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Archive for June, 2009

Posted by Robert Naiman on June 22nd, 2009

In March, President Obama told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that the United States must have an “exit strategy” in Afghanistan.

Ninety Members of Congress agree. They’re supporting H.R. 2404, a bill introduced by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) whose text is one sentence long: “Not later than December 31, 2009, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to Congress a report outlining the United States exit strategy for United States military forces in Afghanistan participating in Operation Enduring Freedom.”

This week, Rep. McGovern is expected to try to attach this language to the 2010 military authorization bill. You can ask your Representative to support this effort here.

The Members of Congress are going a bit further than President Obama. They’re saying not only that the U.S. should have an exit strategy, but that Congress and the American people should be told what it is.

It’s Congress – and the American people – who have the power of the purse. This week, over the protests of progressive Democrats, Congress approved another war supplemental – paying for military escalation with no exit strategy – bringing the total spending for the war in Afghanistan to $223 billion since 2001, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Americans aren’t just paying for the war through their tax dollars. More than 700 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001. Some 56,000 U.S. soldiers are in Afghanistan now, and President Obama has ordered 21,000 more soldiers to be sent there. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has acknowledged to Congress that U.S. casualties will likely rise.

Afghan civilians are also paying a huge price for this war. A “mini-documentary” from Brave New Films shows the consequences of U.S. air strikes for Afghan civilians.

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Posted by ZP Heller on June 19th, 2009

Since 2001, the US Air Force has dropped nearly 31 million pounds (14,049 metric tons) of bombs on Afghanistan. The UN estimates that US airstrikes alone accounted for 64 percent of the 828 Afghan civilians killed last year. Those numbers practically scream the need to abandon conventional warfare tactics in Afghanistan and dramatically shift US foreign policy to incorporate a more humanitarian approach. Instead, we’re seeing the horrific images from IDP camps: refugees who have lost loved ones; parents so desperate they would rather sell their children than watch them starve; children scarred both physically and psychologically. These are the survivors, forced to endure the bleak aftermath of airstrikes as the US escalates this war.

The front page story in the LA Times today examines the US military’s seemingly impossible task of reducing the number of civilian casualties in airstrikes like the one that killed up to 140 people in Farah province on May 4. The civilians casualties from that attack, we know from a preliminary investigative report, died because a series of military errors. Had the Afghan forces being trained by the US military not ignored warnings about entering a Farah village, they wouldn’t have been ambushed by insurgents, prompting the Marines to call for a strike. And had the pilot of an aircraft not lost site of his target, or had those commanders rethought the need to send in a B-1 bomber strike at a point when those Afghan forces weren’t under direct attack, the high number of civilian casualties could have been avoided. Yet as our highly skilled military revisits protocols for conducting airstrikes to minimize mistakes like these in the future, these casualties are the inevitable consequences of conventional warfare.

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Posted by Anna Almendrala on June 18th, 2009

An interview with a man with his children in an Internally Displaced Person (refugee) camp quickly devolves into a father desperately trying to sell his smallest child to the cameraman. “For God’s sake, I want to sell this child but nobody wants her. What can I do?… For God’s sake, I am poor, otherwise I wouldn’t give her for one million. I know nobody wants to sell their daughter, but I have to. She is innocent, but I am poor. I have nothing.”

An old woman with amputated feet sits in a small mud hut, surrounded by five doe-eyed, dirty grandchildren. She is wailing about how their parents, her children, were killed in the bombings and now she is tasked with feeding, clothing, and providing water and shelter for these orphans in this camp. “They’re hungry, they’re thirsty, and I don’t know what to do with them… I ask my God, kill me and put me under the dirt, or change our lives.”

