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Archive for October, 2009

Posted by Derrick Crowe on October 7th, 2009

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

President Obama wants you to know he can be tough like Sarah Palin:

President Barack Obama on Tuesday ruled out shrinking the Afghanistan war to a counterterrorism campaign. Yet he did not signal whether he is prepared to send any more troops to the war zone — either the 40,000 his top commander wants or a smaller buildup, according to several officials.

Obama said the war would not be reduced to a narrowly defined counterterrorism effort…[S]uch a scenario has been inaccurately characterized and linked to Vice President Joe Biden, and…Obama wanted to make clear he is considering no such plan.

So, contrary to all the propaganda, the White House Afghanistan Huddle is only considering a very narrow set of options, all apparently within the counterinsurgency domain. What’s been hyped as wide-ranging debate challenging fundamental assumptions turns out to be a chat in the minivan about whether or not to SuperSize the value meal. Go, team. (more…)

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Posted by robertgreenwald on October 7th, 2009

Congressman Alan Grayson discusses Afghanistan.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on October 7th, 2009

I’ve just launched an act.ly petition asking the White House to end the war in Afghanistan. Please sign it (you must have a Twitter account to do so) and forward it around to your networks. It includes an embedded section of the Rethink Afghanistan documentary and a link to Peace Action West’s Facebook vigil at the White House.

Here’s the text of the petition:

Eight Years is Enough: Tell the White House to End the War in Afghanistan

As President Obama considers the way forward in Afghanistan, he should listen to the fifty-seven percent of Americans who oppose the war [AP-GfK poll, Oct. 1-5]. Eight years is enough—it’s time to end the war in Afghanistan.

So far, this war has cost us:

  • $228 billion,
  • 869 dead American troops, and
  • thousands of Afghan civilian casualties (roughly 5200 since the U.N. started counting in 2007).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 marks the eighth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Eight years is enough. It’s time to bring the troops home.

Here’s how you can help end the war:

Eight years is enough. Tell the White House to end the war in Afghanistan.

For those who aren’t familiar with act.ly, it’s a web advocacy tool that allows you to sign and retweet petitions via Twitter. It targets a Twitter user and tracks how long its been since they responded to you.

Please sign and pass along, and share it on your other social networks.

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

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Posted by Malou Innocent on October 7th, 2009

Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, and Anatol Lieven, a professor at King’s College London, argue in this morning’s Financial Times how we can exit the Afghan quagmire.

The west should therefore pursue a political solution, open negotiations with the Taliban and offer a timetable for a phased withdrawal in return for a ceasefire. This should begin with the military pulling out of specific areas in return for Taliban guarantees not to attack western bases and Afghan authorities in those areas. If the Taliban refuses such terms, then military pressure should continue. The point should not be to eliminate the Taliban – which is impossible – but to persuade it to agree to a deal.

Lodhi and Lieven’s argument echoes one that David Axe, Jason Reich, and I made yesterday on ForeignPolicy.com.

… regime change, and democracy, are not necessary for counterterrorism. Propping up President Hamid Karzai’s Western-style government in Kabul does not make operations against al Qaeda any easier or more successful. If anything, it distracts from the conceptually simpler task of finding and killing terrorists. Without U.S. and NATO protection, Karzai’s regime would, sooner or later, probably fall to the Taliban. But U.S. observers should not equate that eventuality with “losing” the war. The war is against terrorists, not Islamist governments. The United States should be prepared to make peace, and amends, with a resurgent Taliban — and to encourage the group to excise its more extreme elements.

I admit talking to the Taliban sounds weird and scary. But my contention is that there is no shortage of Pashtun militants willing to fight against what they perceive to be a foreign occupation of their region. Certainly the Taliban does not enjoy support among the majority of Pashtuns—as Lodhi and Lieven point out—but neither did the IRA in Northern Ireland or the FLN in Algeria. The point is not exclusively about popularity (although that’s a critical component, along with local legitimacy), but the fact that these indigenous groups are willing to fight the United States and NATO indefinitely. Indeed, it is the western military presence that is driving support for the Taliban both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.

