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Archive for June, 2010

Posted by Just Foreign Policy on June 30th, 2010

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

With the House poised to consider the Pentagon’s request for $33 billion for more death in Afghanistan, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told the Huffington Post she expects a "serious drawdown" of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in the summer of 2011. The House Rules Committee has now approved an amendment for consideration on the war supplemental that will allow Speaker Pelosi to "put her money where her mouth is."

Some folks in Washington who want the war and occupation in Afghanistan to continue indefinitely are trying to pretend there has been no commitment made for a significant drawdown, or indeed any drawdown at all, in the summer of 2011. Speaker Pelosi is in a unique position to weigh in on this question, since the House could put the drawdown in writing when it considers the war supplemental, by approving an amendment introduced by Representatives McGovern and Obey to try to lock in the drawdown.

In Jonathan Alter’s book, The Promise, Vice-President Biden told us that we can "bet" on "a whole lot of people moving out" in July 2011. Under pressure, presumably from people in the Pentagon who want a "serious drawdown" in July 2011 to be hostage to "conditions," Biden’s people have tried to walk back this statement by saying it was an "offhand comment" made as Biden was leaving an interview.

But if you actually read Alter’s text, "offhand comment" is hard to swallow. Here’s the paragraph:

 

read more

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Posted by The Agonist on June 29th, 2010

From our partners at The Agonist

June 29

AFP – A total of 100 foreign soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan have died in June, the deadliest month for NATO in nine years of conflict, intensifying concerns about the conduct of the war.

An announcement by the US Department of Defence of the death of an American soldier on June 24 in the strife-torn western province of Farah took the toll for the year to date to 320, compared with 520 in all of 2009.

AFP’s figures are based on a tally kept by the independent icasualties.org website.

** Furious US lawmaker blocks Afghan aid
** IG Report: US Over-Estimating Ability Of Afghan Forces
** What Now?
** Confirmation hearing – Petraeus: Afghan withdrawals a ‘process,’ not an exit
** Rethink Afghanistan
** Pentagon calls on defense industry to bring down costs

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on June 29th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

Here we go again with the PR spin for domestic consumption that has no relation to reality on the ground:

The United States has often overestimated the ability of Afghan military and police units to fight on their own, jeopardizing the strategy to win the war and bring troops home, according to an independent report released yesterday.

The investigation is the first objective look at the rating system the military has used for the past five years to judge the effectiveness of Afghan troops. Its findings contradict upbeat assessments recently provided by senior military commanders overseeing the war.

…The United States has spent $27 billion on the effort — about half of the money it has poured into rebuilding Afghanistan. But the program has been hobbled by a shortage of trainers and available Afghans, and by spikes in violence.

“The bottom line to this is that the system . . . is flawed, it’s unreliable, and it’s inconsistent,’’ said Arnold Fields, who led the study as the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.

…Two weeks before he was fired by Obama, McChrystal told reporters that the Afghan forces’ “growth is on track’’ and “we’re ahead of the plan.’’ But the report found that the system used to judge that success was deeply flawed.

In some cases, units with the same rating would have different abilities. Also, highly rated units often regressed as soon as US mentors withdrew.

In one stark example, a police district in the northern Afghan province of Baghlan was given the top rating by NATO officials in August 2008. The “CM1’’ designation meant the police were independently capable of conducting operations. But when investigators asked to visit the district in February, they were told the district was not secure and was overrun with insurgents.

One official told investigators that the police force had “withered away to the point that it barely functions.’’

Did I mention that no-one should trust a thing said by General William Caldwell, the guy currently in charge of training Afghan forces but probably better known as Dubya's hand-picked PR flack in Iraq circa 2007? Uh, yeah, I did.

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Posted by DownWithTyranny on June 29th, 2010

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!


I hate money bombs and quarterly deadlines and all that campaign crap. I think we should reward our representatives when they do well. In fact, I think the reason why Alan Grayson has gotten more money, week after week after week from DWT readers and Blue America donors is because week after week after week Alan Grayson is out there kicking butt the way no other members of Congress do. It’s not just about him standing up for the difficult positions– like on wanting to end the Bush-Obama war in Afghanistan– but also the way he goes to the media and frames those positions so that the whole country can understand them, even in light of the thunderous noise from the right-wing corporate echo chamber. And they hate him. They hate him more than any other member of Congress. They hate him more than Nancy Pelosi and they hate him more than Harry Reid. They hate him the way they used to hate Paul Wellstone. They’re smart enough to see that Alan Grayson’s sensible and no-bullshit approach to their treachery can really hurt them. There aren’t ten Democrats in Congress I wouldn’t trade for one Alan Grayson.

Yesterday Blue America helped Rep. Grayson alert people about his Peace Party. If you’re a member of the Blue America PAC– and all you have to do to join is to donate, even one dollar, to any of our candidates– you will have gotten a letter from us asking you to remember Grayson in your giving. No one deserves it more. And as Digby pointed out at her blog, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Grayson is speaking out so forcefully about peace. Like most people who love to travel, he also loves peace.

On June 28, 1919, the United States put an end to a world war, after less than two years of fighting. In 1945, the United States ended another world war, after less than four years of fighting. But in 2010, we are embroiled in two wars, after almost nine years of fighting.

When will it end? When Blackwater and Halliburton say so? When we’re all broke?

It’s time that someone spoke out for peace.

Digby points out that she, like many of us who admire Grayson’s political courage and stamina so much, is “convinced that it takes political fighters to keep us out of war, and there’s no smarter or more effective fighter in the Democratic Party than Alan Grayson. Who else says things like this?”

“Imagine if we had decided after 9/11 to wean ourselves off oil and other carbon-based fuels. We’d be almost ten years into that project by now.

“Imagine if George W. Bush had somehow been able to summon the moral strength of Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller, or Martin Luther King Jr, and committed the American people to the pursuit of a common goal of a transformed society, a society which meets our own human needs rather than declaring ‘war’ on an emotion, or, as John Quincy Adams put it, going ‘abroad, in search of monsters to destroy’.

“Imagine.

“Imagine that we chose not to enslave ourselves to a massive military state whose stated goal is ’stability’ in countries that never have been ’stable,’ and never will be.”

