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Archive for March, 2010

Posted by Peace Action West on March 15th, 2010

From our partners at Peace Action West

Wednesday afternoon we saw something that is all too rare in Congress—prolonged debate on the merits of the US’s military strategy in Afghanistan. For three and half hours, representatives took to the House floor and publicly declared their support for or opposition to a policy that is costing billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

Representatives opposed to the war pointed out major flaws in the strategy that are too often ignored. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), whom Peace Action West supporters helped elect in 2008, pointed out that large scale military occupation is a waste of resources and an ineffective way to deal with terrorism, and questioned just how many countries the US would have to occupy if we continue down this road.

With American families struggling to find jobs and get access to healthcare, the financial cost of the war came up throughout the debate. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) issued a statement highlighting the domestic challenges competing for funds with the misguided war effort:

My vote today, is consistent with my opposition to the recent troop surge and reflects my belief that our current efforts in Afghanistan are ineffective, and that our troops and resources could be more effectively deployed elsewhere.  It’s time for us to redirect our focus back home, where numerous challenges continue to burden families in my district and across the country. In good conscience, I cannot continue to support an expensive, protracted military conflict at a time when my district has double digit unemployment, skyrocketing foreclosure rates, and other issues that affect the quality of life of the people I represent.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) recounted her lone vote against the war resolution in 2001, in the heat of reaction to the 9/11 attacks, and called on her fellow representatives to live up to their responsibility to develop a “more effective US foreign policy for the 21st century.”

While several representatives took to the floor with tired talking points about undermining the troops and raising the morale of our enemies, concerns about the current strategy did not come only from people who voted yes on the resolution. Many members praised Rep. Kucinich in their remarks for forcing this important debate.

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Afghanistan Task Force, pointed out that the US government is missing the bigger picture about the limits of military power and the need to invest in civilian solutions:

As long as we continue to pursue military solutions to this conflict, paying little to no heed to economic, political and social solutions, security will remain elusive. As long as we continue to forego the building of Afghan capacity and instead prop up a privatized defense industrial complex, as well as an increasingly privatized development industrial complex, Afghans will never be able to answer our call to “stand up”. As long as we remain unwilling to bring to justice our allied warlords and corrupt officials in Afghanistan, our calls for an end to corruption in Kabul ring hollow.

Washington must face up to the alarming reality that the hundreds of billions of dollars being pumped into Afghanistan are simply not benefiting the Afghan people whatsoever and are not being used effectively in the long-term U.S. strategic interest. Washington also must realize that hard power is utterly limited in its capacity to eliminate an ideological enemy, who is not finite in number. What must be pursued, instead, is the build-up of Afghan state capacity to provide policing and legal enforcement, systems of justice, and good intelligence (in addition, of course, to the socio-economic policies capable of educating and employing a vulnerable population).

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) reiterated her opposition to the 30,000-troop increase and told her colleagues, “I share Mr. Kucinich’s sentiment, but not his schedule.”

While the resolution failed 65-356, there is much more to the story that what is contained in the numbers. The Kucinich resolution went much farther than any piece of Afghanistan legislation the House has considered—calling with a withdrawal within 30 days, or by the end of the year at the very latest–making this a stronger showing than many expected. Afghanistan has long been considered the “good war,” and members of Congress have been reluctant to speak out against President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy. The list of yes votes includes influential members like Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey of Wisconsin, who publicly declared last year that he would give the president a year to improve the situation in Afghanistan before he would actively oppose his strategy. I heard Rep. Obey’s statement cited by many congressional staffers in lobby meetings as a reason for giving the “new” strategy a chance, so Rep. Obey’s vote in favor of the strong language in this bill sends an important message.

There are many more members of Congress who have serious concerns about the viability of the military strategy in Afghanistan but were not comfortable voting for a withdrawal on such a short timeline. There will be other opportunities throughout the year to pressure members of Congress to speak out publicly for nonmilitary alternatives and to cosponsor legislation that will put us on the path toward military withdrawal. As we have seen with the war in Iraq, public and congressional opposition is likely to grow with the loss of more tax dollars and innocent lives, and we must harness that opposition to push our government for a better approach.

