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Archive for November, 2009

Posted by Derrick Crowe on November 27th, 2009

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. You can say no to escalation in Afghanistan by signing our CREDO petition at For each signature, CREDO will donate a dollar to support Crowe’s work.

I loathe the use of my tax dollars for any violence, but you know what I loathe even more? The use of debt taken out in my name to fund violence.

The latter includes the anti-Christian choice of using violence in conflict and it adds extreme, immoral irresponsibility to the original sin. Not only did the deficit-fueled war spending of the Bush years lead to massive human suffering, but it also contributed mightily to the economic crisis. Here’s Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes writing in The Three Trillion Dollar War just before the economic crisis fully materialized (p. 115, 125-126):

The question is not whether the economy has been weakened by the [Iraq] war. The question is only by how much. Where you can put a figure on them, the costs are immense. In our realistic-moderate scenario…they total moe than a trillion dollars.

The Federal Reserve sought…to offset the adverse effects of the war, including those discussed earlier in this chapter. It kept interest rates lower than they otherwise might have been and looked the other way as lending standards were lowered–thereby encouraging households to borrow more–and spend more. Even as interest rates were reaching record lows, Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, in effect invited households to pile on the risk as he encouraged them to take on variable rate mortgages. The low initial interest rates allowed households to borrow more against their houses, enabling America to consume well beyond its means.

Household savings rates soon went negative for the first time since the Great Depression. But it was only a matter of time before interest rates rose. When they did so, hundreds of thousands of Americans who had taken on variable interest mortgages saw their mortgage payments rise–beyond their ability to pay–and they lost their homes. This was all predictable–and predicted: after all, interest rates could not stay at these historically unprecidented low rates forever. As this book goes to press, the full ramifications of the “subprime” mortgage crisis are still unfolding. Growth is slowing, and the economy is again performing markedly below its potential.

As an aside: Once I was derided for attacking the president’s willful disregard of the Sermon on the Mount’s unequivocal call for nonviolence because I was not also jumping up and down about deficits. Not only was that not true, but that jab assumed that the war in Afghanistan was not, in fact, a budget-busting mortgaging of the common good. Oops.

Some Democrats in Congress seem to understand this, at least:

Top Democrats have made it clear to Obama that he will not receive a friendly reception should he announce what is considered the leading option: sending 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The legislators have indicated that a request for more money to finance a beefed-up war effort will be met with frustration and, perhaps, a demand to raise taxes.

If the president wants to spend $1 million per troop, per year, he should have to justify it to the people who will bear the brunt of the ensuing economic damage.

Good for you, Pelosi, Obey, Rangel, et. al. Keep it up.

Watch Rethink Afghanistan to learn more about the costs of war.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on November 25th, 2009

Today, we are launching our #NoWar campaign on Twitter and Facebook to show opposition to the escalation of troops in Afghanistan.

Click on the link below to update your Twitter and Facebook profile images with the #NoWar candlelight image. You will have to log into Twibbon with your Twitter user name and password.


Here’s what it looks like on my profile:

Also update your Facebook profile with the pic.

Show your support and update your pic today!

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Posted by Jake Diliberto on November 25th, 2009

While President Obama pursues a policy toward escalation of troops in Af/Pak, the graveyard of empires, the newly formed Veterans for Rethinking Afghanistan will not stand quiet. We will not allow one more warrior to die for a flawed policy protecting a corrupt Karzai government. Our goal is to compel President Obama to “Rethink Afghanistan”

At this very moment, our combat troops are exhausted and dying in the graveyard of empires. The protracted war in Iraq and Afghanistan compounded by our current president’s rejection to history demands the American Veteran to stand up. The protracted Global War on Terror has drained our armed forces and the past lessons of the Vietnam War are screaming out. Dissent among the ranks is growing, divorce rates among the enlisted are exceeding 80% and suicide rates are at an all time high. The VA hospitals maintain constant congestion with newly returned warriors who are waiting a backlogged VA system and times are getting worse.

There should be no doubt we support our fellow warriors already deployed, however we recognize it is our duty to fight for our brothers and sisters in arms and not allow another flawed policy to be pursued. Currently, Afghanistan is in a civil war and the American forces are dying to protect a corrupt Karzai Regime. The Obama administration is not sending the American warrior for the onslaught of victory. The American people are being forced to pursue a policy that will be a stalemate at best. The Veterans for Rethinking Afghanistan are enabling active duty, reserve, National Guard and past veterans of the Afghanistan/Af-Pak War to promote a patriotic and thoughtful new policy for the future. Recently, we have had meetings in the West Wing, the State Dept, and in the Senate to pursue different US policies in Afghanistan/Pakistan.

