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Archive for December, 2010

Posted by Newshoggers.com on December 18th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

Our friend Gareth Porter has an important new piece in which he describes how General Petraeus, supposed COIN guru, has thrown out "population centric" anything in an attempt to show some short-term success for the occupation in Afghanistan.

The military offensive in Kandahar, which had been opposed clearly and vocally by the local leadership in the province, was accompanied by an array of military tactics marked by increased brutality. The most prominent of those tactics was a large-scale demolition of homes that has left widespread bitterness among the civilians who had remained in their villages when the U.S.-NATO offensive was launched, as well as those who had fled before the offensive.

The unprecedented home demolition policy and other harsh tactics used in the offensive suggest that Gen. Petraeus has abandoned the pretense that he will ever win over the population in those Taliban strongholds.

The New York Times first reported the large-scale demolition of houses in a Nov. 16 story that said U.S. troops in Arghandab, Zhari and Panjwaii districts had been using armoured bulldozers, high explosives, missiles and airstrikes in "routinely destroying almost every unoccupied home or unused farm building in areas where they are operating".

Neither U.S. nor Afghan officials have offered any estimate of the actual number of homes destroyed, but a spokesman for the provincial governor told the Times that the number of houses demolished was "huge".

Most controversially, it is being claimed that at least one village was destroyed because the villagers weren't forthcoming with information about the locations of Taliban booby-trap bombs, which Gareth notes constitutes a "collective penalty" against the civilian population, "which is strictly forbidden by the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War."

And:

Journalist Anand Gopal, a Dari-speaking specialist on Afghanistan, discovered another form of collective punishment practiced during the offensive. Gopal told IPS that people in Zhari district reported two cases in which U.S. and Afghan forces rounded up and detained virtually everyone in a village after receiving small arms fire from it.

One senior officer, Brig. Gen. Nick Carter, glibly explained away these brutal, possibly illegal, new tactics by saying that the demolition of houses "allows the district governor to connect with the population" because they must go to him to complain, and thus extends the connection between government and the populace. Yet what is sure is that such methods will resonate strongly with Afghans who haven't forgotten similiar Russian outrages and will hardly fail to notice that the Afghan central government's feelings about such harsh tactics matter as much as they did in Soviet days too.

The certainty is that the Pashtuns of Afghanistan's South will see all this as "just kicking dirt in our eyes," as one tribal elder put it, and be more motivated to join the insurgency rather than less. Which answers COINdinista and pro-occupation advocate Andrew Exum's weak-tea justification for another Friedman Unit of six months to see if the surge is working.

For the war in Afghanistan is cyclical in nature. As one Afghan employee of a nongovernmental organization told a member of General Petraeus’s staff recently, “In Afghanistan, God is very fair. He gives both sides a chance. In the summer, he is on the Taliban’s side. In the winter, he switches sides and is on yours.”

The United States and its NATO allies are busily attempting to consolidate the gains of 2010 by establishing reliable local security forces and connecting the Afghan government to traditional authority structures in southern Afghanistan. But we will not know for sure how well the strategy is going in Afghanistan until late summer, after the Taliban has attempted to return to control in the south and God has again changed sides.

The Taliban have always returned in the Summer – having been sheltered, enabled and psyched-up by Pakistan's I.S.I. intelligence agency all Winter – and with such brutality as a motivator for new recruits they always will. As inevitably as one season follows another.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on December 17th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Dave Anderson:

Counterinsurgency (COIN) is expensive, time consuming, and often practiced in areas of secondary or tertiary interests.  These attributes often lead to a Clauswitzian disconnect between real political constraints and the operational doctrine of COIN, as COIN demands much more than the political systemis willing to deliver while returning few real, tangible security or economic benefits.  COIN is often an impractical concept in any political system that has a public opinion feedback mechanism because it can not deliver sufficient gains for a reasonable cost. 

COIN today promises the same type of inputs — ten to twenty year wars, operational costs of one to two points of annual GDP at a time of structural deficits and domestic fiscal crisis — with the same type of outcomes — weak, client states in need of continual support in secondary or tertiary areas of interest.