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Posted by Peace Action West on March 15th, 2010

From our partners at Peace Action West

Refusing a rape victim her day in court. Callously shooting a defenseless nine-year-old boy. Diverting hundreds of AK-47s intended for Afghan police to someone posing as a character from “South Park.” Using tax dollars to pay for prostitutes.

If only that were the end of the list. The sins of private military contractors like Blackwater – essentially hired guns — are seemingly endless, and I know you are as angry as I am that our tax dollars are funding this outrageous behavior.

Write your representative and senators today and urge them to cosponsor the Stop Outsourcing Security Act so our hard-earned money can stop lining the pockets of these callous, reckless corporations.

The percentage of contractors used in the war in Afghanistan is the highest ever in history. The surge of 30,000 troops approved by President Obama will be dwarfed by the accompanying 56,000 contractors expected to flood into the region. If we can’t fight wars with our own military, maybe it’s a sign we shouldn’t be in the wars in the first place.

How much worse do things have to get before our government draws the line? Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have had enough. They’ve introduced the Stop Outsourcing Security Act, which would prohibit the use of private contractors for military and security functions. Tell your representative and senators to cosponsor today.

Mohammed Kinani, whose nine-year-old son was killed by Blackwater employees in the Nisour Square shooting in Iraq, told The Nation “I wish the US Congress would ask [the head of Blackwater] why they killed my innocent son…. Do you think that this child was a threat to your company? This giant company that has the biggest weapons, the heaviest weapons, the planes, and this boy was a threat to them? I want Americans to know that this was a child that died for nothing.”

Let’s make sure Congress listens and puts an end to this taxpayer-funded madness. Our government can’t excuse this behavior, and they can’t ignore a public outcry if it’s loud enough. Take action.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on March 13th, 2010

Matthew Hoh, the former senior U.S. civilian representative in Zabul province, Afghanistan, says that civilian deaths in Marjah caused by Operation Moshtarak were unnecessary and that the operation isn’t accomplishing anything. Hoh points to the installation of an outsider ex-con as the head official in Marjah as evidence that despite U.S. rhetoric to the contrary, Operation Moshtarak is not empowering local people. Hoh says the local Afghans view the U.S. forces as occupiers, and their presence in large numbers following President Obama’s decision to send more troops will cause more people to take up arms against the foreign forces.

Hoh made headlines in September 2009 when he resigned in protest over U.S. policies in Afghanistan:

In his letter, Hoh says families must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a “purpose worthy of futures lost, love vanished, and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence such assurances can anymore be made.” He says it was difficult for him to write that.

“But I don’t believe we should continue losing and sacrificing our young men and women for goals that meet no strategic purpose to the United States,” he tells NPR. “And the idea that we should continue fighting there just because we have been fighting there for the last eight years I think is completely irrational.”

Hoh dismisses concerns, raised by others such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will prompt a Taliban comeback and, consequently, a return of al-Qaida. He says after al-Qaida lost its Afghan safe haven following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the group evolved its strategy, looking beyond a political or geographical boundary.

“They are not looking for a safe haven in Afghanistan. They don’t need that,” he says. “They’ve already got safe havens in half a dozen other countries — Somalia, Sudan, Yemen.”

Hoh’s comments were supported by a State Department report released on March 11, 2010, detailing the egregious human rights record of the government propped up by U.S. blood and funds in Afghanistan:

The country’s human rights record remained poor. Human rights problems included extrajudicial killings, torture, poor prison conditions, official impunity, prolonged pretrial detention, restrictions on freedom of the press, restrictions on freedom of religion, violence and societal discrimination against women, restrictions on religious conversions, abuses against minorities, sexual abuse of children, trafficking in persons, abuse of worker rights, the use of child soldiers in armed conflict, and child labor.

U.S. policies in Afghanistan prop up a thoroughly corrupt government in Afghanistan, and the war isn’t making us safer. It’s time to end the war.

Had enough? Become a fan of Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and help us end the Afghanistan war.