We are advising a reformed policy that will support the troops by ending the open-ended Global War on Terror, while still protecting America from violent Islamic radicalism. We are voicing our concerns for our men and women in uniform and helping our country by recognizing we cannot afford this war nor can “victory” be won through military means. We recognize, “victory” in Afghanistan is going to require development projects and less military forces. The Veterans for Rethinking Afghanistan recognize that this is a war on poverty, misunderstood culture, and religious fanaticism. While our presence in Afghanistan is well intended, the unintended effect of our policy is destabilizing Pakistan and is actually having adverse effects rather than making it better for the Afghanistan people.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on November 24th, 2009

Former State Department official Matthew Hoh and former CIA agent Robert Baer answer the question: What is fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan?

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Posted by robertgreenwald on November 24th, 2009

Two brothers and former prisoners at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan give their testimony about the harsh abuse they witnessed while being captured. Their tale is an example of just how difficult and complex the situation in Afghanistan is.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on November 21st, 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

If Matthew Hoh could tell you one thing to help you understand the U.S.’s predicament in Afghanistan, he’d tell you:

The presence of our ground combat troops is not doing anything to defeat al-Qaida.

Think about that for a moment. We are paying roughly $1 million per troop, per year in Afghanistan. That’s roughly twice the per-troop cost in Iraq. We’ve suffered well more than 800 deaths in Afghanistan. And yet here is the former top civilian official in Afghanistan’s Zabul province, a former Marine who served in Anbar province in Iraq, telling us that the presence of our ground forces does nothing to defeat the organization that’s supposedly the target of our operations in that country.

So, if we’re not going about the business of defeating al-Qaida in Afghanistan, what are we doing?

We’re involved in a civil war in Afghanistan. We’re only taking one side in that civil war. And, our presence there is only encouraging the civil war to go on.

Hmm. This is all sounding very familiar.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on November 20th, 2009

Just last month, Matthew Hoh resigned from his position at the State Department to protest the Obama administration’s seeming determination to send tens of thousands more American troops to a disastrous war in Afghanistan. In that short time, Hoh has become one of the smartest, most compelling, articulate, and principled dissenters our country has seen against the failed Afghanistan occupation.

If the Obama administration doesn’t listen to Hoh now, his warnings of the tragedy that lies at the end of the path of escalation will come to haunt our nation in years to come.

Obama will announce a decision on escalation within weeks. But according to news reports, he is having second thoughts about the wisdom of throwing more American soldiers into a quagmire.

Now is the time to sign our petition to President Obama and send it to others. Then help us continue this important work on Afghanistan by becoming a Brave New Foundation member. As a thank you, you will have access to our Brave New Conversations series, where you can watch amazing Conversations with extraordinary personalities – including a discussion with Matthew Hoh on why the U.S. is following in the footsteps of the Soviet Union on a road to disaster in Afghanistan.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on November 19th, 2009

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal.

Fahim, Karzai and Khalili: The Unholy Trinity of Afghan Corruption

Fahim, Karzai and Khalili: The Unholy Trinity of Afghan Corruption

You know what’s funny? Hamid Karzai, Electioneer-in-Chief, stood between these two guys, Mohammed Qasim Fahim and Karim Khalili to declare [h/t and photo credit, Wired's Danger Room blog]:

Those who spread corruption should be tried and prosecuted. Corruption is a very dangerous enemy of the state. …Afghan ministers should be professional and servants of the people. The government officials should register their earnings.

Just for the record, Hamid Karzai had roughly a million fraudulent votes thrown out in the election. You can learn all about Fahim and Khalili in a Human Rights Watch report titled (and I’m not even kidding) Blood-Stained Hands which details the war crimes for which they and their subordinates were responsible. So by all means, gentlemen, explain to us how you’re going to lead Afghanistan into a new era of peace, prosperity and transparency.

As Matthew Hoh noted in his resignation letter, the corruption at the very top in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is only the most visible symptom of the rot that’s set in within the Afghan state from top to bottom, which includes:

  • Glaring corruption and unabashed graft;
  • A President whose confidants and chief advisors comprise drug lords and war crimes villians, who mock our own rule of law and counternarcotics efforts;
  • A system of provincial and district leaders constituted of local power brokers, opportunists and strongmen allied to the United States solely for, and limited by, the value of our USAID and CERP contracts and whose own political and economic interests stand nothing to gain from any positive or genuine attempts at reconciliation; and
  • The recent election process dominated by fraud and discredited by low voter turnout, which has created an enormous victory for our enemy who now claims a popular boycott and will call into question worldwide our government’s military, economic and diplomatic support for an invalid and illegitimate Afghan government.

The Afghan government is not worth one more American life or dollar. This cartel is a very large part of the problem, not the solution, in Afghanistan. We should be reducing, not increasing, or military commitment in that country, post haste.

Tomorrow I’ll be interview Matthew Hoh on the situation in Afghanistan. Until then, here’s another clip of his conversation with Daniel Ellsberg about the need for us to start the drawdown.

