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Archive for 2009

Posted by Ralph Lopez on December 7th, 2009

Bolstering his credentials as a maverick who will take unpopular votes and side with anti-war forces, Representative Mike Capuano (D-MA), contender for the Senate seat left open by the passing of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, this week strengthened his opposition to the troop escalation in Afghanistan by co-sponsoring Rep. Barbara Lee’s HR 3699, which commits members to voting against funding for higher troop levels.
HR 3699 reads simply:

To prohibit any increase in the number of members of the United States Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan…
No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to increase the number of members of the United States Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan so that the number of members serving in Afghanistan exceeds the number so serving on the date of the enactment of this Act.”

Capuano joins 24 other members of the progressive caucus in taking a stand against funding a troop escalation, which next goes to the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. David Obey.

This follows his recent television ad “Stand” in which Capuano criticized the erosion of civil liberties and calls out Dick Cheney by name:

“George Bush and Dick Cheney used fear to justify torture and abuses of our most basic civil liberties…Our leaders must have the courage to fight terrorism without surrendering the values and civil liberties that make us all proud to be Americans…there will always be people like Dick Cheney …and the need to stand up to them.”

Capuano has said that if it appears that the orders to subject al-Qaida terror suspects to waterboarding could be traced to Cheney’s office, Cheney should be prosecuted. He said those carrying out orders shouldn’t be scapegoated for obeying executive instructions.

Capuano highlights his stands for civil liberties as a key reason he should be elected. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, Capuano was one of 64 Democrats and 3 Republicans who voted against the USA PATRIOT Act. Capuano also voted against subsequent reauthorizations of the USA PATRIOT Act in 2005 and in 2006. A 300-plus page document which Congressman Jim McDermott once asserted was “on a shelf somewhere” with “things they would like to do” even before 9/11, the Patriot Act’s key provisions, according to a former staffer for Rep. Bernie Sanders, “greatly expanded the government’s authority to seize “business records” without any showing that the person whose records are being seized is involved in any kind of wrongdoing.”

Records covered include personal email, all medical, financial, and reading habits as shown by library records and bookstore purchases. Many members of Congress complained that they were not allowed to read Patriot Act legislation before being required to vote on it. Rep. Ron Paul told reporters:

“It’s my understanding the bill wasn’t printed before the vote — at least I couldn’t get it. They played all kinds of games, kept the House in session all night, and it was a very complicated bill. Maybe a handful of staffers actually read it, but the bill definitely was not available to members before the vote.”

Prior to passage, two senators opposed to the Patriot Act and in key positions to block it, Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, were mailed anthrax letters. Both subsequently dropped opposition to the Act.

Capuano also voted against the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which still stands as law, and in the words of Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman:

“…authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.”

Television Ad “Never”

In a television ad “Never” released last month, Capuano declared that without “answers,” on “a mission” and “an exit strategy,” “I will never, ever vote to send more American troops to Afghanistan.” Capuano told supporters, prior to his co-sponsorship of HR 3699, that he was waiting for the president’s detailed plans on Afghanistan before making a decision on HR 3699. Capuano’s office indicated that his co-sponsorship of HR 3699 was contingent upon hearing satisfactory answers to his questions. The president, in his December 1st speech, announced that American troops would “begin” to withdraw in 2011, subject to “conditions on the ground.” Anti-war activists see this wording as the equivalent of an open-ended commitment. A Capuano victory raises the specter for peace activists of a reliable ally in the Senate in the event of a filibuster against funding for a troop escalation, one already seasoned on Capitol Hill.

The Democratic primary field also includes state prosecutor Martha Coakley, who moved into the national spotlight in the Louise Woodward murder trial, Alan Khazei, a community activist named by US News and World Report as one of “America’s 25 Best Leaders,” and businessman Steve Pagliuca.

Coakley’s previous remarks on the Patriot Act have become a campaign issue, with attention turning to remarks made to the Lowell Sun in 2005 in an article entitled “Patriot Act criticized unfairly, law-enforcement officials say.” Coakley appeared to suggest that the threat to civil liberties was being overstated, and that those in opposition to the act were ill-informed:

“Your insurance company knows more about you than the federal government does…When people don’t understand how things work, they’re willing to say ‘can’t do it, won’t do it,’ and they tie the government’s hands.”