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Posted by Josh Mull on March 12th, 2010

It’s pretty much conventional wisdom at this point that we’re going to have to negotiate with the Taliban. Washington, Kabul, and Islamabad will divvy them up into “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban,” with the good ones being the guys we’ll talk to and the bad ones will presumably be assassinated or captured. Obviously, the US and Pakistan shouldn’t be dictating affairs to the Afghan government, particularly one so corrupt and illegitimate as Karzai’s regime, and we’re still essentially killing the Afghans we don’t like and propping up the ones we do like. But let’s focus on the “good Taliban,” that is the people the US government hopes will rule Afghanistan after we’re done. Who are the good ones? Joshua Foust tells us about one, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar:

This is a man, we learn from Charlie Wilson’s War (the good book, not the uneven movie), who was renowned for skinning people alive when he considered them insufficiently Muslim—to say nothing of his habit of switching sides and murdering everyone close to him so often he makes Dostum look downright loyal in comparison.

So the good Taliban are religious extremists, mass murderers, and war criminals. That’s who we get to negotiate with. And how will that work out? Foust continues:

…declaring negotiations is a dance with a long and storied and utterly failed history in Afghanistan. Indeed, none of the factions in Afghanistan, including Hamid Karzai, have ever approached a given set of negotiations in good faith—not in 2007, not in 2005, and not in 2002.

We’re negotiating with a horrible criminal, and maybe we don’t even mean it, and maybe he doesn’t either. Even if you support the US goals of security, stability, and good governance in Afghanistan, how is that even close to a good plan for achieving those goals? What kind of good governance do you get from negotiating through a corrupt puppet like Karzai? What kind of security and stability do you get by installing child-rapists and mass murderers into the government? And that’s if the rest of the plan works out great, and we’re able to kill or capture all the bad Taliban, and the rest of the Afghan and Pakistani insurgents just magically stop fighting the civil war that they believe they’re winning.

(more…)

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on March 11th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Dave Anderson:

Conservative defense analyst Loren Thompson projects defense spending will start to decrease in real terms because there is nothing in the pipeline sufficient scary for the American public not to question the guns or butter trade-off in favor of more guns:

I perused the threat section of this year's Quadrennial Defense Review, which is called "A Complex Environment." The section's bland title matches the content. The document says that America faces a "complex and uncertain security landscape in which the pace of change continues to accelerate." It cites the rise of China, the transforming effects of globalization, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction….

Friends, this is not the kind of threat assessment that is likely to keep U.S. defense outlays at $700 billion annually….

It wasn't like this during the Cold War. Whatever differences policymakers may have had about the threat, the fact that 10,000 Soviet nuclear warheads were aimed at America helped us to focus our deliberations on which dangers really mattered.

Now Time Magazine looks at Chinese defense spending trends. 

China's 2010 military budget, which is awaiting legislative approval, will be $78 billion. That would make it second only to the United States, which for 2010 has a total budget of $663.8 billion. U.S. spending is equivalent to 4.7% of the nation's GDP, while China's defense outlay equals about 1.5% of its estimated 2010 GDP.

But military observers have long cautioned that China's official defense budget figures shouldn't be taken at face value, and that actual spending could be two or three times higher than what is reported

The PRC is the largest non-NATO, non-major US allied defense spending nation.  Even applying an adjustment of doubling the Chinese defense budget, the PRC would be spending only 2/3rds as much of their GDP on defense, and about a quarter of the actual dollar figure on their military.

The US can outspend insurgents 100:1 and be fought to a strategic draw that has forced the US to trim its previously maximal goals towards a negoatiated settlement where the Pashtun Taliban and Karzai governments can reach a working power-splitting agreement.  And that is on a tertiary threat on the whole as the US intelligence estimate is that the vast majority of the men shooting at US soldiers are doing so purely for local reasons and have no desire to participate in long distance, far enemy strikes. 

Our defense budget is the price that we pay because we as a nation are too damn ready to shit in our pants.  There are no realistic existential threats to the United States that can be solved by throwing another hundred billion dollars to the DOD baseline appropriation.  We need to grow out and rationally assess threats and responses instead of throwing money that we don't have and have not had at the monsters under our beds. 