And shockingly the public of democracies don't like COIN nor do they want to spend those resources for minimal real gains in security that operational and tactical successes may or may not generate. 

So if we assume that democracies are not likely to support doctrines, strategies and techniques  that produce long term ongoing costs with minimal prospects of producing desired long term political benefits, the problem in the Clauswitzian perspective is not the grand strategic level, but at the strategic and operational levels where the COIN doctrine is implemented in disregard to the grand strategic appreciation of forces and reality. 

Afghanistan has become a massive Clauswitizian disconnect as the United States committed its strategic reserve to a COIN fight and the cheerleaders for that surge have this to say about the temporary increase in forces:

in Afghanistan, the momentum achieved by the Taliban in recent years has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas, although these gains remain fragile and reversible.

And that is the most favorable intrepretation of the past year — stalemate with some local progress being made that will rely on a corrupt and ineffective Afghan political-security system to sustain.  Other government analysts and analytical products cast a very different light on Afghanistan:

Two new assessments by the U.S. intelligence community present a gloomy picture of the Afghanistan war, contradicting a more upbeat view expressed by military officials as the White House prepares to release a progress report on the 9-year-old conflict.

The classified intelligence reports contend that large swaths of Afghanistan are still at risk of falling to the Taliban, according to officials who were briefed on the National Intelligence Estimates on Afghanistan and Pakistan..

The reports… also say Pakistan's government remains unwilling to stop its covert support for members of the Afghan Taliban who mount attacks against U.S. troops from the tribal areas of the neighboring nation…..

So at best, the United States is slowly suppressing conservative Pashtuns as well as ISI backed militants who currently have next to nothing to do with Al-Quaeda.  Indeed, President Obama's sunny side up argument concedes that AQ is in Pakistan and not in Afghanistan.  However, he wants to keep most of a US Corps and several ISAF divisions in Afghanistan through 2014 to prop up a weak and corrupt government that can never afford to sustain itself in its current configuration. 

The Americn public does not think this is a great policy:

A record 60 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting,

The only group that has majority support for the war in Afghanistan are Republicans.  And they will not provide votes or door-knockers for President Obama or any one else in his party in 2012. 

We have a war in a tertiary interest, as admitted by the war's advocates, that promises to kill several thousand more Westerners, untold thousands of Afghanis, cost another three to five hundre billion dollars by 2014 and provide minimal security gains. And the American public does not think that this makes a whole lot of sense given that we are being told it is time for some awesome austerity for everyone but the elites. 

Time to either get out completely, or recognize minimalist realities, and begin talks with a single red-line of no support for far-enemy terrorist groups.  Everything else is a local matter where the US should be willing to facilitate and provide verification but not actively care too much. 

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Posted by Peace Action West on December 16th, 2010

From our partners at Peace Action West

Few Afghanistan policy watchers anticipated any significant revelations in the Obama administration’s review of the war in Afghanistan.  Administration officials repeatedly downplayed the review and directed National Security staff not to offer policy alternatives. As expected, the overview released to the public reiterates the president’s justifications for the war from his 2009 West Point speech and makes the same weak claims of progress that administration officials have been making in the media in the run-up to the review. Tom Andrews of Win Without War lays out a good list of problems with the Afghanistan strategy that were conspicuously absent from the review.

While the Pentagon and White House are painting a picture of a difficult but surmountable challenge in Afghanistan, the administration’s own intelligence officials see a much starker situation.

Two new assessments by the U.S. intelligence community present a gloomy picture of the Afghanistan war, contradicting a more upbeat view expressed by military officials as the White House prepares to release a progress report on the 9-year-old conflict.

The classified intelligence reports contend that large swaths of Afghanistan are still at risk of falling to the Taliban, according to officials who were briefed on the National Intelligence Estimates on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which represent the collective view of more than a dozen intelligence agencies.

