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Archive for April, 2010

Posted by Josh Mull on April 26th, 2010

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

As the US gears up for its inevitably bloody assault on Kandahar, the plans have hit a bit of a snag. There’s a dispute raging between the military and civilian sides of our war effort over, believe it or not, development aid. The Washington Post reports:

Convinced that expanding the electricity supply will build popular support for the Afghan government and sap the Taliban’s influence, some officers want to spend $200 million over the next few months to buy more generators and millions of gallons of diesel fuel. Although they acknowledge that the project will be costly and inefficient, they say President Obama’s pledge to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011 has increased pressure to demonstrate rapid results in their counterinsurgency efforts, even if it means embracing less-than-ideal solutions to provide basic public services. [...]

U.S. diplomats and reconstruction specialists, who do not face the same looming drawdown, have opposed the military’s plan because of concerns that the Afghan government will not be able to afford the fuel to sustain the generators. Mindful of several troubled development programs over the past eight years, they want the United States to focus on initiatives that Afghans can maintain over the long term.

The dispute is easy to understand. The military wants an immediate impact, while the State Department wants a long-term solution. The issue with this article is not the dispute, but that they frame the debate around the military withdrawal. Because the army has to leave, they need quick solutions or, left unsaid, we will fail in Afghanistan. Right away we know that’s not true, even after July 2011 there will still be combat troops in Afghanistan, just the “special” ones that do the most murdering. But by framing the aid dispute around the military’s needs completely misses the point that the military shouldn’t even be involved in Afghanistan. The State Dept. is right that if we care at all about our objectives in Afghanistan, governance, development, human rights, then we need sustainable solutions. And who knows more about that, the civilians or the military? (more…)

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Posted by Just Foreign Policy on April 23rd, 2010

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

Sometime between now and Memorial Day, the House is expected to consider $33 billion more for war in Afghanistan. This "war supplemental" is largely intended to plug the hole in Afghanistan war spending for the current fiscal year caused by the ongoing addition of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, whose purpose is largely to conduct a military offensive in Kandahar that 94% of the people there say they don’t want, preferring peace negotiations with the Taliban instead.

Of course, by itself the number $33 billion is totally meaningless. To make it meaningful, we need to compare it to something – what else could we do with $33 billion?

A recent missive from the AFL-CIO gives a compelling answer: we could use $33 billion to put America back to work:

 

If the Local Jobs for America Act (H.R. 4812) becomes law, it will create or save more than 675,000 local community jobs and more than 250,000 education jobs, according to the latest estimates from the House Education and Labor Committee.

According to the House Education and Labor Committee, the bill includes $75 billion over two years for local communities to hold off planned cuts or to hire back workers for local services who have been laid-off because of tight budgets. The bill also includes $24 billion, already approved by the House in December, to help states support 250,000 education jobs, put 5,500 law enforcement officers on the beat, and retain, rehire, and hire firefighters.

read more

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on April 22nd, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Derrick Crowe

“I want to ask: What does apology mean? We apologize for our mistakes and repeat our mistakes again? What meaning does this have?” –Sayid Mohammed Mal, Vice Chancellor, Gardez University.

Please sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition calling for an independent, U.N.-led investigation into what happened at Gardez and who tried to cover it up.

The video above shows a survivor of a brutal, botched special forces raid on February 12, 2010, in which U.S. and allied forces killed 5 civilians, including local Afghan officials and pregnant women. If that were the extent of the bad conduct in this incident, it would be devastating enough. Unfortunately, personnel under McChrystal’s command compounded the outrage by tampering with evidence at the scene and then attempted a propaganda job and cover-up of the massacre, which has now blown up in their faces.

Initially, ISAF claimed that "insurgents" “engaged the joint force in a fire fight and were killed.” The release states the special forces then made a “gruesome discovery,” finding “the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed” and that the bodies had been “hidden.” They also claim that the “joint force immediately secured the area and requested expert medical support and will conduct a joint forensic investigation.”

Almost every piece of this initial description of the chain of events was later proved to be a lie.

Faced with the persistent, professional reporting of The Times’ (UK) Jerome Starkey, multiple witness accounts of the incident and the results of an Afghan investigation, McChrystal’s personnel finally admitted responsibility in an April 4 press release. ISAF wants to pass off their initial lies about the incident as the unfortunate result of “cultural misunderstandings” and “poor wording.” McChrystal has ordered a new investigation, but his personnel’s recent behavior shows exactly why they cannot be trusted to investigate themselves.