Blue America was the first Netroots PAC to endorse Grayson when he decided to run. None of the Very Serious People in politics thought he could win in what was a Republican district but we don’t base our endorsements solely on electability, so that wasn’t relevant. We felt he had a good chance and we knew that if he won, he would be an articulate and passionate advocate for our values. He has exceeded our expectations, to say the least.

One of the reasons Grayson can be so outspoken is that he takes no special interest money from businesses his committees oversee and so depends on small donations more than other politicians.  So far, the netroots have come through for him, giving him an independent funding base and allowing him to operate with much more freedom than the average representative. Today, he’s asking for your help again. If you can spare a few bucks, now’s the time.

The world is full of supposedly indispensable men and women, virtually none of whom are actually indispensable. Grayson, in my view, is the exception. The progressive movement needs this man in congress, serving as an example of intelligent, aggressive, principled progressivism and hopefully building up a paradigm for others to follow.

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Posted by The Agonist on June 29th, 2010

From our partners at The Agonist

Frank Rich

THE moment he pulled the trigger, there was near-universal agreement that President Obama had done the inevitable thing, the right thing and, best of all, the bold thing. But before we get carried away with relief and elation, let’s not forget what we saw in the tense 36 hours that fell between late Monday night, when word spread of Rolling Stone’s blockbuster article, and high noon Wednesday, when Obama MacArthured his general. That frenzied interlude revealed much about the state of Washington, the Afghanistan war and the Obama presidency — little of it cheering and none of it resolved by the ingenious replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus, the only militarily and politically bullet-proof alternative.

What we saw was this: 1) Much of the Beltway establishment was blindsided by Michael Hastings’s scoop, an impressive feat of journalism by a Washington outsider who seemed to know more about what was going on in Washington than most insiders did; 2) Obama’s failure to fire McChrystal months ago for both his arrogance and incompetence was a grievous mistake that illuminates a wider management shortfall at the White House; 3) The present strategy has produced no progress in this nearly nine-year-old war, even as the monthly coalition body count has just reached a new high.

If we and the president don’t absorb these revelations and learn from them, the salutary effects of the drama’s denouement, however triumphant for Obama in the short run, will be for naught.

There were few laughs in the 36 hours of tumult, but Jon Stewart captured them with a montage of cable-news talking heads expressing repeated shock that an interloper from a rock ’n’ roll magazine could gain access to the war command and induce it to speak with self-immolating candor. Politico theorized that Hastings had pulled off his impertinent coup because he was a freelance journalist rather than a beat reporter, and so could risk “burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks.”

That sentence was edited out of the article — in a routine updating, said Politico — after the blogger Andrew Sullivan highlighted it as a devastating indictment of a Washington media elite too cozy with and protective of its sources to report the unvarnished news. In any event, Politico had the big picture right. It’s the Hastings-esque outsiders with no fear of burning bridges who have often uncovered the epochal stories missed by those with high-level access. Woodward and Bernstein were young local reporters, nowhere near the White House beat, when they cracked Watergate. Seymour Hersh was a freelancer when he broke My Lai. It was uncelebrated reporters in Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau, not journalistic stars courted by Scooter and Wolfowitz, who mined low-level agency hands to challenge the “slam-dunk” W.M.D. intelligence in the run-up to Iraq.

Symbolically enough, Hastings was reporting his McChrystal story abroad just as Beltway media heavies and their most bold-faced subjects were dressing up for the annual White House correspondents’ dinner. Rolling Stone has never bought a table or thrown an afterparty for that bacchanal, and it has not even had a Washington bureau since the mid-1970s. Yet the magazine has not only chronicled the McChrystal implosion — and relentlessly tracked the administration’s connections to the “vampire squid” of Goldman Sachs — but has also exposed the shoddy management of the Obama Interior Department. As it happens, the issue of Rolling Stone with the Hastings story also contains a second installment of Tim Dickinson’s devastating dissection of the Ken Salazar cohort, this time detailing how its lax regulation could soon lead to an even uglier repeat of the Gulf of Mexico fiasco when BP and Shell commence offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

The Interior Department follies will end promptly only if Obama has learned the lessons of the attenuated McChrystal debacle. Lesson No. 1 should be to revisit some of his initial hiring decisions. The general’s significant role in the Pentagon’s politically motivated cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death in 2004 should have been disqualifying from the start. The official investigation into that scandal — finding that McChrystal peddled “inaccurate and misleading assertions” — was unambiguous and damning.

Once made the top commander in Afghanistan, the general was kept on long past his expiration date. He should have been cashiered after he took his first public shot at Joe Biden during a London speaking appearance last October. That’s when McChrystal said he would not support the vice president’s more limited war strategy, should the president choose it over his own. According to Jonathan Alter in his book “The Promise,” McChrystal’s London remarks also disclosed information from a C.I.A. report that the general “had no authority to declassify.” These weren’t his only offenses. McChrystal had gone on a showboating personal publicity tour that culminated with “60 Minutes” — even as his own histrionic Afghanistan recommendation somehow leaked to Bob Woodward, disrupting Obama’s war deliberations. The president was livid, Alter writes, but McChrystal was spared because of a White House consensus that he was naïve, not “out of control.”

We now know, thanks to Hastings, that the general was out of control and the White House was naïve. The price has been huge. The McChrystal cadre’s utter distaste for its civilian colleagues on the war team was an ipso facto death sentence for the general’s signature counterinsurgency strategy. You can’t engage in nation building without civilian partnership. As Rachel Maddow said last week of McChrystal, “the guy who was promoting and leading the counterinsurgency strategy has shown by his actions that even he doesn’t believe in it.”

This fundamental contradiction helps explain some of the war’s failures under McChrystal’s aborted command, including the inability to hold Marja (pop. 60,000), which he had vowed to secure in pure counterinsurgency fashion by rolling out a civilian “government in a box” after troops cleared it of the Taliban. Such is the general’s contempt for leadership outside his orbit that it extends even to our allies. The Hastings article opens with McChrystal mocking the French at a time when every ally’s every troop is a precious, dwindling commodity in Afghanistan.

In the 36 hours between the Rolling Stone bombshell and McChrystal’s firing, some perennial war cheerleaders in the Beltway establishment, including the editorial page of The Washington Post and Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, did rally to the general’s defense and implored Obama to keep him in place. George Stephanopoulos, reflecting a certain strain of received Beltway wisdom, warned on ABC that the president risked looking “thin-skinned and petulant” if he fired McChrystal.