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Posted by DownWithTyranny on March 11th, 2010

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

Jane Harman votes for more war; Marcy Winograd primaries her, promising “Jobs, Not Wars”

Before Dennis Kucinich’s resolution was even debated yesterday, the Republicans tried to derail even the concept of Congress talking about it. Their attempt was defeated 225-195, only 5 Republicans– John Campbell (R-CA), John Duncan (R-TN), Tim Johnston (R-IL), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Ron Paul (R-TX)– joined the Democrats to allow the debate. Meanwhile these were the Democrats who crossed the aisle and voted against allowing a debate:

Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA)
Mike Arcuri (Blue Dog-NY)
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)
John Boccieri (D-OH)
Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK)
Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL)
Dennis Cardoza (Blue Dog-CA)
Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS)
Kathleen Dahlkemper (Blue Dog-PA)
Lincoln Davis (Blue Dog-TN)
Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN)
Gabby Giffords (Blue Dog-AZ)
Debbie Halvorson (D-IL)
Jim Himes (D-CT)
Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ)
Larry Kissell (liar-NC)
Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL)
Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD)
Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC)
Harry Mitchell (Blue Dog-AZ)
Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA)
John Salazar (Blue Dog-CO)
Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC)
Ike Skelton (D-MO)
Zack Space (Blue Dog-OH)
Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS)
Harry Teague (D-NM)
David Wu (D-OR)

Regina Thomas, Barrow’s primary opponent, was outraged by his votes yesterday.

“Just to think that the Congressman from GA-12 voted yesterday not to have a debate on ending the war. What happened to the democratic process of open and fair discussion? Why is it that Congressman Barrow voted not to debate whether we should end the war? To add insult to injury, he voted against a House Resolution to wind down this horrific and astronomical war, that we cannot afford and for which we continue to borrow money to pay for.”

 
I watched the entire debate on C-Span. I was very impressed with Jack Kingston (R-GA) who, although a strong backer of the war, was the only Republican opponent of Kucinich’s resolution, who was willing to look honestly at the bankrupt bipartisan war policy. The rest of the Republican members just spewed out the deceptive Ileana Ros-Lehtinen talking points that were leaked a few days ago.

Aside from Kucinich’s well-documented presentations, the debate itself didn’t add much light on the question but just gave the members an opportunity to babble on senselessly and thoughtlessly. Patrick Kennedy’s emotional presentation about the shame of the press corps not even bothering to cover the debate should also have been thought provoking. The debate could easily have been taking place in the late 60s or early 70s about Vietnam. Almost nothing has changed. I’m sure that wasn’t anyone who thought the resolution would be defeated. And it was. The final vote was 65-356.

Last June only 32 courageous Democrats were willing to oppose Obama’s supplemental war budget. Yesterday, without Massa and without the out-of-town but still anti-war Conyers, there were 60. Ominously, among the new converts were Appropriations Committee chairman Dave Obey (D-WI).

Jerry Nadler will be the Blue America guest at Crooks and Liars this Saturday (11am, PT). This was his floor speech yesterday:

“Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this resolution.

“I am not convinced that the United States and its allies can end the 35-year civil war in Afghanistan– nor is that our responsibility. Weshould not use our troops to prop up a corrupt government. It is simply not justifiable to sacrifice more lives and more money on this war. We must rethink our policy. If we do not, we are doomed to failure and to further loss of American lives.

“In late 2001, we undertook a justified military action in Afghanistan in response to the attacks of 9/11, and, with moral clarity and singular focus, we destroyed the al-Qaeda camps, drove the Taliban from power, and pursued the perpetrators of mass-terrorism. I supported that action. Today, however, our presence in Afghanistan has become counterproductive. We are bogged down amidst a longstanding civil war between feuding Afghans of differing tribes, classes and regions, whose goals have little to do with our own.

“Moreover, our very presence in Afghanistan has fueled the rising insurgency and emboldened those who oppose foreign intervention or occupation of any kind. In seeking security and stability in Afghanistan, we have supported corrupt leaders with interests out of sync with the interests of ordinary Afghans. By backing the Afghan government, we have further distanced ourselves from the Afghan people and empowered the insurgency.

“If our mission in Afghanistan is indeed to prevent the safe harbor of terrorists within a weak or hospitable nation, that mission is largely accomplished, since we are told there are now fewer than 100 al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In reality, terrorist plots can be hatched anywhere, in any nation, including our own. In fact, much of the planning for the 9/11 attacks took place in Western Europe.