The hotly-contested Massachusetts Democratic Primary election is this Tuesday, Dec. 6.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on December 6th, 2009

Before moving past President Obama’s underwhelming speech explaining his misguided decision to send 30,000 more kids with guns to kill and die in Afghanistan, it’s worth pointing out one more big omission: The War of Necessity was nowhere to be found.

The president said:

I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan…To abandon this area now – and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance – would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.

But, take note of this:

The 30,000 additional troops that I am announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 – the fastest pace possible – so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers.

This is as close as the president gets to admitting the stark reality that there are virtually no more troops to send, and that’s one reason the U.S. cannot even begin to deploy new forces until the first half of 2010. This force brings us nowhere near the number posited by the counterinsurgency fantasy doctrine much beloved by Petraeus, McChrystal and arm-chair generals. And, the Pentagon says they are running out of money and that Democrats will have to break their promises to fund the Afghan misadventure through the regular budget process. Given that reality, everyone should take note that the only group asked explicitly for patriotic sacrifice on Tuesday night were members of the U.S. military and their families.

At this point, no one should take any policymaker or armchair general seriously when they argue that the U.S. is fighting a war of necessity to defeat an existential threat unless they propose:

  1. a draft; and
  2. steep war taxes.

Of course, that little duo is a non-starter after 8 years of inconclusive killing and dying during which Americans outside the military were only asked to go shopping [although, to his credit, Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.) has proposed a war surtax]. American politicians’ unwillingness to do so, however, shows that the war in Afghanistan is not, in fact, a war of survival.

But if the war in Afghanistan is not a war of survival, then American political leadership also lacks justification to squander $100,000,000,000 to send 100,000 troops to chase 100 al-Qaida thugs around someone else’s homeland.

Sign the petition to bring those troops home, now.

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. 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. You can also join Brave New Foundation’s #NoWar candlelight vigil on Facebook and Twitter to show your opposition to the war. But make these your first steps as an activist to end this war, not your last.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on December 3rd, 2009


President Obama has decided to send more than 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, at a cost of more than $100 billion/year. But America cannot afford a war that does not make us safer, and Congress has the power to stop the escalation. Vote NO on any spending bill that would send more troops to Afghanistan.

Sign the petition now.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on December 2nd, 2009

The press is getting it wrong regarding the president’s announcement of the newest of his escalations in Afghanistan, which said:

I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home…Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.

The headline for The New York Times’ article on the speech reads “Obama Adds Troops, but Maps Exit Plan.”

Keep in mind, this president told you back in March 2009, after he decided to send the first big troop increase to Afghanistan, that:

We now have resourced, properly, this strategy. It’s not going to be an open-ended commitment of infinite resources…Just because we needed to ramp up from the greatly under-resourced levels that we had, doesn’t automatically mean that if this strategy doesn’t work that what’s needed is even more troops.

The way out of Afghanistan for the U.S. begins by refusing to add more troops. Despite any number of headlines to the contrary, this is not an exit strategy nor a withdrawal timeline. It is, at best, an intention, and one which is undermined by adding 30,000 troops. Here’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a hearing today:

After several back-and-forth exchanges, Gates concedes that there will be a “thorough review” in December 2010 and that if the strategy is not working, “we will take a long look” at the July 2011 date. This seems an important concession, and McCain declares that is this is the case.

…Graham then bores in hard on the July, 2011 date. He asks if the president has locked himself into that date, and Gates and Mullen try hard to say that as commander in chief, Obama obviously retains all options to change his mind. But, Gates argues, the date Obama offered Tuesday night as the starting point for withdrawing troops is a “clear statement of strong intent.”

Gates only got to this point in the hearing after getting kicked around like a soccer ball between senators who got him to first say the withdrawal starting in 2011 would not be tied to conditions on the ground, and then got him to retract and revise that statement.

This is also, by the way, the same Defense Secretary who said he’d be “very skeptical of any additional force levels” back in January 2009.

If the president has an exit strategy, he didn’t tell you about it last night. He painted a picture of intentions after telling you he was sending 30,000 more troops to kill and die in Afghanistan. And you know what they say about the road to Hell.