But none of the general’s defenders had an argument for him or the war beyond staying the course, poor as the results have been. What McChrystal’s supporters most seemed to admire was his uniquely strong relationship with Hamid Karzai, our Afghanistan puppet. As if to prove the point, Karzai was the most visible lobbyist for McChrystal’s survival last week. He was matched by his corrupt half-brother, the reported opium kingpin Ahmed Wali Karzai, who chimed in to publicly declare McChrystal “honest.” Was Rod Blagojevich unavailable as a character witness?

You have to wonder whether McChrystal’s defenders in Washington even read Hastings’s article past its inflammatory opening anecdotes. If so, they would have discovered that the day before the Marja offensive, the general’s good pal Hamid Karzai kept him waiting for hours so he could finish a nap before signing off on the biggest military operation of the year. Poor McChrystal was reduced to begging another official to wake the sleeping president so he could get on with the show.

The war, supported by a steadily declining minority of Americans, has no chance of regaining public favor unless President Obama can explain why American blood and treasure should be at the mercy of this napping Afghan president. Karzai stole an election, can’t provide a government in or out of a box, and has in recent months threatened to defect to the Taliban and accused American forces of staging rocket attacks on his national peace conference. Until last week, Obama’s only real ally in making his case was public apathy. Next to unemployment and the oil spill, Karzai and Afghanistan were but ticks on our body politic, even as the casualty toll passed 1,000. As a senior McChrystal adviser presciently told Hastings, “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.”

To appreciate how shielded Americans have been from Afghanistan, revisit Rahm Emanuel’s appearance last Sunday morning on “This Week,” just before the McChrystal firestorm erupted. Trying to put a positive spin on the war, the president’s chief of staff said that the Afghans were at long last meeting their army and police quotas. Technically that’s true; the numbers are up. But in that same day’s Washington Post, a correspondent in Kandahar reported that the Afghan forces there are poorly equipped, corrupt, directionless and infiltrated by Taliban sympathizers and spies. Kandahar (pop. 1 million) is supposed to be the site of the next major American offensive.

The gaping discrepancy between Emanuel’s upbeat assessment and the reality on the ground went unremarked because absolutely no one was paying attention. Everyone is now. That, at least, gives us reason to hope that the president’s first bold move to extricate America from the graveyard of empires won’t be his last.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on June 28th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

In the wake of General Stanley McChrystal's departure and after a string of bad news stories from Afghanistan, those who say that we've spent more than enough time, money and blood on what is a marginal strategic concern have gained ground. But in reply, it is argued that a "long war" there can not only be some kind of success, however defined, but can also have wider strategic benefits for the West's security interests. The debate has polarized between the argument that Petraeus' appointment should signal the beginning of the end of the Afghan adventure and the argument that the West should "stay the course". Unfortunately, the end result is likely to be a messy and unsatisfactory political cludge - both too long and too short to satisfy entirely the two competing strategic narratives.

The Independent on Sunday yesterday reported on a briefing McChrystal gave to NATO defense ministers shortly before his departure. The story has been roundly ignored in the U.S. so far. McChrystal gave a glum summation of the current situation.

Using confidential military documents, copies of which have been seen by the IoS, the "runaway general" briefed defence ministers from Nato and the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) earlier this month, and warned them not to expect any progress in the next six months. During his presentation, he raised serious concerns over levels of security, violence, and corruption within the Afghan administration.

…the "campaign overview" left behind by General McChrystal after he was sacked by President Barack Obama last week warned that only a fraction of the areas key to long-term success are "secure", governed with "full authority", or enjoying "sustainable growth". He warned of a critical shortage of "essential" military trainers needed to build up Afghan forces – of which only a fraction is classed as "effective".

He pinpointed an "ineffective or discredited" Afghan government and a failure by Pakistan "to curb insurgent support" as "critical risks" to success. "Waning" political support and a "divergence of coalition expectations and campaign timelines" are among the key challenges faced, according to the general.

The IoS believes that "It was this briefing…as much as the Rolling Stone article, which convinced Mr Obama to move" against McChrystal, for being off-message "because it undermined the White House political team's aim of pulling some troops out of Afghanistan in time for the US elections in 2012." Given that is the case, then it seems obvious that Obama is still senistive to the wishes of the Beltway "very important person" set and to the COINdinistas led by alumni of the CNAS think-tank both outwith and inside the administration. Their reaction to such reports has always been to ask for more time and more patience, to allow COIN the decades and trillions they say it will need to work in Afghanistan. The White House obviously feels it needs this faction at least partially onside, blinded by propaganda if needs be, if there's to be happy-talk of a "tipping point" in 2011 which can be followed by some manner of drawdown. The bipartisan political consensus is that, without such happy-talk, the Democrats in general and Obama in particular will be made to suffer by a largely anti-war base.

But it's not just the Democrat's base which is getting sick of endless war with no end in sight.

A recent Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters finds that just 41 percent “now believe it is possible for the United States to win the nearly nine-year-old war in Afghanistan.” More to the point, a plurality of 48 percent now say ending the war in Afghanistan is a more important goal than winning it.

Meanwhile, 53 percent of those polled by Newsweek disapprove of how Obama is managing the war – a sharp reversal since February when 55 percent supported Obama on Afghanistan and just 27 percent did not. (Put another way, the percentage of Americans who disapprove of Obama’s Afghan policy has nearly doubled in four months.)

The same Newsweek poll finds that “46 percent of respondents think America is losing the war in Afghanistan (26 percent say the military is winning). A similar plurality think the US is losing the broader war on terrorism (43 percent vs. 29 percent)…”

Part of this has to do with the nature of a counterinsurgency (COIN) effort – a phrase and acronym which has been around at least since the early days of Vietnam. Even when it works, counterinsurgency can take years. And the two most recent major examples – France in Algeria and the United States in Vietnam – hardly worked.

Those poll numbers shouldn't just worry incumbent Dems, they should worry the Beltway Boys. With the G8 saying this week that 2015 – not 2011 – is the earliest Afghan troops might be expected to take responsibility for their own nation's security and European allies signalling that 2015 is the latest date they'll consider for withdrawal, we can expect U.S. opinion to swiftly head in the direction of UK opinion, where a massive 77% want British troops out. Beltway pundits are in danger of being left behind by their readership – although some are so arrogant they might not notice.