“This does not mean that we should stop pursuing terrorists. On the contrary, we must continue the multi-pronged effort to disrupt, dismantle and destroy their ability to harm the United States. We must continue to track and block terrorist financing across the globe, increase intelligence activities focused on terrorists, increase diplomacy to rally our allies to our cause against terrorism, and, if necessary, use our armed forces to attack terrorist targets wherever they may be– a function quite distinct from using the military to secure a nation so that it can be rebuilt. Rebuilding Afghanistan is beyond both our capability, and our mandate to prevent terrorists from attacking the United States.

“I believe that a short and definitive timetable for withdrawing our troops is the only way to minimize further loss of life and to refocus our efforts more directly at the terrorists themselves.

“I have some reservations that the resolution before us seems to leave no room for a military role in Afghanistan under any circumstances.

“I believe we must reserve the right to use our armed forces to attack terrorist targets wherever they may be, and that would include terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, if they were re-established there. But those camps are not there now, and our troops should not be there either.

“Mr. Kucinich’s resolution points us in the right direction– a direction far better than the direction in which we are now headed. Accordingly, I urge approval of the Kucinich resolution.

And here is Ron Paul’s:

UPDATE: Healthcare Not Warfare

This morning we reached Marcy Winograd, the Blue America-endorsed candidate who is primarying corporate warmonger Jane Harman in Los Angeles. She was we Harman’s vote against ending the war yesterday. “I disagree with my opponent’s vocal support for the continued U.S. war and occupation of Afghanistan,” she told us. “Though Harman decries the corruption in Afghanistan, she fails to see that a military solution is no solution at all because for every occupation there emerges a stronger counter-insurgency. When in Congress, I will stand with Congressman Kucinich in his call for diplomacy, not war. I appreciate that he brought this debate to the floor and encouraged Congress to recognize its constitutional powers.”

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on March 10th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Derrick Crowe

According to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, U.S. and Allied forces have killed and injured more civilians than have the insurgents during Operation Moshtarak. Incredibly, the Pentagon continues to insist that this operation "protects the people." AIHRC's Feb. 23 press release reports [h/t Josh Mull, our new Afghanistan blog fellow]:

"AIHRC is concerned at the loss of life and civilian harm already caused by this operation. AIHRC found that in the first 12 days of Operation Mushtarak 28 civilians, including 13 children, were killed and approximately 70 civilians, including 30 children, were injured.

"Witnesses suggested the majority of the casualties were caused by PGF artillery and rocket-fire."

Late last year, just after the President announced his escalation, I wrote:

The president’s decision to add more troops is a mistake that will result in deep costs which we cannot afford; increased U.S. casualties; and increased civilian casualties as our troop increase further raises the temperature in the conflict.

A separate update from Brookings shows that President Obama's escalation and subsequent military operations have indeed raised the temperature of the conflict, increasing the level of violence across Afghanistan:

“In terms of raw violence, the situation is at a historic worst level, with early 2010 levels of various types of attacks much higher than even last year at this time. Much of that is due to the recent Marja campaign and, more generally, the deployment of additional U.S. (and Afghan) troops to parts of the country where they have not been present before.”

War does not protect civilians. War doesn't make us safer. The Afghanistan war needs to end, now.

Had enough? Join us: become a fan of Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook.

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Posted by DownWithTyranny on March 9th, 2010

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!


I keep running into decent liberals who are great on every issue and who still hate Bush and Cheney for attacking Iraq but who almost blindly defend the Pentagon/Obama war agenda in Afghanistan. They’re making a big mistake on many levels. The only outcome in Afghanistan, short of utterly destroying it– something not even the Soviets seriously contemplated– is leaving that hellhole to work out– or not– its own prehistoric problems. Here in the U.S., Afghan policy is destined to wreck Obama’s presidency and help turn that which so recently looked so promising into a runner-up with Bush as the worst presidency in American history. And, as with all wars, the mass media is the cheering squad.