This is the kind of footage we saw, over and over again, as we cut and shaped the Rethink Afghanistan: Civilian Casualties segment. The first time I saw it, I was shocked. As a taxpayer, I was filled shame that these Afghans have to choose between living in fear of U.S. airstrikes in the rural areas or dying of hunger and cold in urban refugee camps. As a person of faith, my heart broke for the men who constantly fingered their prayer beads as they recalled the loved ones they had lost, and the parents and grandparents who cried out to God on behalf of their children and grandchildren.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on June 18th, 2009

Click here for more information about the Afghanistan war.

Well-reasoned foreign policy results in more housing and jobs, better health care and education. When that policy consists of applying a military solution to a political problem, however, it results in death, destruction, and suffering. I witnessed the latter during my recent trip to Afghanistan–the devastating consequences of U.S. airstrikes on thousands of innocent civilians.

The footage you are about to see is poignant, heart-wrenching, and often a direct result of U.S. foreign policy. It came from a combination of filmmakers: Nazir, a man who tracked me down through Facebook, met me at the Kabul airport, and showed me segments of his exclusive look inside Afghan refugee camps; a stringer we hired who was arrested by the Taliban in filming a bombing victim in Kandahar; and my own interviews while in Kabul. Together, we bring you Rethink Afghanistan: Civilian Casualties.

Clearly we must help the refugees whose lives have been shattered by U.S. foreign policy and military attacks. Here’s how you can take action:

  1. Digg this video: Just one click can help this video land on the Digg homepage, where it can reach tens of thousands of new people!
  2. Provide aid through The Afghan Women’s Mission to the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), which is directly helping the refugees in these camps. We have partnered with these groups, and RAWA will go to the camps in this video to help those most in need. On their website, you can provide emergency relief to refugees, enable Afghans to visit the doctor, and help educate women and children to ensure women’s rights are respected.
  3. Become a Peacemaker: Receive up-to-the-minute information through our new mobile alert system whenever there are Afghan civilian casualties from this war. Then take immediate action by calling our government and posting on social networking sites.

Here’s why it’s even more critical for you to take action now. Earlier this week, the House of Representatives narrowly approved $106 billion in wartime funding, despite an incredible progressive movement that inundated Congress with calls and helped move votes into the “No” column. This bill will escalate military operations in Afghanistan, which is all the more reason why we must help the civilians affected by U.S. airstrikes now, and help our government see the need for a more humanitarian foreign policy.

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Posted by Katrina vanden Heuvel on June 17th, 2009

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Yesterday, the Obama Administration’s $106 billion war supplemental passed on the House floor by a vote of 226-202. Congressional Democrats who oppose military escalation were in a tough position. They were whipped aggressively by both Speaker Pelosi and the White House. And they support President Obama.

Which is exactly why they did the right thing in voting no.

President Obama himself has said, “There’s got to be an exit strategy.” Yet we are sliding into a military escalation and commitments without a full and necessary national debate about the ends, means, or exit strategy for this war.

Progressive legislators are taking a principled stand in saying “No”, as are millions of citizens across the nation who oppose the war in Afghanistan. The cynical fear mongering of the right — arguing against the supplemental based on the possible transfer of detainees to US supermax prisons — made this vote even more difficult. But unlike the Limbaughs and Cheneys, we want Obama to succeed.

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Posted by ZP Heller on June 16th, 2009

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$100 billion more in wartime spending. That’s what Congress is hellbent on approving despite valiant efforts from a growing number of Progressives led by FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher to derail this legislation’s passage in the House. $100 billion, and for what? To bring more troops to Afghanistan without an exit strategy? To further US foreign policy that fails to address the humanitarian needs of the world’s third poorest country? To escalate military operations that directly result in Afghan civilian casualties?

Recently, Anand Gopal, who has been covering the war in Afghanistan for The Christian Science Monitor, dispelled the myths about troop escalation at the America’s Future Now Conference in Washington, DC. The reality, Gopal grimly assessed, is that more troops will mean more incidents of violence. More troops will also mean the need for more airstikes, which, as you can see in the sobering trailer for part four of Rethink Afghanistan, will mean more civilian casualties.