The only way to square the circle, to allow both "long war" COIN-backers and those who advocate for withdrawal to be right, is for there to be a negotiated settlement between the Afghan government and enough insurgent elements that a major reduction in violence can be achieved. At that point, victory can be declared and everyone can ignore whatever happens next in Afghanistan with their careers and reputations joyfully intact. Some have even suggested that this is in fact General Petraeus' true remit, delivered behind closed doors by Obama, although that suggestion ignores Petraeus and his faction's long advocacy for ignoring timetables in Iraq, their playing down of Obama's 2011 date as being anything more than a wishful guideline and their eternal "long war" advocacy.

Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, has to be the point man for a negotiated settlement. He pushed hard for such at the London Conference back in January and he is the head of what is theoretically the sovereign nation of Afghanistan. Luckily, Karzai, no matter that his government lacks legitimacy and competence and is riddled with corruption, seems to genuinely want peace and to see the end to the West's occupation of his nation. Tentative talks have already begun and Karzai seems to be willing to talk to anyone about anything – to insurgent groups in whole or in part and even to Pakistan, which bankrolls some of those insurgents.

On the other hand, that's not true of some American hawks, who wish to have their cake and eat it too. Recognising intellectually that the only way out of the Afghan quagmire is through negotiation, they refuse to accept at a gut level that the Taliban won't buckle entirely if just given another year or five of military pressure. Thus we get think-tankers like Antonio Giustozzi pointing out that the Taliban are either a monolithic structure or they aren't, then arguing for the latter even though all his evidence points to the former. For Giustozzi, we need to fight longer to factionalize the Taliban and bring them to the table on our terms. CIA director Leon Panetta has the same counter-productive view, born of an inability to accept the reality on the ground.

Of course, Panetta and others argue that if we accede to the Taliban too early, Al Qaeda will return to Afghanistan en masse. This ignores reports that the Taliban has become generally disenchanted with its AQ allies and would happily agree to not offering them an Afghan safe haven right now. But Panetta also has to keep the White House happy-talk going, which is why he told ABC over the weekend that there are at most 100 Al Qaeda left in Afghanistan. Trouble is, Jim Jones said the same thing last year – which presents a problem for narratives of progress. By contrast, last year General Petraeus was sure there were no AQ in Afghanistan at all – which begs the question of whether the U.S. mandate for occupation is completed.

Bernard Finel writes today:

 The insurgents — as far as I can tell — are insisting on two things: (a) an end to foreign military forces in Afghanistan, and (b) a new constitution drafted with input from the insurgent forces.  As a practical matter, that IS where a settlement will end up, whether it occurs by force of arms or at the bargaining table.  The question for the United States ought to be less about trying to force others to pledge loyalty to the existing constitution and political order, and more about ensuring that what comes after continues to ensure minimal U.S. national security interests.

Which echoes something my colleague David Anderson wrote back in May:

There is only one red-line from the American perspective from talking with anyone in Afghanistan.  That red line is active, material support for "far enemy" terrorist groups.  Preventing long-distance support and planning cells for operations against US and allied civilians in their home territory is the only significant interest that we have in the region.  Everything else is a local concern that does not impact US security all that much. 

We can achieve minimal goals if we accept that we as a nation can not control everything nor is everything worth controlling.  Trying for anything else is a recipe for a long slow bleed and the continued militarization of society and a drain on the treasury for a national priapic dose. 

If there's minimal numbers of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, or none, and they won't be allowed to return, why are we still there?

For some, it's simply the inability to accept that America will fail to achieve its maximial goal set – as McChrystal's leaked report makes clear. For others, it's about the domestic political fallout of admitting that. For still others, it's about an inability to admit that thier beloved COIN ideology has failed. Robert Dreyfuss sets out the end-point in Guernica today:

Afghanistan is the place where theories of warfare go to die, and if the COIN theory isn’t dead yet, it’s utterly failed so far to prove itself. The vaunted February offensive into the dusty hamlet of Marja in Helmand province has unraveled. The offensive into Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and a seething tangle of tribal and religious factions, once touted as the potential turning point of the entire war, has been postponed indefinitely. After nine years, the Pentagon has little to show for its efforts, except ever-rising casualties and money spent.

Perhaps Obama is still counting on U.S. soldiers to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and win the war, even though administration officials have repeatedly rejected the notion that Afghanistan can be won militarily. David Petraeus or no, the reality is that the war will end with a political settlement involving President Karzai’s government, various Afghan warlords and power brokers, the remnants of the old Northern Alliance, the Taliban, and the Taliban’s sponsors in Pakistan.

Making all that work and winning the support of Afghanistan’s neighbors—including India, Iran, and Russia—will be exceedingly hard. If Obama’s diplomats managed to pull it off, the Afghanistan that America left behind might be modestly stable. On the other hand, it won’t be pretty to look at it. It will be a decentralized mess, an uneasy balance between enlightened Afghans and benighted, Islamic fundamentalist ones, and no doubt many future political disagreements will be settled not in conference rooms but in gun battles. Three things it won’t be: It won’t be Switzerland. It won’t be a base for Al Qaeda. And it won’t be host to tens of thousands of U.S. and NATO troops.

About the only rational argument for staying in Afghanistan even five more years is the mess that it is likely to become. Indeed, that mess might yet decide matters for the West.

the very notion of Pakistani-sponsored talks has sparked consternation among Afghanistan's ethnically fractured opposition, who fear the rapprochement with Islamabad will see them excluded from any future political settlement.

"None of the players believe in the current strategy," opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah told the Guardian. "Karzai is going down the drain and taking the international community with him.

"If he thinks he can give [the Taliban] a few ministries and a few provinces, they will simply take those provinces and then force him out."

Abdullah said he was appalled that the Afghan president had recently referred to the Taliban with the affectionate "jan" suffix. "Talib-jan is how you would refer to your dearest young son – it would be considered too soft to use on a teenager."

Three weeks ago Karzai's intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, and his interior minister, Hanif Atmar, quit in protest at the new Pakistan policy. Both men are Tajiks; Saleh was previously a leading member of the Northern Alliance that helped topple the Taliban in 2001.

Michael Semple, a regional expert, said he was alarmed at the speed with which the political class was fissuring.