In a condescending article in today’s Washington Post, Perry Bacon dismisses an attempt to make Congress live up to its constitutional obligations in regard to war as “venting.” Isn’t that funny and snarky? I bet Perry Bacon doesn’t have a relative on duty or shipping out to the great metropolis of Marja– a scattered collection of rural mud-baked family compounds far from any real roads and as far as you can get from the 21st Century on this planet (unless you count the modern weapons). “Liberals in the House,” he writes with contempt, “who have spent much of the past year complaining that other congressional Democrats and the White House are insufficiently progressive, will get a chance this week to vent about one of their biggest concerns: the war in Afghanistan.” I wonder if Bacon is aware that the move to bring Afghan policy under constitutional purview is a bipartisan goal and that some very unlikely Republicans– so beyond Ron Paul– are as disturbed by the pointless and bloody occupation of Afghanistan as are the progressives he loathes. I doubt it. More likely he’s tuned into the same cookie cutter Establishment Republicans Beltway journalists always count as “serious.” Like the clownish Miami Republican who serves as the GOP’s ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose response to the debate is summarized in a talking points memo she sent out to her fellow Republicans this week:


That’s what passes for “serious” to the Villagers, who are already denigrating the debate Kucinich and 16 co-sponsors are forcing on House leadership tomorrow. They’re demanding Congress pass a law that would bring all U.S. troops home from Afghanistan by the end of the year. Hoyer and Pelosi have grudgingly granted them 3 hours of debate.

The resolution will invoke the 1973 War Powers Act, which Congress passed in protest of the escalation of the Vietnam War by a series of presidents without formal congressional authorization. It requires congressional approval for a president to put troops in a military conflict for more than 90 days. Congress passed a resolution authorizing military force in Afghanistan in 2001, after the Sept. 11 attacks, and some congressional scholars doubt Congress can invoke the act now to force changes to President Obama’s war policy.

Whether or not it would have any legal force if enacted, the resolution has almost no chance of being approved in the House, where nearly all Republicans and many Democrats support maintaining or increasing troop levels.

…”We haven’t had a real debate,” Kucinich said in explaining why he was pushing the resolution. “We want to light the fire of the American peace movement.” (And, he added, “get out of there!”)

Democratic leaders support bringing the measure to a vote to give antiwar lawmakers an opportunity to register their frustration with Obama’s decision to increase troop levels by 30,000 before Congress approves the funding for the surge.

The administration has requested $33 billion to boost the U.S. force in Afghanistan from about 70,000 to 100,000, a request that could be debated and approved by Congress as soon as next month. A $96.7 billion funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drew 60 “no” votes in the House last year, 51 of them from Democrats.

“There are many members in the caucus who are eager to have a vote soon on Afghanistan,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said when Kucinich proposed the measure. “This may satisfy that need.”

The vote will be a measure of the depth of opposition to Obama’s war policy, because it is not tied to troop funding, which lawmakers in both parties are loath to vote against.

Reading deeper into Ros-Lehtinen’s instructions for Republican “talkers,” one has to wonder if someone in the White House didn’t help her get them together!

• It is rarely a good strategy to advise retreat during a war, but it is strange indeed to do so when the war is being won.
 
• The new strategy in Afghanistan being implemented by General McChrystal is already producing dramatic successes, including the capture of key Taliban leaders, the routing of Taliban forces, and the liberation of key areas of the country.
 
• A winning strategy should be supported, not undermined.
 
• This resolution is an effort to snatch a shameful defeat from the hard-won jaws of victory.  In recent months, working with the Government of Pakistan, U.S. and NATO efforts have helped lead to:
 
• the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the second in command of the Taliban and the director of the Taliban council; 
• the capture of Maulvi Abdul Kabir, the leader of the Taliban’s Peshawar Regional Military Council; 
• the capture of Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban shadow governor of Kunduz; 
• the killing of Mullah Mir Mohammed, the Taliban shadow governor of Baghlan province;
• the capture of Mohammed Younis, the former Taliban shadow governor of Zabul province;
• the killing of Maulvi Faqir Mohammed, a top Pakistani Taliban commander;
• the capture of Agha Jan Mohtasim, the former Finance Minister during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the son-in-law of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar; and
• the reported killing of Baitullah Mehsud, a senior Pakistani Taliban leader.

 • This resolution would provide the Taliban leaders and fighters with a shield against U.S. forces they otherwise cannot stop.
 
• This legislatively mandated retreat would dramatically undermine the safety of the American people because the revived Taliban would quickly turn Afghanistan into a protected base of operations for al Qaeda and other enemies of the United States.
 