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Posted by Tom Engelhardt on November 19th, 2009

From TomDispatch this morning: A unique way to look at the Afghan War option not on the table in Washington. I’ve written the speech President Obama might give, if he had decided to take an “off-ramp” from the war now: Tom Engelhardt, “The Afghan Speech Obama Should Give (But Won’t)”

As I point out in my latest post, “It’s common knowledge that a president — but above all a Democratic president — who tried to de-escalate a war like the one now expanding in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, and withdraw American troops, would be so much domestic political dead meat. This everyday bit of engrained Washington wisdom is, in fact, based on not a shred of evidence in the historical record.”

As a start, I explore just why that Washington “wisdom” does not hold water and then, knowing that in the coming weeks President Obama will indeed tell us his Afghan War decision, I write his Oval Office prime-time speech for him — “A New Way Forward: The President’s Address to the American People on Afghan Strategy” in which he chooses the “minus option” and begins winding down the Afghan War.

This is, of course, my fantasy, but thanks to weeks of leaks from the President’s endless “comprehensive review of war strategy,” we — the rest of us — have had all the disadvantages of essentially being in on the president’s councils, and none of the advantages of offering our own advice. Personally, I don’t see why we shouldn’t weigh in. I prefer not to leave the process to his speechwriters and advisors.

Here’s just a taste of “his” speech, written in something like Obama’s voice (I hope), a passage, just after he’s present seven aspects of the Afghan disaster that all of his advisors agree upon:

“These seven points have been weighing on my mind over the last weeks as we’ve deliberated on the right course to take. Tonight, in response to the realities of Afghanistan as I’ve just described them to you, I’ve put aside all the subjects that ordinarily obsess Washington, especially whether an American president can reverse the direction of a war and still have an electoral future. That’s for the American people, and them alone, to decide.

“Given that, let me say as bluntly as I can that I have decided to send no more troops to Afghanistan. Beyond that, I believe it is in the national interest of the American people that this war, like the Iraq War, be drawn down. Over time, our troops and resources will be brought home in an orderly fashion, while we ensure that we provide adequate security for the men and women of our Armed Forces. Ours will be an administration that will stand or fall, as of today, on this essential position: that we ended, rather than extended, two wars.”

I hope you find this piece provocative and, in its own way, enjoyable.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on November 18th, 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

James Vega–writing for The Democratic Strategist, co-edited by William Galston, Stan Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira–just published a 2,600+ word memo arguing that “Obama’s final decision” to “approve a significant increase in the number of troops” would not be a “betrayal” of the Democratic base.

You know, that Democratic base that overwhelmingly opposes sending more troops. What utter garbage.

Democrats — Don’t be misled. The media is going to call Obama’s new Afghan strategy a “betrayal” of the Democratic base — but it’s not. It’s actually a decisive rejection of the Republican/Neo-Conservative strategy of the “Long War”

…Based on current reports, Obama’s final decision will approve a significant increase in the number of troops – the exact number depending on the number of major cities to be covered and the degree of protection to be provided for the major road highways. For the many critics who believe that sending large numbers of additional U.S. troops may actually be counterproductive, this is a clear disappointment. But it is also already clear that Obama’s strategy will do several other important things.

  • It will establish specific criteria for success and failure.
  • It will define the mission in a concrete and specific way that can be openly debated and revised.
  • It will include an explicit “exit strategy” rather than an open-ended commitment.

Obama’s specific plan for Afghanistan may turn out to be right or wrong – there are entirely reasonable and cogent arguments that a smaller military “footprint” could actually enhance our ability to achieve our ultimate objectives more than a larger one. But, in any case, the method Obama has used to reach his decision is one that has profoundly undermined the basic foundations of the strategy neoconservatives have been following to embroil America in a perpetual “Long War” – an endless series of open-ended, military campaigns that drag on for decades, constantly requiring more and more troops to achieve hopelessly vague and unquantifiable objectives of fundamental social and cultural transformation across the Muslim world.

Again, total garbage. Decision-making processes are important, true. Asserting civilian control over the military is fundamental to the health of our democratic republic, true. But these issues are totally separate from the question of whether or not sending more troops is a betrayal of the president’s base.

Look, “strategists,” this is very simple. Decisive majorities of Democrats oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan: 60 percent want to actually start withdrawing troops, versus only 26 percent who favor adding any number of troops.

Memo to the memo-writers: you might want to refer to well-documented Democratic public opinion since your About Us section says you:

seek to publish substantial articles that draw strategic conclusions from the latest public opinion and demographic research conducted by the academic community and commercial public opinion polling firms as well as from the leading think-tanks and policy institutes across America.”

If President Obama sends more troops, he “betrays” his base. The end. This is not complicated.

Writing 2,600+ words to take the long way around doesn’t change a “no” to a “yes.” The very least you could do to sell this attempted Jedi mind trick would have been to fabricate a poll. At least then you wouldn’t be patronizing the majority of Democrats whose names you use to get your analysis in the door in order to stab us in the back.

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