The reports, the subject of a recent closed hearing by the Senate Intelligence Committee, also say Pakistan’s government remains unwilling to stop its covert support for members of the Afghan Taliban who mount attacks against U.S. troops from the tribal areas of the neighboring nation. The officials declined to be named because they were discussing classified data.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross reports that conditions in Afghanistan are the worst they have been in 30 years:

Earlier this month the ICRC in Geneva warned the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan was likely to deteriorate further in 2011.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the Taliban were overthrown more than nine years ago, with record casualties on all sides of the conflict. Almost 700 foreign troops have died in 2010 alone, by far the bloodiest year of the war.

But ordinary Afghans have borne the brunt of the fighting. According to U.N. figures, 1,271 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year, 21 percent more than in the same period in 2009. Most of those deaths were blamed on insurgents.

The ICRC has also reported a spike this year in the number of patients with war wounds admitted at the main hospital it supports in southern Kandahar.

More than 2,650 patients with weapons-related injuries were admitted to Mirwais Hospital in 2010 compared to 2,110 in 2009, the ICRC says. A further 1,000 war wounded were treated but not admitted at the hospital over the past two years.

 

One of the biggest questions following President Obama’s 2009 speech was the real meaning of his stated commitment to begin withdrawing troops in July of 2011.  It was clearly meant to give some hope to the growing number of people who oppose the military strategy, but much of that hope was dashed by the president’s announcement that NATO forces plan to end the “combat mission” in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 (which could still mean many “non-combat troops” on the ground after 2014 as we have in Iraq).  The president reiterated both of those timelines in his speech about the review today:

This sense of urgency also helped galvanize the coalition around the goals that we agreed to at the recent NATO summit in Lisbon —- that we are moving toward a new phase in Afghanistan, a transition to full Afghan lead for security that will begin early next year and will conclude in 2014, even as NATO maintains a long-term commitment to training and advising Afghan forces.  Now, our review confirms, however, that for these security gains to be sustained over time, there is an urgent need for political and economic progress in Afghanistan.

It’s still unclear how the president envisions this drawdown beginning in 2011. Many people envisioned a serious end to the war beginning next summer, but dragging out a withdrawal beyond 2014 precludes any significant changes next year. The use of the term “conditions-based withdrawal” leaves the administration far more wiggle room than is comfortable, and we’ve already seen the military’s proclivity for manipulating the debate to get greater commitments of time and resources.

People around the country, from members of Congress to Afghanistan experts, are not content to see President Obama let that 2011 commitment of a responsible withdrawal quietly slip away. And the general public is increasingly fed up. A new poll shows that 60% of Americans think the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting, on par with the unpopularity of the Iraq war for the first time.

The administration, however, has been rather dismissive of the public discontent. In a press conference today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded to the polls with this:

 

“I’m well aware of the popular concern, and I understand it. But I don’t think leaders — and certainly this president will not — make decisions that are matters of life and death and the future security of our nation based on polling…

…I think it’s understandable, and I’m very respectful of the feelings of the American people, but the question I would ask is, how do you feel about a continuing American commitment that is aimed at protecting you and your family now and into the future?”

If you’re asking me, I’d say I’d feel just fine about an American commitment to protecting us, and I’d like to see this administration show me one. Instead, I’m seeing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, calls for slashing the social safety net and cutting critical domestic spending programs, and billions of dollars wasted on wars that aren’t making anyone safer, and are likely increasing animosity toward the United States worldwide. It’s clear that the American people see through this, and throughout 2011 we won’t let the administration and Congress forget that their responsibility for our safety, security and prosperity means they must take action to end this war now.

 

 

 

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Posted by DownWithTyranny on December 16th, 2010

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

I usually spend Christmastime outside of the U.S. and away from the annual desecration of Christmas in the name of commercial and political agendas. One year I was in Bethlehem; last year I was in Rome. This year I’m in Marrakech. I’ve been here over a dozen times, but this time I noticed a constant din from drums being beaten day and night… all week. Turns out it was Ashura yesterday. That’s the 10th day of their first month of the year, and during Mohammed’s time it happened to be a time when the local Jews fasted as a day of atonement. Mohammed liked the idea, and made it part of his religion too– although, like the traffic signals, fasting is just advisory, not mandatory. Obviously the Shi’a use Ashura as another day they can beat and flog themselves in parades to dramatize their grief and outrage and to reenact the pain that Hussein, Mohammed’s grandson, suffered at Karbala. So… yes, I miss the religionist hysteria in the U.S. around the idiotic right-wing meme called “the War on Christmas.”