"Sane people, who've been part of this process all along, are now saying the country won't survive till the end of the year," he said.

The rationale, then, would be that the West should apply the "Pottery Barn" Rule – we broke it, so we should fix it. The trouble is that this ignores, even makes a mockery off, any pretense of Afghan sovereignty. As I've argued for a long time, the Real Pottery Barn Rule is not "we broke it, we own it", it's "you broke it, so pay up and get the f*** out of our store before you break more stuff you ham-handed clunk!" America has no more need or moral right to police any low-grade Afghan civil war than it does an Iraqi one.

Be that as it may, expect the two opposing viewpoints to further polarize, and for the administration to pursue a politically expedient cludge in an increasingly futile attempt to keep most of the voters happy most of the time. National security and the needs of Afghans don't really enter into it as much as the needs of politicians and careerists.

Update: Jonathan Rugman of the UK's Channel 4 News points up the differences in US and UK thinking.

The head of the British army, General Sir David Richards, and the head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, were asked in separate interviews over the weekend about the notion of talking to the Taliban as part of Britain and America’s exit strategy from Afghanistan. Their answers were so different that they point to potentially the biggest policy rift between London and Washington in a decade.
 
“There’s always been a point at which you start to negotiate, probably through proxies in the first instance,” Sir David told BBC radio yesterday. “I think there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be looking at that sort of thing pretty soon.”
 
On the very same day, Leon Panetta put the opposite view on the Taliban. “We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation,  where they would surrender their arms, where they would denounce Al Qaeda, where they would really try to become part of that society,” the CIA chief told the ABC network.

London and Washington do agree at least that the military campaign must continue so that, in the words of General Richards,  “they don’t think that we are giving up.” But unlike the British, the Americans appear to be clinging to the increasingly bizarre notion of inflicting a strategic defeat on the Taliban before talks can begin.

…It is tempting to dismiss such differences as healthy debate between friends, or “work in progress”. Except that British and American soldiers are dying at an alarming rate. So how high you set the bar on talking to the Taliban, who does it and how quickly you do it, could hardly be more important.

Europeans have mostly given up the idea of having Empires, even accidental ones. They are also far less wedded to the notion that embarassment is a foreign policy no-no. Thus they will want faster engagement than Beltway insiders. No surprise there.

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Posted by Jake Diliberto on June 28th, 2010

Recently General McChrystal blasted President Obama for his handling of the Afghanistan War.

Why?

President Obama has given Gen. McChrystal exactly what he asked for.  Contrary to right wing information spin, indeed President Obama has made a “quick and timely” decision giving the General exactly what he requested. General McChrystal is receiving his 30,000 troops, 10,000 NATO additional forces, along with 45,000 civilian contractors. The President has expanded the drone program simultaneously provided more targeted killings than the Bush administration. In fact, our “liberal” President has disavowed his electorate base and increased war funding and pentagon spending.  In effect, President Obama is all but a Peacemaker.  Every “pro surge” individual should be overjoyed by Obama’s military efforts in Afghanistan, and should be perplexed by Gen. McChrystal’s remarks

President Obama has virtually abandoned his anti-war position and opposing conservative sides have demonized the President. The Neo-Cons continue to demand that the President support the troops.  In response, keeping up with the Bush administration President Obama claimed, “we will not quit”.

As a Veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, I understand the impulse to support the General.  However, if the American President is going to do his job, he must be in charge of the Pentagon, Military Policy, and the Generals.  That includes hiring, firing, criticizing, and advocating for ALL of the military including Generals.  The President is the Commander in Chief, not the “yes man” for the Pentagon.

Americans need to inquire if the Generals indeed are right.  Does the General always know best?

“Did General McChrystal know best during the Pat Tillman cover up scandal? http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-10-14/gen-mcchrystals-credibility-problem/?cid=hp:mainpromo3

Did the General know the best during the recent civilian massacre cover up?

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=614474106909

Did the General know what was best when, “We have shot an amazing number of innocent civilians”

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389×8616851

Did the General know what is “best” when he leaked his assessment of Afghanistan to the press instead of passing it up the chain of command?

http://www.newsweek.com/2009/09/21/is-it-amateur-hour-in-the-white-house.html

Did the General know what is best as he told President Obama, “We will not win”? http://www.centcom.mil/en/news/mcchrystal-conventional-strategy-wont-win-in-afghanistan.html

If these examples are not enough to demonstrate the General is flawed and fallible then what is? How many mistakes does a General have to make?

In light of the recent firing/resigning of General McChrystal, the U.S. should take up the reconsidering of our unadulterated trust in Generals. The Pentagon will always justify their actions, it is the civilian’s role to provide dignity to the Pentagon and analyze the Pentagon simultaneously.  There is a civilian in charge of the Dept. of Defense, and likewise one for every different branch of the military.  The UCMJ demands civilians get the submission of the Generals and the Pentagon. The UCMJ says:

“Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department…. possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct”.

Thus, it seems, civic responsibility and patriotism does not assume unconditional support of the military.  In fact, patriotism requires analysis and shrewd wisdom over the military. American civilians elect the President, thus Americans need to analyze our military.

The American people should call into question the flawed strategies proposed by our Generals and in addition, we should respect the Generals for successes they make.

Currently, the Obama administration and the Generals are selling the “surge” of Afghanistan as a “necessary and predictable exercise”. At the outset of this war, Americans incur continual reminding of 9/11, and thus any use of force continues to go unchecked.

Today, no one in charge has a comprehensive strategy to bring the open-ended war on terror to an end. The Commander in Chief, the Pentagon, and the commanders on the ground have failed to employ a strategy to confront violent Islamic radicalism.  Mostly, we have simply spent 3 trillion dollars between Iraq and Afghanistan, and exasperated the rise of Islamic radicalism.

Americans continue to hear the instructions from the Pentagon, “we will win”, and “we do not quit”, yet NOONE has outlined plan to get out and bring our troops home.  In other words, no one has defined “victory”.

President Obama continues to speak with two tongues, at a recent White House press meeting President Obama claimed, “We did not say we would be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us”. Yet at his West Point Speech, he claimed 2011 was the year, “we are coming home”.

