bride and her parents, before he is allowed to marry. Therefore, given the economic situation of most young Pashtun men and the current state of employment and agriculture within the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan, marriage becomes a nearly unattainable possibility for many. A controversial Los Angeles Times article highlighted this issue and featured an interview with a young Afgan man whose situation was typical of this circumstance: In his 29 years, Mohammed Daud has seen the faces of perhaps 200 women. A few dozen were family members. The rest were glimpses stolen when he should not have been looking and the women were caught without their face-shrouding burkas. “How can you fall in love with a girl if you can’t see her face?” he asks.

Daud is unmarried and has sex only with men and boys. But he does not consider himself homosexual, at least not in the Western sense. “I like boys, but I like girls better,” he says. “It’s just that we can’t see the women to see if they are beautiful. But we can see the boys, and so we can tell which of them is beautiful.”

Daud’s insistence that his behavior should not label him as homosexual is the next important point in understanding the nature of this dynamic, and opens the doors to a complex interrelationship between Islam and its cultural interpretations. Even men who practice homosexuality exclusively are not labeled by themselves or their counterparts as homosexual.

…[U]sing another man for sexual gratification would be regarded as a foible–undesirable but far preferable to sex with a ineligible woman, which in the context of Pashtun honor, would likely result in issues of revenge and honor killings. These killings are a Pashtun, not Islamic requirement, although the two tend to become inexorably bound in the minds of rural villagers.

So, was Mateen “gay?” Is that why he murdered dozens of people in Orlando. Within hours of hearing about the crime, I mentioned here at DWT that he was “sexually repressed.” I should have said his parents’ culture is. Not dealing with it isn’t the way to handle it.

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Action alert: wars are not gym memberships

Posted by Peace Action West on April 4th, 2016

From our partners at Peace Action West

Our longest war just got even longer. 

President Obama just announced that the US will have boots on the ground in Afghanistan for another 2 ½ years. When Congress voted to authorize the war way back in 2001, they surely didn’t know they were authorizing a 15-year occupation.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has a bill calling for a congressional vote on any US troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014. As the senator said in response to the president’s announcement,“Automatic renewal is fine for Netflix and gym memberships, but it is not the right approach when it comes to war.”

Tell your senators to cosponsor this bill to make our voices heard about staying in Afghanistan.

While it’s encouraging that the administration is reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan and setting a clear timeline for withdrawal, it’s not good enough. 9,800 troops is 9,800 too many, and we need our tax dollars here at home.

Our friends in the House tried to bring up a similar amendment last week, but the Republican leadership was too afraid to watch the antiwar sentiment play out on the floor and blocked a vote.We need to turn to the Senate now and make sure they fight for more oversight over the war.

Click here to tell your senators to cosponsor Sen. Merkley’s bill for a vote on Afghanistan.

Children who were in elementary school when this war began are now old enough to fight in it. It’s well past time to stop risking lives and wasting tax dollars in Afghanistan.

Thank you for speaking out.

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Time for the “zero option” in Afghanistan?

Posted by Peace Action West on April 4th, 2016

From our partners at Peace Action West


Reality seems to be setting in at the White House, with President Obama reportedly considering removing all troops from Afghanistan in 2014 rather than leaving a residual force.

Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a “zero option” that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials.

Mr. Obama is committed to ending America’s military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and Obama administration officials have been negotiating with Afghan officials about leaving a small “residual force” behind. But his relationship with Mr. Karzai has been slowly unraveling, and reached a new low after an effort last month by the United States to begin peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.
As we did with the Iraq war, we have been pushing against the idea of keeping any troops on the ground after the so-called “combat troops” withdraw. It’s encouraging to hear these reports, the first indication that the president is seriously considering a full withdrawal. He will certainly find support in Congress–62 senators and 305 representatives have voted to support accelerated withdrawal, and that number is only likely to grow.

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