Please sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition calling for an independent, U.N. investigation into what happened and who tried to cover it up.

ISAF’s “aw, shucks” explanation ignores the fact that the original release described a non-existent fire fight and claimed that coalition forces discovered the long-dead bodies of the women hidden in a room when they were, in fact, killed during the raid by U.S. and allied forces. By admitting to killing the women, McChrystal’s forces have implicitly admitted to conveying multiple flat-out lies to the public. Their inadequate explanation and subsequent deletion of the original offending press releases represent a transparent attempt to extricate themselves from a failing web of propaganda intended to shield the personnel involved from accountability without properly acknowledging their role in deceiving the Afghan and American publics.

This brings us back to Sayid’s question above. “What does apology mean? We apologize for our mistakes and repeat our mistakes again?” ISAF apologized to his family, only to turn around on April 19 and do this:

A NATO military convoy in eastern Afghanistan shot to death four unarmed civilians in a vehicle early Monday evening, including a police officer and a 12-year-old student, Afghan officials said Tuesday.

The killings in Khost Province, near the border with Pakistan, led to a dispute almost immediately between local Afghan leaders and NATO officials.

NATO described the dead as two insurgents and their “associates.”

ISAF's story didn't hold for long, though:

NATO's acknowledgment Wednesday that the unarmed young men shot to death two days earlier in Khost province were not "known insurgents," as previously alleged, has prompted another military apology and fueled anger over civilian casualties.

…NATO officials said that fingerprints of two of the men killed in Khost had shown up in an insurgent biometric database but that they later decided the data might not be relevant.

ISAF/NATO forces shoot up a vehicle full of people after claiming they thought it was a threat to them. They then examine the bodies in the car and find no weapons. Then, they check their fingerprints to find out if they were in the insurgent database. Now, why in the world, after you’ve discovered the vehicle and the men and children you just shot posed no threat, would you then think about running a biometric test on their bodies to see if they were in a database of “known insurgents?” Are we thinking maybe we can find something to help cover our behinds, perhaps?

Sound familiar? ISAF excuses their killing of a local official and a child with an initial, immediate claim that the victims were insurgents. After a dispute with locals, ISAF has to admit that they weren’t, in fact, insurgents. See a pattern? If not, maybe you should take a look at the statements of one Col. Greg Julian regarding an airstrike in Farah last year that killed more than 100 people.

What does it mean for McChrystal’s people to apologize for killing innocent people and lying about it, only to have them turn around and keep repeating the same behavior? Why should we be moved or lend credulity to such apologies?

McChrystal has ordered another investigation of the incident in Gardez that killed Sayif’s family members, but ISAF’s behavior over the past months makes them the least credible investigators possible, especially when ISAF forces have been accused with tampering with the evidence in the first place. Please take a moment to sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition for an independent, U.N.-led investigation.

We deserve the truth, not more spin.

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Posted by Peace Action West on April 22nd, 2010

From our partners at Peace Action West

As soon as I met Bill Hedrick in February, I knew I would be proud to throw Peace Action West’s support behind his campaign. Bill is a smart, bold progressive who is in touch with the real needs of everyday people in his district. He came within 3 points of beating rubber-stamp Republican Ken Calvert in 2008, and his victory will show Congress that a candidate who fearlessly advocates for peace can win, even in a conservative district. Please read the message below  from Bill and help us put him over the top in November.

I know that you, like me, are opposed to the troop surge in Afghanistan. I can’t think of a worse way to spend American money and risk American lives than increasing our military presence in Afghanistan.

Unlike many members of Congress, I cannot ignore the human impact of war. My son Adam and his wife Natalie are currently serving their third deployments in Iraq, and my other son Jesse and his wife Evelyn have also served.

I cannot support sending more troops to Afghanistan. I was the first major Congressional candidate to oppose this policy, because I know it will put more American lives at risk just to prop up the corrupt Karzai government, and will cost tens of billions of dollars we need to use here in America. Your contribution of $25, $35, $50 or whatever you can afford will help elect me to Congress so I can work to end this war.

My decision to run for Congress in 2007 was largely due to my opposition to the Bush policy in Iraq—how it affected families like mine personally and our country economically. Three years later and it’s the same policies playing out in Afghanistan with what I’m sure will be the same results – a strain on our military, a drain of our financial resources and, in the end, no guarantee that America will be safer tomorrow than it was before we went in.