• In their hiding places in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Taliban leaders and fighters are closely following our debates here even as they plan their next assaults on us and our forces. 
 
• They are strengthened and encouraged by every word spoken in favor of this resolution.
 
• Anything less than absolute repudiation of this resolution will provide aid and comfort to the Taliban.
 
• This House would far better serve the American people by focusing its energy and attention on reviving the economy, creating jobs, cutting the deficit, and strengthening our defenses against attack than to undermine the security of our nations through resolutions such as this one.

I wonder how Ros-Lehtinen and her zombie squad of “talkers” would answer this ad from a veterans’ group pointing out the relationship between the energy policies she supports and the war policies she supports:

And who are the Members of Congress trying to end this war– for real? Well, there were 32 courageous Democrats who voted against Obama’s supplemental war funding last June. And these are the members who immediately signed on to Kucinich’s resolution that will be debated tomorrow: John Conyers (D-MI); Ron Paul (R-TX); José Serrano (D-NY); Bob Filner (D-CA); Lynn Woolsey (D-CA); Walter Jones, Jr. (R-NC); Danny Davis (D-IL); Barbara Lee (D-CA); Michael Capuano (D-MA); Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ); Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Timothy Johnson (R-IL); Yvette Clarke (D-NY); Eric Massa (D-NY); Alan Grayson (D-FL); and Chellie Pingree (D-ME). Eric Massa will be sorely missed from this debate.

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Posted by The Agonist on March 9th, 2010

From our partners at The Agonist

By Gareth Porter* | WASHINGTON | Mar 8, 2010

(IPS) -
WASHINGTON, Mar 8, 2010 (IPS) – For weeks, the U.S. public followed the biggest offensive of the Afghanistan War against what it was told was a “city of 80,000 people” as well as the logistical hub of the Taliban in that part of Helmand. That idea was a central element in the overall impression built up in February that Marja was a major strategic objective, more important than other district centres in Helmand.

It turns out, however, that the picture of Marja presented by military officials and obediently reported by major news media is one of the clearest and most dramatic pieces of misinformation of the entire war, apparently aimed at hyping the offensive as a historic turning point in the conflict.

Marja is not a city or even a real town, but either a few clusters of farmers’ homes or a large agricultural area covering much of the southern Helmand River Valley.

“It’s not urban at all,” an official of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), who asked not to be identified, admitted to IPS Sunday. He called Marja a “rural community”.

“It’s a collection of village farms, with typical family compounds,” said the official, adding that the homes are reasonably prosperous by Afghan standards.

Richard B. Scott, who worked in Marja as an adviser on irrigation for the U.S. Agency for International Development as recently as 2005, agrees that Marja has nothing that could be mistaken as being urban. It is an “agricultural district” with a “scattered series of farmers’ markets,” Scott told IPS in a telephone interview.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on March 9th, 2010

According to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, U.S. and Allied forces have killed and injured more civilians than have the insurgents during Operation Moshtarak. Incredibly, the Pentagon continues to insist that this operation “protects the people.” AIHRC’s Feb. 23 press release reports:

“AIHRC is concerned at the loss of life and civilian harm already caused by this operation. AIHRC found that in the first 12 days of Operation Mushtarak 28 civilians, including 13 children, were killed and approximately 70 civilians, including 30 children, were injured.

“Witnesses suggested the majority of the casualties were caused by PGF artillery and rocket-fire.”

Late last year, just after the President announced his escalation, I wrote:

The president’s decision to add more troops is a mistake that will result in deep costs which we cannot afford; increased U.S. casualties; and increased civilian casualties as our troop increase further raises the temperature in the conflict.

A separate update from Brookings shows that President Obama’s escalation and subsequent military operations have indeed raised the temperature of the conflict, increasing the level of violence across Afghanistan:

“In terms of raw violence, the situation is at a historic worst level, with early 2010 levels of various types of attacks much higher than even last year at this time. Much of that is due to the recent Marja campaign and, more generally, the deployment of additional U.S. (and Afghan) troops to parts of the country where they have not been present before.”

War does not protect civilians. War doesn’t make us safer. The Afghanistan war needs to end, now.

Had enough? Join us: become a fan of Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook.

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