[Don't forget to click to enlarge.]

I see, though that this year Fox seems to be turning their War on Christmas into a war on the Jews. It does look that the Jews are the unnamed “they” in Fox’s made up War on Christmas this year. Although… as the ad up top for Christmas Goggles clearly shows, religionist fanatics could be referring to anyone they don’t like, not just Jews, not atheists, liberals, gays… whatever.

A Better Way To Start The Dismantling Of Social Security

This country’s ruling elites found the most unlikely patsy to open up China for their business interests, red-baiter/China-hater Richard Nixon. No one could accuse him of being soft on Communism– and the ones who did, John Birchers mostly, he dismissed as “the animals”– and Big Business got what they wanted. We have, after all, always been at war at peace with Eurasia. The same dominant interests have other things they need to accomplish as they drive towards a near total concentration of the wealth of the nation in fewer and fewer hands: obliterating that pesky estate tax and getting rid of what they regard as immoral vestiges of socialism– like Medicare and, more than anything, government’s most widely popular program, Social Security. Bush bungled the job; now they’re taking another whack at it with Bush’s replacement. Matt Taibi:

I contrast this now to the behavior of Barack Obama. I can’t even count how many times I listened to Barack Obama on the campaign trail talk about how, as president, he would rescind the Bush tax cuts as soon as he had the chance. He stood up and he said over and over again – I can still hear him saying “Let me be clear!” with that Great Statesman voice of his, before he went into this routine– that the Bush tax cuts were wrong and immoral. He said more than once that they “offended his conscience.” Then, just as he did with drug re-importation and Guantanamo and bulk Medicare negotiations for pharmaceuticals and the issue of whether or not he would bring registered lobbyists into his White House and a host of other promises, he tossed his campaign “convictions” in the toilet and changed his mind once he was more accountable to lobbyists than primary voters…

I can live with the president fighting for something and failing; what I can’t stand is a politician who changes his mind for the sake of expediency and then pretends that was what he believed all along. You just can’t imagine someone like Sanders doing something like that; his MO instead would be to take his best shot for what he actually believes and let the chips fall where they may, budging a little maybe to get a worthwhile deal done but never turning his entire face inside out just to get through the day. This idea that you can’t be an honest man and a Washington politician is a myth, a crock made up by sellouts and careerist hacks who don’t stand for anything and are impatient with people who do. It’s possible to do this job with honor and dignity. It’s just that most of our politicians– our president included, apparently– would rather not bother.

As we’ve mentioned before, the financial sector donated more money– and in a shorter time– to Obama than to any other member of Congress in history. Wall Street showered him with $42,285,749 in just three years. The runners-up wer John McCain, whom they gave a thumping $34,036,462, and Hillary Clinton, who got $29,468,940.

But this isn’t a story of all bases being covered by the banksters. McCain’s father-in-law bought him his House seat in 1982, a year when Obama was just transferring from Occidental College in L.A. to Columbia University in NYC. Big Business identified Obama as a comer and invested wisely. They routinely do this with politicians they see as promising: Harold Ford, Lieberman, Steny Hoyer, Steve Israel, Max Baucus, Charlie Rangel and Rahm Emanuel in the case of Democrats; Eric Cantor, Phil Gramm, Miss McConnell, Spencer Bachus (yeah, the incoming head of the Financial Services Committee, who stated the other day that the role of government is to serve the interests of the big banks), Rick Santorum, Mark Kirk, John Thune, Paul Ryan, Roy Blunt, Jon Kyl, John Boehner…

Obama’s Catfood Commission didn’t go as smoothly as Wall Street hoped it would towards dismantling Social Security, but it laid some important groundwork, and it was hardly a bust. Incoming House Budget Chairman– and Catfood Commissioner– Paul Ryan, whom Wall Street has pegged for higher office and “great things,” has already promised to include the worst of the Catfood Commission’s proposals in the next budget. He’s Obama’s spiritual brother, and all that will be standing in the way of enacting these drastic “austerity” measures– “wealth concentration” measures is a better description– will be the House of Lords, a farce and a joke in the best of times when it comes to watching over the interests of ordinary families.