When I am in Congress, I will fight to bring our soldiers home as quickly and safely as possible, honor the obligations owed to our veterans for their service, and get to work rebuilding America with the money we’re no longer sending over there.

I’m so grateful to have the support of a great organization like Peace Action West, because I can’t do it without help from people like you. Your contribution of $25, $35, $50 or what ever you can afford will send a message to Washington that we are tired of broken military policies that continue to put American lives at risk and further plunge our country into debt. Please donate today.

Paid for by the Peace Action West Voter Fund.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on April 22nd, 2010

“I want to ask: What does apology mean? We apologize for our mistakes and repeat our mistakes again? What meaning does this have?” –Sayid Mohammed Mal, Vice Chancellor, Gardez University.

Please sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition calling for an independent, U.N.-led investigation into what happened at Gardez and who tried to cover it up.

The video above shows a survivor of a brutal, botched special forces raid on February 12, 2010, in which U.S. and allied forces killed 5 civilians, including local Afghan officials and pregnant women. If that were the extent of the bad conduct in this incident, it would be devastating enough. Unfortunately, personnel under McChrystal’s command compounded the outrage by tampering with evidence at the scene and then attempted a propaganda job and cover-up of the massacre, which has now blown up in their faces.

Initially, ISAF claimed that “insurgents” “engaged the joint force in a fire fight and were killed.” The release states the special forces then made a “gruesome discovery,” finding “the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed” and that the bodies had been “hidden.” They also claim that the “joint force immediately secured the area and requested expert medical support and will conduct a joint forensic investigation.”

Almost every piece of this initial description of the chain of events was later proved to be a lie.

Faced with the persistent, professional reporting of The Times’ (UK) Jerome Starkey, multiple witness accounts of the incident and the results of an Afghan investigation, McChrystal’s personnel finally admitted responsibility in an April 4 press release. ISAF wants to pass off their initial lies about the incident as the unfortunate result of “cultural misunderstandings” and “poor wording.”  McChrystal has ordered a new investigation, but his personnel’s recent behavior shows exactly why they cannot be trusted to investigate themselves.

Please sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition calling for an independent, U.N. investigation into what happened and who tried to cover it up.

ISAF’s “aw, shucks” explanation ignores the fact that the original release described a non-existent fire fight and claimed that coalition forces discovered the long-dead bodies of the women hidden in a room when they were, in fact, killed during the raid by U.S. and allied forces. By admitting to killing the women, McChrystal’s forces have implicitly admitted to conveying multiple flat-out lies to the public. Their inadequate explanation and subsequent deletion of the original offending press releases represent a transparent attempt to extricate themselves from a failing web of propaganda intended to shield the personnel involved from accountability without properly acknowledging their role in deceiving the Afghan and American publics.

This brings us back to Sayid’s question above. “What does apology mean? We apologize for our mistakes and repeat our mistakes again?” ISAF apologized to his family, only to turn around on April 19 and do this:

A NATO military convoy in eastern Afghanistan shot to death four unarmed civilians in a vehicle early Monday evening, including a police officer and a 12-year-old student, Afghan officials said Tuesday.

The killings in Khost Province, near the border with Pakistan, led to a dispute almost immediately between local Afghan leaders and NATO officials.

NATO described the dead as two insurgents and their “associates.”

ISAF’s story didn’t hold for long, though:

NATO’s acknowledgment Wednesday that the unarmed young men shot to death two days earlier in Khost province were not “known insurgents,” as previously alleged, has prompted another military apology and fueled anger over civilian casualties.

…NATO officials said that fingerprints of two of the men killed in Khost had shown up in an insurgent biometric database but that they later decided the data might not be relevant.

ISAF/NATO forces shoot up a vehicle full of people after claiming they thought it was a threat to them. They then examine the bodies in the car and find no weapons. Then, they check their fingerprints to find out if they were in the insurgent database. Now, why in the world, after you’ve discovered the vehicle and the men and children you just shot posed no threat, would you then think about running a biometric test on their bodies to see if they were in a database of “known insurgents?” Are we thinking maybe we can find something to help cover our behinds, perhaps?

Sound familiar? ISAF excuses their killing of a local official and a child with an initial, immediate claim that the victims were insurgents. After a dispute with locals, ISAF has to admit that they weren’t, in fact, insurgents. See a pattern? If not, maybe you should take a look at the statements of one Col. Greg Julian regarding an airstrike in Farah last year that killed more than 100 people.