Recently, at the Army War College, John Nagl proclaimed, “The new strategy of the Generals in the Pentagon is to build up nation states governance and make sure that nations do not become vulnerable”.  In other words, the “Global Counter Insurgency” apparatus assumes there is no end in sight.  Our Generals continue to find an enemy.  Former Under Secretary of Defense and former Secretary of the Army, Bill Brehm said, “If we do not have an enemy, we must invent one, that is the Pentagon’s mentality”.

The pressing question for all of Americans, “do we want to trust the words of our Generals unconditionally”? Is the open-ended war, in our best interests?  When will the Pentagon decide the war is over?  When will the President decide to end the war?

These pressing questions demand answers; unfortunately, no one in the administration has a direction or a plan to end the war.  Lastly, the 9/11 Jihadist threat continues to grow.  The exception of Ron Paul, Denis Kucinich, and a few other political wild cards, the only plan either political party has proposed is as follows:

1.) Continue the open-ended Nation State building apparatus

2.) Trust our Generals unconditionally and do not criticize them

3.) Blame President Obama for everything going wrong

4.) Continue the federal deficit growth

5.) Continue to send America toward Bankruptcy

The current global environment should make Americans concerned.  America is set to have trillion dollar deficits for decades, open-ended war, and no one in office provide an antidote to rising Jihadist threat.

Americans need a reassessing of who is making the decisions.  Americans need a respectful challenge to the Pentagon and to the Obama administration.  Time is America’s only evaluation and judge. However, time is running out.
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Posted by alexthurston on June 28th, 2010

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.

Much of the time, our wars may hardly exist for us, but in the age of celebrity, our generals do — exactly because they become celebrities.  When Barack Obama picked Stanley McChrystal as his Afghan war commander, the general was greeted by the media as little short of a savior.  He was, we were told, superhumanly fit, utterly austere (eating only one meal a day), and — strangely for the man who was to oversee a protect-the-people counterinsurgency war — had spent his professional life in the deepest shadows of counter-terror warfare at the head of groups of hunter-killer special operations forces.  His was the darkest of legacies, but he was greeted like Superman.

Reading the Michael Hastings Rolling Stone piece that unseated him, you can sense in the contempt that McChrystal and his aides (many former special ops officers) express for the Obama administration and its civilian representatives in Afghanistan just what a blunt instrument the man was.  No leader or group speaking that way, or that crudely, in private could help but exude similar feelings in public.  McChrystal was, in fact, always a divided man, caught between his counter-terror past — he significantly increased special operations units in Afghanistan and sent them out to hunt Taliban mid-level leaders (and in the process kill civilians) — and his newer fealty to counterinsurgency which led him to institute rules of “courageous restraint” that left American ground troops grumbling.

While the president officially picked McChrystal back in 2009, he was, in reality, the choice of Bush’s favorite general, Centcom commander and now new Afghan war commander, General David Petraeus.  So the present White House line — “This is a change in personnel but it is not a change in policy” — couldn’t be more accurate.  There have already been several moments in the Obama presidency when a daring president might have changed the course of the war and begun winding it down.  In March 2009, when he first “surged” in Afghanistan, again at West Point that December, and now with the Petraeus appointment, Obama has instead chosen the route slated to give him the least trouble domestically, and so doubled down on the war.  The first two missed moments have already led, via chaos and failure in Afghanistan, to the third, in which the president dethroned a military demi-god for a man genuinely worshipped in Washington.

David Petraeus is not a blunt instrument.  He’s the most politically savvy military man of his generation.  It says something about our moment in American war-making, however, that the main claim to fame of the four-star general who is treated like the Ulysses S. Grant of the twenty-first century has nothing to do with victory.  He simply had a hand in holding off an ignominious American defeat in Iraq or, as the New York Times recently put it, “helping to pull Iraq back from the edge.”  And not even all that far back.

With Petraeus, Obama again took the easier road in the immediate moment.  What will he do, though, in 2011 as the presidential election campaign gears up, if his chosen general, beloved of the right, asks for more troops?  Journalist Robert Dreyfuss, who runs The Dreyfuss Report at the Nation magazine website and is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, surveys the IED-cratered American path stretching into an ominous Afghan future.  (And don’t miss Dreyfuss in the latest TomCast audio interview discussing Obama’s war with the military by clicking here, or to download to your iPod, here.)Tom

The Land Where Theories of Warfare Go to Die
Obama, Petraeus, and the Cult of COIN in Afghanistan

By Robert Dreyfuss

Less than a year ago, General David Petraeus saluted smartly and pledged his loyal support for President Obama’s decision to start withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan in July 2011. In December, when Obama decided (for the second time in 2009) to add tens of thousands of additional American forces to the war, he also slapped an 18-month deadline on the military to turn the situation around and begin handing security over to the bedraggled Afghan National Army and police. Speaking to the nation from West Point, Obama said that he’d ordered American forces to start withdrawing from Afghanistan at that time.

Here’s the exchange, between Obama, Petraeus, and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as reported by Jonathan Alter in his new book, The Promise: President Obama, Year One:

OBAMA: “I want you to be honest with me. You can do this in 18 months?”

PETRAEUS: “Sir, I’m confident we can train and hand over to the ANA [Afghan National Army] in that time frame.”

OBAMA: “If you can’t do the things you say you can in 18 months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?”

PETRAEUS: “Yes, sir, in agreement.”

MULLEN: “Yes, sir.”

That seems unequivocal, doesn’t it? Vice President Joe Biden, famously dissed as Joe Bite-Me by one of the now-disgraced aides of General Stanley McChrystal in the Rolling Stone profile that got him fired, seems to think so. Said Biden, again according to Alter: “In July of 2011 you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it.”

In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the U.S. military, however, things are rarely what they seem. Petraeus, the Centcom commander “demoted” in order to replace McChrystal as U.S. war commander in Afghanistan, seems to be having second thoughts about what will happen next July — and those second thoughts are being echoed and amplified by a phalanx of hawks, neoconservatives, and spokesmen for the counterinsurgency (COIN) cult, including Henry Kissinger, the Heritage Foundation, and the editorial pages of the Washington Post. Chiming in, too, are the lock-step members of the Republican caucus on Capitol Hill, led by Senator John McCain.