Moreover, the notion that we must protect Pakistan from the Taliban is ludicrous. Pakistan’s intelligence service helped create the Taliban and they continue to protect the Afghan Taliban to keep India at bay. From this point of view, deploying more troops would be irrelevant to the fight against al Qaeda and counterproductive in our attempts to pacify the region. For more on what we should do, check this out.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on October 5th, 2009

We’ll mark the 8th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan this week. Peace Action West (fast becoming one of my favorite anti-war groups) put together a great online resource to help Americans speak out on Facebook and show support for ending the war. Their page makes it as easy as two clicks to send this message to the White House:

This week’s anniversary marks 8 years of war in Afghanistan, and I’m remembering those who have died. Bullets don’t win hearts and minds. We need a better plan for Afghanistan, end the war.

I’ve done it. Have you?

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on October 5th, 2009

Push into Helmand triggered severe spike in civilian death rate, failed its objectives

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

ISAF commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal set out a clear marker for what he considers “success” in Afghanistan:

American success in Afghanistan should be measured by “the number of Afghans shielded from violence,” not the number of enemy fighters killed, he said.

Unfortunately, according to updated totals from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan, Operation Khanjar, launched on July 2, was followed by a severe spike in civilian casualties. The vast majority of these casualties were caused by IEDs and suicide bombings attributed to anti-Kabul-government elements. But, with the spike coinciding so closely with the launch of the ISAF push into Helmand, it’s clear that NATO choices continue to feed into a dynamic that has become toxic for civilians.


(more…)

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Posted by Jeremy Scahill on October 5th, 2009

The ‘paper of record’ also complains that Robert Greenwald’s film has no ’sympathy’ for pro-war views.

By Jeremy Scahill

Perhaps more than any other major corporate news outlet, The New York Times played a central role in promoting the Bush administration’s fraudulent case for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The “reporting” of Judith Miller and Michael Gordon basically served as a front-page fiction laundering factory for Dick Cheney’s fantasy of a “mushroom cloud” threat from Saddam Hussein looming on the immediate horizon, topped off with a celebratory slice of yellowcake. More recently, the paper’s propagandists, William Broad and David Sanger, have aimed their sights on reporting dubious claims about Iran’s nuclear program.

Readers of the Times, therefore, should take with a huge grain of weaponized salt the paper’s “review” of Robert Greenwald’s new documentary, Rethink Afghanistan. With no sense of the painful irony of writing such jibberish in the Times, reviewer Andy Webster declares that the film could “use balance, something in short supply here:”

At an almost breathless pace that leaves little room for reflection, Mr. Greenwald presents a flurry of sights, voices and figures, many of them compelling but all reflecting his point of view. A historical summary is fleeting. What appears, again and again, are terrifying images of children: dead, hideously maimed or, in one instance, almost put up for sale by a frantic civilian in a refugee camp. Military engagements, it seems, are messy and claim innocent lives.

If it takes Greenwald’s “point of view” to see the human costs of the U.S. war in Afghanistan in the form of deformed, maimed and dead civilians, then his film should be required viewing for anyone purporting to support the war.

Anyone who has actually seen the film knows that a string of former top intelligence officials, perhaps most significant among them the former head of the CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center, Robert Grenier, are heard meticulously deconstructing the dominant justifications for the continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. What does Grenier know? Oh, he was just the CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he was one of the Agency’s top officials planning the U.S. invasion. Grenier, along with former CIA operative Robert Baer and other former intelligence officials, rebut in detail the claim that the war in Afghanistan is about fighting al Qaeda or making America safer, which Baer says bluntly in the film is “just complete bullshit.” The film also features Graham Fuller, the former CIA station chief in Kabul. (Click here to watch this part of the film)