And now there’s the payroll-tax holiday Obama is pushing, ostensibly something that will give short-term relief to working families, but in the long run– and this is why Republicans love it– something that will seriously undermine the viability of Social Security.

Warning that a payroll tax cut would undermine Social Security, a group of House liberals introduced legislation Wednesday to eliminate the provision from the White House tax-cut deal.

 Behind Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), the Democrats maintain the one-year payroll-tax holiday will likely be extended in future years, leaving Social Security to compete with other programs for funding — and threatening seniors’ benefits over the long haul.

“There’s a very good reason why people pay Social Security taxes– so they’ll get Social Security,” Doggett said at a press conference in the Capitol. “I’d rather have nothing done in this area than to do great harm.”

Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) warned the provision could dismantle Social Security’s ownership-based funding mechanism, in which workers pay into the program while they’re employed to tap the benefits in retirement.

“It undermines the very rationale of Social Security in ways that could do long-term damage,” Holt said. “As much as we need economic stimulus now, we will need Social Security for decades to come.”

Doggett said it’s unclear how much support he’ll have for his amendment. The tax package– which passed the Senate 81-19 on Wednesday– is scheduled for consideration in the House Rules Committee on Wednesday afternoon. House Democratic leaders have said the final vote on the bill will likely occur Thursday.

Doggett and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), among the most vocal critics of the White House proposal, both said they intend to vote against the package unless the payroll-tax provision is altered.


Yes, Obama Is Big Business’ Dream Come True

Idiot blue T-shirt wearers still send me hate mail when I point out Obama’s more and more apparent flaws. In six months they’ll be directing those hate letters to him. But they’re slow. (You know who you are; get a clue.) Anyway, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich was never someone very deluded or self-deluded about who Barack Obama actually is. Yesterday he pointed out the cozy relationship between the Obama Administration and this era’s robber barons.

He starts with JP Morgan Chase’s crooked boss, Jamie Dimon. Instead of indicting him and throwing him into prison, Obama is all kissy-kissy with him. Damon, who makes over $20 million/year, is effusive about Obama’s joining forces with the Republican Party to pass tax breaks for the wealthy and give them the estate-tax breaks they were looking for: “If we’re going to strengthen our economy and grow jobs, this type of outreach– and cooperation between the administration, Congress, and the private sector– are critical.” He could have been reading right from Grover Norquist’s talking points. Wall Street, however, has its own talking-points writers.

The tax deal agreed to between President Obama and the Republicans will give Dimon and extra $1,179,000 next year, according to an analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice.

The bank Dimon heads was also the beneficiary of the giant Wall Street bailout of 2007 and 2008. JPMorgan Chase & Co, along with other Wall Street banks, also poured millions of dollars into a lobbying campaign to water down the financial reforms Congress considered earlier this year.

And now they have Bachus, Ryan… and Obama to see make sure everything goes smoothly for them as they consolidate power. Man, do we need a Roosevelt today– either variety.

Meanwhile, The Devastation In Afghanistan Proceeds Unchecked

You can’t single out Obama on this one; it’s the entire political elite. But he’s the president, and the “bullet train to failure” in Afghanistan is very bipartisan– unless you see the political struggle as one pitting ordinary Americans against the ruling elite. Ordinary Americans have fallen out of love with the war there; the newest polling shows that 60% of Americans say it isn’t worth fighting.

Public dissatisfaction with the war, now the nation’s longest, has spiked by 7 points just since July. Given its costs vs. its benefits, only 34 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the war’s been worth fighting, down by 9 points to a new low, by a sizable margin.