In testimony before Congress just last week, Petraeus chose his words carefully, but clearly wasn’t buying the notion that the July deadline means much, nor did he put significant stock in the fact that President Obama has ordered a top-to-bottom review of Afghan policy in December. According to the White House, that review will be a make-or-break assessment of whether the Pentagon is making any progress in the nine-year-long conflict against the Taliban.

In his recent Senate testimony — before he fainted, and afterwards — Petraeus minimized the significance of the December review and cavalierly declared that he “would not make too much of it.” Pressed by McCain, the general flouted Biden’s view by claiming that the deadline is a date “when a process begins [and] not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits.”

The Right’s Marching Orders for the President

Petraeus’s defiant declaration that he wasn’t putting much stock in the president’s intending to hold the military command accountable for its failure in Afghanistan next December earned him an instant rebuke from the White House. Now, that same Petraeus is in charge.

The dispute over the meaning of July 2011 is, and will remain, at the very heart of the divisions within the Obama administration over Afghan policy.

Last December, in that West Point speech, Obama tried to split the difference, giving the generals what they wanted — a lot more troops — but fixing a date for the start of a withdrawal. It was hardly a courageous decision. Under intense pressure from Petraeus, McChrystal, and the GOP, Obama assented to the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops, ignoring the fact that McChrystal’s unseemly lobbying for the escalation amounted to a Douglas MacArthur-like defiance of the primacy of civilian control of the military. (Indeed, after a speech McChrystal gave in London insouciantly rejecting Biden’s scaled-down approach to the war, Obama summoned the runaway general to a tarmac outside Copenhagen and read him the riot act in Air Force One.)

If Obama’s Afghan decision was a cave-in to the brass and a potential generals’ revolt, the president also added that kicker of a deadline to the mix, not only placating his political base and minimizing Democratic unhappiness in Congress, but creating a trap of sorts for Petraeus and McChrystal.  The message was clear enough: deliver the goods, and fast, or we’re heading out, whether the job is finished or not.

Since then, Petraeus and McChrystal — backed by their chief enabler, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a Republican holdover appointed to his position by George W. Bush — took every chance they could to downplay and scoff at the deadline.

By appointing Petraeus last Wednesday, Obama took the easy way out of the crisis created by McChrystal’s shocking comments in Rolling Stone. It might not be inappropriate to quote that prescient British expert on Afghan policy, Peter Townsend, who said of the appointment: “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”

On the other hand, Petraeus is not simply another McChrystal. While McChrystal implemented COIN doctrine, mixing in his obsession with “kinetic operations” by U.S. Special Forces, Petraeus literally wrote the book — namely, The U.S Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual.

If the COIN cult has a guru (whom all obey unquestioningly), it’s Petraeus. The aura that surrounds him, especially among the chattering classes of the Washington punditocracy, is palpable, and he has a vast well of support among Republicans and assorted right-wingers on Capitol Hill, including the Holy Trinity: John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Joe Lieberman. Not surprisingly, there have been frequent mentions of Petraeus as a candidate for the GOP nomination for president in 2012, although Obama’s deft selection of Petraeus seems, once and for all, to have ruled out that option, since the general will be very busy on the other side of the globe for quite a while.

Even before the announcement that Petraeus had the job, the right’s mighty Wurlitzer had begun to blast out its critique of the supposedly pernicious effects of the July deadline. The Heritage Foundation, in an official statement, proclaimed: “The artificial Afghanistan withdrawal deadline has obviously caused some of our military leaders to question our strategy in Afghanistan… We don’t need an artificial timeline for withdrawal. We need a strategy for victory.”

Writing in the Washington Post on June 24, Henry Kissinger cleared his throat and harrumphed: “The central premise [of Obama’s strategy] is that, at some early point, the United States will be able to turn over security responsibilities to an Afghan government and national army whose writ is running across the entire country. This turnover is to begin next summer. Neither the premise nor the deadline is realistic… Artificial deadlines should be abandoned.”

And the Post itself, in the latest of a long-running series of post-9/11 hawkish editorials, gave Obama his marching orders: “He… should clarify what his July 2011 deadline means. Is it the moment when ‘you are going to see a whole lot of people moving out,’ as Vice President Biden has said, or ‘the point at which a process begins… at a rate to be determined by conditions at the time,’ as General Petraeus testified? We hope that the appointment of General Petraeus means the president’s acceptance of the general’s standard.”

Is the COIN Cult Ascendant?

It’s too early to say whether Obama’s decision to name Petraeus to replace his protégé McChrystal carries any real significance when it comes to the evolution of his Afghan war policy. The McChrystal crisis erupted so quickly that Obama had no time to carefully consider who might replace him and Petraeus undoubtedly seemed like the obvious choice, if the point was to minimize the domestic political risks involved.

Still, it’s worrying. Petraeus’s COIN policy logically demands a decade-long war, involving labor-intensive (and military-centric) nation-building, waged village by village and valley by valley, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and countless U.S., NATO, and Afghan casualties, including civilians. That idea doesn’t in the least square with the idea that significant numbers of troops will start leaving Afghanistan next summer. Indeed, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer with long experience in the Middle East and South Asia, who headed Obama’s first Afghan policy review in February 2009, told me (for an article in Rolling Stone last month) that it’s not inconceivable the military will ask for even more troops, not agree to fewer, next year.

The Post is right, however, that Obama needs to grapple seriously with the deep divisions in his administration. Having ousted one rebellious general, the president now has little choice but to confront — or cave in to — the entire COIN cult, including its guru.

If Obama decides to take them on, he’ll have the support of many traditionalists in the U.S. armed forces who reject the cult’s preaching. Above all, his key ally is bound to be those pesky facts on the ground.

Afghanistan is the place where theories of warfare go to die, and if the COIN theory isn’t dead yet, it’s utterly failed so far to prove itself. The vaunted February offensive into the dusty hamlet of Marja in Helmand province has unraveled. The offensive into Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and a seething tangle of tribal and religious factions, once touted as the potential turning point of the entire war, has been postponed indefinitely. After nine years, the Pentagon has little to show for its efforts, except ever-rising casualties and money spent.

Perhaps Obama is still counting on U.S. soldiers to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and win the war, even though administration officials have repeatedly rejected the notion that Afghanistan can be won militarily. David Petraeus or no, the reality is that the war will end with a political settlement involving President Karzai’s government, various Afghan warlords and power brokers, the remnants of the old Northern Alliance, the Taliban, and the Taliban’s sponsors in Pakistan.