Gopal’s logic follows that of the Carnegie Endowment’s Gilles Dorronsoro, who has said for months that the increased presence of US forces in Afghanistan is the single greatest reason for the Taliban insurgency. And the more they surge, the more Congress will fund more war. To see exactly how US foreign policy is perpetuating this cycle of violence, read Ralph Lopez’s recent blog post and watch the accompanying al Jazeera video. Taliban extremists are using US airstrikes as a recruiting tool, preying upon the survivors, particularly children, who have lost everything in these bombings and suddenly have a chance to act upon their hatred toward the United States.

Fortunately, there are ways to take immediate action and address Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis.

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Posted by Ralph Lopez on June 16th, 2009

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With Taliban looking on approvingly, these tearful children in Afghanistan swear that they will now be suicide bombers after losing people they love in the only thing that more war funding gets you: More war. Film-maker Robert Greenwald (“Iraq for Sale”) urges us to keep calling the swing Democrats in the War Supplemental up for a vote, as we are now just three short of sending it back to the drawing board, for an exit strategy and a renewed focus on civilian aide rather than bombs for Afghans.

No one deserves this, and yes the Taliban plays it to its advantage. That’s why they look so happy in this video. Greenwald points out, more bombs are not going to address 40% unemployment, and a rampant picking-through-garbage-for-food scale of poverty. U.S. Generals and command staff in Afghanistan are desperate for more jobs on the ground, to keep young men paid and tired and not fighting for the Taliban’s $8 a day, since they are the ones who have to ride out in helicopters and apologize for the bombs falling in the wrong place.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on June 16th, 2009

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Co-authored by Jane Hamsher.

In 2007, 82 Democratic members of Congress signed a pledge. They would never again vote to fund the war in Iraq without plans for troop withdrawal.

Republican critics accused them of demagoguing the war. Of using our soldiers as a political pawns, of not meaning what they said.

Those who signed that pledge need to cast their vote against the Supplemental Appropriations Act on Tuesday and prove them wrong.

We may agree or disagree about what needs to be done in Iraq, but a promise is a promise. Anti-war activists have supported these members of Congress because of that 2007 pledge. They knocked on doors and distributed leaflets and donated to their campaigns. They and marched side by side with them as they sought to bring an end to the war that still lingers in Iraq and escalates in Afghanistan, as the new film Rethink Afghanistan documents.

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Posted by Tom Engelhardt on June 15th, 2009

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(Cross-posted from TomDispatch.com)

Let’s face it, even Bo is photogenic, charismatic. He’s a camera hound. And as for Barack, Michelle, Sasha, and Malia — keep in mind that we’re now in a first name culture — they all glow on screen.

Before a camera they can do no wrong. And the president himself, well, if you didn’t watch his speech in Cairo, you should have. The guy’s impressive. Truly. He can speak to multiple audiences — Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians, as well as a staggering range of Americans — and somehow just about everyone comes away hearing something they like, feeling he’s somehow on their side. And it doesn’t even feel like pandering. It feels like thoughtfulness. It feels like intelligence.

For all I know — and the test of this is still a long, treacherous way off — Barack Obama may turn out to be the best pure politician we’ve seen since at least Ronald Reagan, if not Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He seems to have Roosevelt’s same unreadable ability to listen and make you believe he’s with you (no matter what he’s actually going to do), which is a skill not to be whistled at.

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Posted by Jane Hamsher on June 12th, 2009

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There won’t be anyone to pick up the phone at congressional offices this weekend, but you can write letters to the editor in time for the Sunday edition, urging members of Congress to vote against the Supplemental Appropriations Act.

Rahm Emanuel is threatening Democratic freshmen if they don’t vote for the bill. We need 39 Democratic votes to defeat it. Already 32 have committed to oppose it. Please write your local paper and urge them to support your member of Congress in voting against the supplemental. (If you don’t know who your member of Congress is, you can look them up here.)

Write letters to the Editor and say “no” to the supplemental

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