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. 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. You can also join Brave New Foundation’s #NoWar candlelight vigil on Facebook and Twitter to show your opposition to the war. But make these your first steps as an activist to end this war, not your last.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on December 1st, 2009

I wrote this last night after I learned that the President had already given the orders to implement a second escalation. It’s a little more personal than I usually get in items for wide distribution, but after tonight’s announcement by the president, I thought I’d go ahead and share it with you. –DC

The orders have been given. All that’s left is to give the speech before a bunch of strapping young cadets and install the procurator Augusti. Thirty-six thousand more troopsThirty thousand more troops, $1 million a piece, per year. More IEDs in response. More bombs. More night searches. More economic damage. Hope. Change.

We’ve seen planes in the windows of buildings crumbled in
We’ve seen flames send the chills through London
And we’ve sent planes to kill them
But some of them were children
And still we crumbling the building
–Flobots, “Stand Up”

This evening, the Austin Peace and Justice Center organized a vigil to mourn the escalation outside of the offices of Senator John Cornyn. I decided to attend the vigil, even though I’d have to be late because of work. I drove down to 6th and Lavaca. I didn’t have a sign, but if they had candles, I’d gladly join in. No luck. When I drove past, I saw between a half-dozen and a dozen participants, some in costume, most with signs, but no candles. At most, I could stand there with them and hope not to be mistaken for a pedestrian waiting for a light. Maybe it was a cop-out, but I decided I could do more here at my kitchen table on my laptop to voice my opposition to the war than by standing without a sign on a street corner.

From Lavaca, I turned right on 7th to make my way to I-35, which would take me home. As I rounded the corner, a flock of black birds swooped and circled above. This is that strange time of the migratory birds in Austin, when thousands upon thousands of dark, screeching shapes fill the air, swarm the telephone poles, perch on the the power lines. I’ve never lived anywhere that was such a gathering place for this many birds in the fall. Tonight at dusk they were particularly agitated, diving and jerking in mad formations, the air thick with them. They thinned enough as I drove toward I-35 that I could pay more attention to my surroundings. That’s when I saw the intersection of 7th and Neches.

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, ARCH, sits on that street corner. Tonight, the homeless were as thick as the birds, crowding all the way around the block. The sound of the crowd’s chatter temporarily blocked that of the birds as I drove by with my window cracked. Some talked, some shouted, some sang, all while they waited for help to get through a chilly, rainy night. One million dollars per troop, per year, I thought. Guns or butter.

Then, I thought, We’re all going to Hell for this. (more…)

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Posted by robertgreenwald on December 1st, 2009

After President Obama makes his announcement regarding the troop escalation in Afghanistan, your local press will likely be looking for members of the local community that are eager to respond.

For those of you who have been following our efforts with Rethink Afghanistan, you should contact your local press, explain that you are an activist opposing President Obama’s troop surge, and would like to respond to his announcement with the following points which they can read more about at

  • The White House has stated that it costs us $1 million per soldier we’re sending to Afghanistan.  That’s about $30 billion that we could be spending domestically. Watch the video
  • US Military action is actively antagonizing Afghans and pushing them to join the Taliban. Watch the video
  • We cannot afford to indefinitely commit countless soldiers to Afghanistan. Watch the video
  • Ultimately, our involvement in Afghanistan is not making us safer. According to President Obama’s National Security Advisor, there are less than 100 Al-Qaeda members left in Afghanistan. Watch the video
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Posted by robertgreenwald on December 1st, 2009

No Number of US Troops is Going to Provide an Antidote to the Basic Problems of Afghanistan:

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Posted by Brave New Foundation on December 1st, 2009

Former CIA Operative Bob Baer: Our Invasion of Afghanistan is Causing Us Greater Danger:

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Posted by robertgreenwald on December 1st, 2009

Originally posted on The Huffington Post.

This time they wont be tears of joy.
The hope, belief and passion that Obama inspired,
The dreams for the future,
The visions of change.

All that will be become a memory as Obama embraces and escalates a war.
A war that will do nothing to protect our security,
A war that will result in th death of thousands of Americans and Afghans,
A war that will spend billons.

A war that will eat up resources that should be going to jobs, homes, schools, health care.

A war that will hurt rather then help the people of Afghanistan.
A war that will hurt our moral standing and strategic goals.
A very sad day.

Different kind of tears.

Join us in the work ahead to hold our elected officials accountable.
Join us in spreading the films that tell the story with Afghan voices.
Join us in spreading the films that tell the story with Afghan vets.
Join us in spreading the films that tell the story with the CIA.

Whatever our hopes and beliefs and dreams for and with Obama, we cant remain on the sidelines anymore.

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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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