Making all that work and winning the support of Afghanistan’s neighbors — including India, Iran, and Russia — will be exceedingly hard.  If Obama’s diplomats managed to pull it off, the Afghanistan that America left behind might be modestly stable. On the other hand, it won’t be pretty to look at it. It will be a decentralized mess, an uneasy balance between enlightened Afghans and benighted, Islamic fundamentalist ones, and no doubt many future political disagreements will be settled not in conference rooms but in gun battles. Three things it won’t be: It won’t be Switzerland. It won’t be a base for Al Qaeda. And it won’t be host to tens of thousands of U.S. and NATO troops.

The only silver lining in the Petraeus cloud is that the general has close ties to the military in Pakistan who slyly accept U.S. aid while funneling support to the insurgency in Afghanistan. If Obama decides to pursue a political and diplomatic solution between now and next July, Petraeus’s Pakistan connection would be useful indeed. Time, however, is running out.

Robert Dreyfuss is an independent journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He is a contributing editor at the Nation magazine, and a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone and Mother Jones. His blog, The Dreyfuss Report, appears at the Nation’s website. His book, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, was published by Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books in 2005.  Listen to Dreyfuss in the latest TomCast audio interview discussing Obama’s war with the military by clicking here, or to download to your iPod, here.

Copyright 2010 Robert Dreyfuss

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on June 27th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Derrick Crowe

One of the gems buried in Michael Hastings’ now ubiquitous Rolling Stone article is a senior adviser to General McChrystal thanking his lucky stars for public ignorance of the state of the war:

Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn’t begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan. “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular,” a senior adviser to McChrystal says.

Well, mission accomplished, gentlemen. Your little frat party managed to get everyone’s attention and, combined with a never-ending stream of gruesome milestones, it caused the bottom to drop out of public support for the Afghanistan War. According to the newest polling from Newsweek:

  • Only 37 percent of those surveyed approve of the way President Obama is handling the war. 53 percent disapprove. That’s a major reversal from prior results that showed support/opposition solidly in the president’s favor by a 55/27 margin.
  • Only 26 percent of those surveyed believe we’re winning in Afghanistan. 46 percent believe we’re losing.
  • This crystallizing opposition isn’t due to disagreement with the way President Obama handled the McChrystal/Rolling Stone flap, either. Most Americans agreed with his decision to dismiss the general by a 50/35 margin.

McChrystal’s statements in the Rolling Stone piece probably weren’t enough to cause his ouster on their own, but as the latest in a series of insults and missteps, they were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Similarly, the McChrystal flap probably wasn’t enough to turn Americans against the war, but as a tawdry new development at the end of a string of gruesome events transpiring on the periphery of the national consciousness, the episode was enough to cause the electorate to push their chair back from the kitchen table and stomp over to see just what the hell you kids are doing in here that’s making all that racket?!

Mommy and Daddy obviously didn’t like what they saw:

Pentagon officials are now running around trying on some of their most Orwellian rhetoric to date (No! Really! We’re not bogged down!) trying to sooth Congress and the extraordinarily cranky electorate, but it’s too late. The tanks are rolling into Baghdad, despite Bob’s insistence to the contrary.

For their part, the hawks in Congress are dangerously misreading the tea leaves. Some are calling for scrapping the July 2011 withdrawal date and for staying in Afghanistan indefinitely. Others are insisting that protections for civilians in the war zone should be loosened. But these vicious chest-thumpers are missing the point: Americans don’t want more and more brutal war. We want our troops home, yesterday.

Prior polling had shown a strange dichotomy: Americans didn’t support the Afghanistan War, but they approved of President Obama’s handling of the war. The White House could wave away dismal polling numbers for support/opposition to the war by pointing to the high approval numbers for Obama’s handling of the war, and Congress could hide behind “supporting the president.” No more. Americans are fed up with this brutal, costly war.

Memo to politicians: Love the Afghanistan War in public at your peril.

Had enough? Join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook as we fight back against this war.

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Posted by DownWithTyranny on June 27th, 2010

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!


“I thought we had woken up from the nightmare of war but we didn’t.” That’s Oliver Stone speaking in the clip that he made for Congressman Alan Grayson. You can watch it below. I thought I had woken up from the nightmare of Democrats as stupid and ill-meaning as Republicans but I didn’t. I stopped “following” Claire McCaskill (D-MO) on Twitter, almost immediately after I started following her and realized she’s as patently worthless as her twittery colleague Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

I wonder if term limits– one term and back to a real job– would solve the problem of politicians being responsive to the corporate elites instead of to the voters. I doubt it but I’d be willing to give it a shot if it meant getting rid of a political class that prostrates itself daily before its Big Business godhead.

Goal ThermometerOf the 535 men and women in the House and Senate, I doubt there are two dozen worth keeping. I know for sure there’s one who is though: Alan Grayson (D-FL). Will we ever find any as good? We’re trying at Blue America and I’d bet on candidates like Doug Tudor, Bill Hedrick, Billy Kennedy, Justin Coussoule, Jim Wilson and that Segal kid, but with Obama turning out to be such a colossal disappointment for so many people, a more salient question at this point might be: can we even hold on to Grayson! If you’re on your way to church this morning, say a prayer for his reelection. And instead of sending your money off to the Vatican– or to a fund for hiring male hookers or paying lawyers and p.r. hacks to get pastors out of trouble– please consider making a donation towards Grayson’s campaign fund. Grayson was one of only 32 Democrats who stood up to Obama’s request for a disgraceful supplemental war budget last year. Not only is he still fighting that fight, it now looks like the American public is catching up with him (even if clowns like McCaskill aren’t). A Newsweek Poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International last week shows a massive turn-around in support for the pointless war in Afghanistan. Obama’s disapproval rating in terms of his handling of the war has gone from 27% in February to an unsustainable 53% now. And a very large plurality of Americans (46%) now understand we are losing this war.

As for McCaskill and Oliver Stone… he’s worth two five dozen of her, although that’s a personal observation that not everyone with informed opinions– on Stone and/or McCaskill– believes. I haven’t seen South of the Border yet but something tells me that Oliver Stone’s insight into Hugo Chavez is going to be quite a bit more reality based– and enlightening– than the twittering idiot from Rolla.

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