I guess the Times would have been satisfied if the film did not also include extensive analysis from Anand Gopal, the Afghanistan correspondent of that famed leftist, anti-war rag, The Wall Street Journal. “Al Qaeda and the Taliban are groups with completely distinct ideologies and goals,” Gopal says in the film. The Taliban, he says, has as its central goal “to kick out the Americans.” Greenwald’s film would presumably have been more “objective” in the Times’s eyes if it had included the analysis of, say, Steve Coll, whose definitive book on al Qaeda, Ghost Wars, won the Pulitzer. Oh, right, Coll is a major voice in Greenwald’s film.

Webster complains that the film “has no time to approach an opposing view with sympathy or understanding for its concerns.” First of all, that is just plain false. What Greenwald does is divide the one-hour film into cogent sections that address the most common arguments made in support of the war in Afghanistan, namely national security, counter-terrorism and women’s rights. These are all familiar to anyone paying even a tiny amount of attention. But more to the point, why should a documentary calling on people to “rethink Afghanistan” be required to rehash or offer “sympathy” to ideas or policies that are promoted endlessly on major news programs, in corporate newspapers and by an endless string of U.S. government and military officials?

Rethink Afghanistan does not present the perfect argument against the war in Afghanistan (I certainly have had my own disagreements with Greenwald and with some of the film’s politics), but that is not what Greenwald and his team intended to do. The title says it all: they want Americans to stop and rethink support for a war that worsens by the day, costs billions of dollars, causes the deaths of U.S. soldiers and countless Afghan civilians and which, ultimately, will make the U.S. less safe.

The Times snarkily declares that Rethink Afghanistan is “unlikely to win over new supporters” to the anti-war or anti-escalation crowd. Quite the contrary: there are 600 screenings of the film scheduled and MoveOn.org, which has been very sluggish in coming around to criticizing the Afghan war, has just teamed up with Greenwald to promote the film. That in and of itself was no small accomplishment. The timing of Rethink Afghanistan is very important and will serve a utilitarian purpose for those people serious about the facts and not manipulating them, as has been the case on the pages of a certain newspaper we all know.

To watch the film, go to Brave New Film’s Rethink Afghanistan website.

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Posted by Tom Engelhardt on October 1st, 2009

From TomDispatch: A vivid look at the European version of the Afghan War and why it may bring NATO down — John Feffer, “Afghanistan: NATO’s Graveyard, Is the Transatlantic Alliance Doomed?

The Afghan War crisis is, right now, one of the hottest stories in town, but only the American version. NATO’s side of things is essentially a footnote in the U.S. media. To remedy that, the latest post by the co-director of the Foreign Policy in Focus website and TomDispatch regular John Feffer, just back from a trip across the Atlantic, offers a magisterial overview of the transatlantic alliance and why it is foundering; why, in fact, the expansion into the Hindu Kush of an alliance with the word “Atlantic” prominently in its name may prove such a catastrophe .

Feffer begins: “Celebrating its 60th birthday this year, NATO is looking peaked and significantly worse for wear. Aggressive and ineffectual, the organization shows signs of premature senility. Despite the smiles and reassuring rhetoric at its annual summits, its internal politics have become fractious to the point of dysfunction. Perhaps like any sexagenarian in this age of health-care crises and economic malaise, the transatlantic alliance is simply anxious about its future. Frankly, it should be.”

He then explores just how NATO got to Afghanistan, why it can’t say no to Washington’s wishes, and why Afghanistan may be its graveyard. He offers vivid background on NATO’s near-death experience’s in the post-Cold War world, and on the struggles within the alliance between the Europe Firsters and the Go Global faction. He concludes this way: “Damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t, NATO will limp along much as the British and Soviet empires did after their misadventures in Central Asia. These were, after all, dead empires walking. NATO may be in this category as well. It just doesn’t know it yet.”

This is a missing piece in our world. TomDispatch is particularly proud to provide it.

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