What does it mean for McChrystal’s people to apologize for killing innocent people and lying about it, only to have them turn around and keep repeating the same behavior? Why should we be moved or lend credulity to such apologies?

McChrystal has ordered another investigation of the incident in Gardez that killed Sayif’s family members, but ISAF’s behavior over the past months makes them the least credible investigators possible, especially when ISAF forces have been accused with tampering with the evidence in the first place. Please take a moment to sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition for an independent, U.N.-led investigation.

We deserve the truth, not more spin.

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Posted by Just Foreign Policy on April 22nd, 2010

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

On Tuesday, Rep. Michael Honda signed his name to legislation put forward by Sen. Russ Feingold, Rep. Jim McGovern and Rep. Walter Jones that would require the President to establish a timetable for the redeployment of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

This is potentially a bellwether event, because Rep. Honda – together with Rep. Grijalva, who also signed his name to the McGovern bill on Tuesday – has been a leader on Afghanistan in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including chairing the CPC Afghanistan task force. Rep. Honda has been very critical of the war, but he has not been an automatic supporter of anti-war legislative initiatives.

If the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" in Washington gets onto the McGovern bill in the next few weeks, the political space to be a "liberal" in Washington who supports an open-ended military commitment in Afghanistan will have largely evaporated when the House considers $33 billion more for war in Afghanistan between now and Memorial Day. Progressives in the House may be able to extract from the leadership a vote on a timetable for withdrawal when the House considers the war supplemental.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on April 22nd, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

Via the BBC, an illuminating discussion in the Senate:

If Iran decides to go for nuclear weapons, the US may not be able to permanently stop this from happening unless it is willing to occupy the country.

This is the candid conclusion of one army general testifying in front of the Senate but one that seems to have gone mostly unnoticed amid a flurry of statements on Iran over the past few days in Washington.

Gen James Cartwright, one of America's top uniformed officers, slowly edged towards that conclusion during a Senate testimony last week, underscoring the difficult choices facing the Obama administration as it weighs what do about Iran.

…Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, then asked Gen Cartwright whether the "military approach was a magic wand".

Gen Cartwright, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged it was not, adding that military action alone was unlikely to be decisive.

Senator Reed prodded further, getting the general to agree that a military strike would only delay Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon if Tehran decided to go nuclear.

The senator then went further, asking whether the only way to absolutely end any potential Iranian nuclear weapon programme "was to physically occupy their country and disestablish their nuclear facilities?"

The general answered: "Absent some other unknown calculus that would go on, that's a fair conclusion."

Idiotic warmongering neocons like John McCain might think that this is not only doable but a good idea. The rest of us should stop and think hard. Iran doesn't exist in a vaccuum.

Just on Monday, to mark Iran's Army Day, a reception was hosted by the Iranian ambassador to Pakistan – the Moslem nation with the second largest Shiite piopulation in the world, ahead of even Iraq, and actual working nukes. Senior Pakistani officials and military officers attended the event and according to the government-owned Associated Press of Pakistan "their presence reflects solidarity with the people and the government of Iran on their Armed Forces Day".

SecDef Gates has got to be aware that America can either attack Iran or continue its twin "War on Terror" occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, pick one option only, right?

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Posted by Peace Action West on April 21st, 2010

From our partners at Peace Action West

Two months after the beginning of the NATO operation to defeat the Taliban in Marja, the news coming out the area is bleak.

As recently as last Monday, the LA Times reported that in spite of an occupying presence of 2000 marines and many more Afghan police, the Taliban have begun encroaching on its old stomping grounds and are attempting to reassert control. Much of the region remains unsecured, leaving civilians prone to injury from crossfire, landmines, or Taliban intimidation. Moreover, reconstruction efforts have not been as efficient as promised, pushing some to leave the area altogether.

“No one can move about freely. There is no security,” said Marja tribal elder Sultan Mohammad Shah, 64. “The Taliban are killing and beating people, and no one knows what is going on the next block over because they cannot go anywhere.”

He and others said promised government services have been slow to materialize. “If the situation remains like this, people will leave Marja,” Shah said.

The bulk of Taliban efforts amount to intimidation, according to a mid March report by the New York Times. By taking advantage of the density of the city’s population of 80,000 and the cover of night, remnants of Taliban forces have returned to organize resistance efforts.

“After dark the city is like the kingdom of the Taliban,” said a tribal elder living in Marja, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of the Taliban. “The government and international forces cannot defend anyone even one kilometer from their bases.”