This will do for Obama what Iraq did for Bush. Only in Obama’s case it will sour not just the opposition party’s followers but Democrats as well– big-time. But he’s just lying to the public regularly, painting a picture of how fabulous its all going. Today’s review emphasizes the illusory progress the Administration and the Pentagon claim, the same bald-faced lies no one was ever punished for telling us in regard to Iraq and Vietnam. Casualties have skyrocketed among the 150,000 NATO forces occupying Afghanistan, 100,000 of them Americans.

Meanwhile, over a week ago Mike Ferner, the president of Veterans for Peace, sent this unambiguous letter to Obama:

December 3, 2010

Dear President Obama,

A week ago, I wrote you on this same subject but since I’ve not yet received a reply either personal or automated, I felt I should try again.

As president of Veterans For Peace (VFP), a national organization of military veterans, I want to convey to you our serious opposition to your administration’s policy of ongoing wars, proxy wars, occupations and drone strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and Yemen.

Your policies are taking innocent lives, causing untold, lifelong suffering, rapidly destroying our economy, our environment, and ultimately making all of us considerably less safe.

Since there are no logical reasons rooted in human or planetary betterment for these policies, we are left to conclude what is logical and obvious: that their purpose is to maintain and advance what has sadly become the global U.S. Empire.

VFP has voiced our opposition to these wars at every national demonstration and with countless local actions, letters, faxes, emails and phone calls.

We requested a meeting with you shortly after your inauguration, to no avail. We are now requesting another meeting. And since we have tried all the above many times over, this is what we now propose.

If, within 10 days from now, we do not hear a positive response to our request for a meeting, we are prepared to bring a large delegation of our members to Washington before the end of this month. We will come in person to the White House to meet with you or until we are dragged away in full view of our nation and the world– military veterans, carrying their nation’s flag, seeking a meeting with their president in the season of Peace.

Like the bonus marchers of the 1930’s, we demand our bonus be paid. The bonus for our service and the many sacrifices of our comrades is peace.

In this season of Peace I remain

Most sincerely yours,
Mike Ferner, National President
Veterans For Peace
USN Hospital Corps 1969-73

Deadline passed:

But At Least Gays And Lesbians Will Be Able To Join– Openly– In The Mayhem

With both Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe reportedly ready to join Susan Collins in breaking the GOP (+ Manchin) filibuster of the stand-alone repeal of DADT which passed yesterday in the House, this may be the week that military gays can have a great big coming-out party– unless Harry Reid blows it, something he’s entirely capable of doing, with alacrity. He needs to fast-track the bill. But will he? It’s his call now. He says he’s willing to keep the Senate in session right through New Years, though: “We are in session, if necessary, up to January 5th. That is the clock our Republican colleagues need to run out. It’s a long clock.” I’m glad gays won’t be discriminated against any longer… but why they want to go kill innocent Afghanis and other Third World people is something I never could quite grasp.

And… Is Boehner Too Drunk Too Often To Be An Effective Speaker?

Boehner, possibly inebriated, campaigning with Republican Nazi Rich Iott

That’s the word in DC these days. We warned Ohio voters all year… but they just wanted the dubious honor of having the Speaker as their congressman. Idiots! Clueless Washingtonians who don’t already know “are beginning to speculate that Boehner’s penchant for turning on the waterworks might have some connection to his consumption of wine.” Liberal MSNBC host Ed Shultz, half-jokingly, called Boehner a “cheap drunk” the other day; Capitol Hill aides of both parties are wondering; and there’s even a Web page devoted to it

As is to be expected, Republican aides and lobbyists are not anxious to publicly discuss whether the incoming House speaker might have a drinking problem. And Boehner’s staff declined to discuss the crying question at all. For his part, though, Boehner– who was described in one profile as “a heavy-smoking, hard-drinking former linebacker”– has made no secret of his affection for merlot, and those familiar with Capitol Hill know he frequents The Capitol Hill Club, as well as a favorite Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill, where he is frequently spotted sipping vino.

When President Obama mentioned that he ran into Rep. Boehner at a holiday party last year drinking eggnog, Boehner responded, “I was drinking wine.” And when recently asked about attending a “Slurpee summit with the president,” Boehner quipped, “How about a glass of merlot?”