According to the Times, the Taliban acquire supplies and find shelter by intimidating residents, threatening them with “beheadings, cutting off hands and feet, all the things they did when they were the government.” These do not appear to be idle threats, as there has been at least one alleged instance of Taliban murder, which occurred on March 10.

An April 4th New York Times article quotes a tribal elder: “‘Every day we are hearing that they kill people, and we are finding their dead bodies,’ he said. ‘The Taliban are everywhere.’” All of this has led to a reevaluation of the operation’s success in the minds of at least some on the ground. One officer claims that “the Taliban have ‘reseized control and the momentum in a lot of ways’ in northern Marja.” Their continued attacks have hindered efforts to bring stability to the area and are making it almost impossible for business to thrive:

A steady flow of Taliban attacks have added to the challenge. After the February offensive, the Marines used cash payments to prod more than 20 store owners at one bazaar in northern Marja to open their doors, a key to stabilizing the area and reassuring residents.

By late March, all but five shops had closed, Major Coffman said. A prominent anti-Taliban senior elder was also gunned down in northern Marja, prompting most of the 200 people in his district to flee.

All told, the recent news on the ground in Marja confirms our worst suspicions about the operation. Far from stabilizing the area and improving the welfare of the citizens, the US occupation has only replaced transparent Taliban oppression with a hidden campaign of intimidation that serves as an obstacle to US rebuilding efforts. Worst of all, this change has come at the cost of 28 lives and thousands of displaced people, in spite of measures taken by the military to reduce harm to innocents.

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Afghanistan[RJP1] : Updates on the Marja offensive

Two months after the beginning of the NATO operation to defeat the Taliban in Helmand province, starting with Marja, the news coming out the area is bleak.

As recently as Monday, the LA Times reported that in spite of an occupying presence of 2000 marines and many more Afghan police, the Taliban have begun encroaching on its old stomping grounds and are attempting to reassert control. Much of the region remains unsecured, leaving civilians prone to injury from crossfire, landmines, or Taliban intimidation. Moreover, reconstruction efforts have not been as efficient as promised, pushing some to leave the area altogether.

“No one can move about freely. There is no security,” said Marja tribal elder Sultan Mohammad Shah, 64. “The Taliban are killing and beating people, and no one knows what is going on the next block over because they cannot go anywhere.”

He and others said promised government services have been slow to materialize. “If the situation remains like this, people will leave Marja,” Shah said.

The bulk of Taliban efforts amount to intimidation, according to an early March report by the New York Times. By taking advantage of the density of the city’s population of 80,000 [RJP2] and the cover of night, remnants of Taliban forces have returned to organize resistance efforts.

“After dark the city is like the kingdom of the Taliban,” said a tribal elder living in Marja, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of the Taliban. “The government and international forces cannot defend anyone even one kilometer from their bases.”

According to the Times, the Taliban acquire supplies and find shelter by intimidating residents, threatening them with “beheadings, cutting off hands and feet, all the things they did when they were the government.” These do not appear to be idle threats, as there has been at least one alleged instance of Taliban murder, which occurred on March 10. A separate Times article quotes a tribal elder: “‘Every day we are hearing that they kill people, and we are finding their dead bodies,’ he said. ‘The Taliban are everywhere.’”

All of this has led to a reevaluation of the operation’s success in the minds of at least some on the ground, according to a April 4th article by the New York Times. One officer claims that “the Taliban have ‘reseized control and the momentum in a lot of ways’ in northern Marja.” Their continued attacks have hindered efforts to bring stability to the area and are making it almost impossible for business to thrive:

A steady flow of Taliban attacks have added to the challenge. After the February offensive, the Marines used cash payments to prod more than 20 store owners at one bazaar in northern Marja to open their doors, a key to stabilizing the area and reassuring residents.

By late March, all but five shops had closed, Major Coffman said. A prominent anti-Taliban senior elder was also gunned down in northern Marja, prompting most of the 200 people in his district to flee.

All told, the recent news on the ground in Marja confirms our worst suspicions about the operation. Far from stabilizing the area and improving the welfare of the citizens, the US occupation has only replaced transparent Taliban oppression with a hidden campaign of intimidation that serves as an obstacle to US rebuilding efforts. Worst of all, this change has come at the cost of 28 lives and thousands of displaced people, in spite of measures taken by the military to reduce harm to innocents.


[RJP1]Just good to get that keyword in here for search engines.

[RJP2]What does this mean? Are you saying they are taking advantage of the size of the town? Or are they taking advantage of the people in it? If so, how?

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Posted by robertgreenwald on April 21st, 2010

There’s a crisis on our hands in California. The cost of the war in Afghanistan is making basic goals, such as stable housing, decent work and education, nearly impossible to maintain.

Click here to watch the video

War is making us poor. On our Rethink Afghanistan Facebook page you can learn more ways to take action on this issue.

The L.A. area, the Inland Empire and the Sacramento region all made the Forbes top ten list of cities in free fall. And yet California spends tens of billions on a war in Afghanistan that isn’t making us any safer. The economy and promise of California is collapsing, and yet we send our money to pay corrupt contractors and to fight a war with no definition of success and no exit strategy.

The state once known for being where dreams could come true has turned into an economic disaster. The dreams people struggle to achieve now include such basic things as having a job, not losing their homes and trying to afford an education. But we know that it doesn’t have to be this way. The California Progress Report has put together a white paper that outlines how our money is being spent at war, and what it could pay for were we to end this war and focus on California’s own security and stability.

The white paper highlights some astounding numbers that put the cost of war into human terms. California has spent $37.9 billion on the war so far. For one year, California could have funded: 15.6 million people with health care; 5.7 million scholarships and 7 million Pell Grants for university students; 4.5 million Head Start placements for children; 500,000 new elementary school teachers; and 67.4 million homes with renewable electricity.

The white paper covers other numbers that ever Californian should know: the cost of 1 soldier for 1 year in Afghanistan is $1 million; while the cost of college tuition at a California State University is $9,285. The cost of a single anti-tank missile in Afghanistan is $85,000; while the cost of providing 1 year of college books and supplies is $1,608 (average fees). And the cost of 1 predator drone in Afghanistan is $4.5 million; while 1 full Pell Grant for a college student in California is $5,350.

Meanwhile, one in five Californians lives in poverty. Over three-quarters of a million families here had their homes foreclosed on in 2008 and 2009, a number that is predicted to reach 2 million by 2012. And low-income workers have seen their wages decline since 2006.

California deserves better than this. But we will not end the war and save California’s economy without information being known about the cost of war and action being taken in response. Watch our video, read the white paper and then join our Facebook group to take action.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on April 21st, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

Remember Obama promising torture would end on his watch? Well:

Afghan prisoners are being abused in a "secret jail" at Bagram airbase, according to nine witnesses whose stories the BBC has documented.

The abuses are all said to have taken place since US President Barack Obama was elected, promising to end torture.

…The prisoners, who were interviewed separately, all told very similar stories. Most of them said they had been beaten by American soldiers at the point of arrest before being taken to the prison.

Mirwais had half a row of teeth missing, which he said was from being struck with the butt of a gun by an American soldier.

No-one said they were visited by the International Committee of the Red Cross during their detention at the site, and they all said that their families did not know where they were.

In the small concrete cells, the prisoners said, a light was on all the time. They said they could not tell if it was night or day and described this as very disturbing.

Mirwais said he was made to dance to music by American soldiers every time he wanted to use the toilet.

The US military has denied any such secret site exists, but you know the value of US military denials in Afghanistan. They tend to progress from "we deny everything" through "oops, you have proof?" to "here's two sheep."

Amnesty International has issued a statement:

The disturbing report by the BBC that a secret detention facility is still operating at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan and that inmates are being subjected to abusive treatment that far exceeds the limits set in President Obama's January 2009 Executive Order Ensuring Lawful Interrogations demonstrates all too vividly that the United States cannot so easily turn the page on the torture and other abuses unleashed as part of the global war on terror.

Tom Parker, Amnesty International USA's Policy Director for Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights, said: "Executive orders and prohibitions are meaningless unless they are backed up by the full force of law. The failure of the Obama administration to prosecute any of the individuals responsible for the abuses that were committed under the previous administration contributes to a culture of impunity in which abuses of the sort alleged by the BBC can flourish.

"This is the moment of truth for the Obama administration. The treatment and activities outlined in the BBC report, if true, would constitute criminal offenses under both U.S. and international law. Amnesty International is calling on President Obama to launch an immediate investigation into the BBC's allegations. If there is any substance to these reports administration officials should ensure that any individuals associated with the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody are brought to justice."

However, it seems to me that a real investigation of this abuse is about as likely as a real investigation of those who ordered and carried out similiar abuses during Bush's reign. It's just so not going to happen.

This, folks, is where "let's just look forward" gets you. Back to square one.

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