For years, political professionals have quietly discussed Boehner’s drinking. Some have told me off the record that his mannerisms remind them of that of an alcoholic. So far, most of the public speculation having to do with the connection between drinking and Boehner’s crying has come from the left. In addition to Ed Shultz, liberal talk show host Randi Rhodes recently implied Boehner’s crying was due to his drinking.

But the speculation is becoming more widespread. Earlier this year, Joe Scarborough noted of Boehner that “by 5 or 6 o’clock at night, you can see him at bars.” And as Politico reported, “One of [Boehner's] GOP colleagues noted that Boehner cries more often later in the day.”

I hope he doesn’t start imagining Jews under the Christmas tree and join in with his pal Rich Iott in looking for a final solution.

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Posted by Josh Mull on December 16th, 2010

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

As we discussed previously, the Obama administration’s Afghanistan Strategy Review is basically an act of political theater, a demonstration of Obama walking back his massive overcommitment to occupying Afghanistan. Today’s speech confirmed that. Obama put a happy face (progress!) on the war, which is now an unmitigated disaster though you’d never guess that from the speech, and the warmakers (very quietly) took steps toward keeping their commitment of beginning withdrawals in July 2011.

So we got something good out of it, the July 2011 isn’t completely off the table (as the generals would have you believe), but they’re still not entirely comfortable stating that. However, the mainstream media got the spin loud and clear. Immediately following this morning’s press conference, CNN went live with two correspondents, one in Kabul and the other in Islamabad, above the bold headline “U.S. troops to begin pulling out of Afghanistan in July 2011″.  Sounds good!

But sadly, it’s not that simple. President Obama and Secretary Clinton talked a lot of game about 9/11 and honoring the memory of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. They wove some interesting tales about progress in Helmand and increased cooperation from the Pakistanis. They insisted that they would not be making policy based on opinion polls, and that the American people should trust that they’re working for the long term public interest. All lies.

There is no progress to speak of, Afghanistan is a nightmare, Afghan and American deaths are through the roof. Pakistan’s national security establishment is sponsoring just as much terrorism and militancy as always, and their civilian government is a joke. And the “opinion polls” don’t reflect a moment of “doubt” as Secretary Gates said, but the total collapse of public support for the war. There is no confidence in this administration; the policy has to end, not re-adjust.

Think that’s over the top? Let’s see what’s happening. (more…)

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on December 15th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Derrick Crowe and Robert Greenwald

On Thursday, December 16, 2010, the White House will use its December review to try to spin the disastrous Afghanistan War plan by citing “progress” in the military campaign, but the available facts paint a picture of a war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost.

Let’s take a look at just the very broad strokes of the information. After more than nine years and a full year of a massive escalation policy:

And yet, we are told we can expect a report touting security gains and “progress,” and that there’s virtually zero chance of any significant policy change from this review. It sort of begs the question: just what level of catastrophe in Afghanistan would signal that we need a change in direction?

Insurgency Growing and Getting Stronger

This cat is already out of the bag, no matter how hard the Pentagon tries to reel it back in. In the ironically named “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” published several weeks ago, the Pentagon told Congress that the insurgency’s organizational and geographic reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding. This growth is reflected in other statistics. According to USA TODAY, U.S. troops were hit with 7,000 more attacks this year compared to last year. About 3,800 troops were killed and injured by IEDs, about 1,000 more than last year. These statistics depict an insurgency with unbroken momentum, despite administration and military claims to the contrary.

As the signers of the Afghanistan Call to Reason put it last week,

“Despite these huge costs, the situation on the ground is much worse than a year ago because the Taliban insurgency has made progress across the country. It is now very difficult to work outside the cities or even move around Afghanistan by road. The insurgents have built momentum, exploiting the shortcomings of the Afghan government and the mistakes of the coalition. The Taliban today are now a national movement with a serious presence in the north and the west of the country. Foreign bases are completely isolated from their local environment and unable to protect the population.”

The insurgents’ momentum is clearly shown by the number of attacks they’ve initiated across the country so far this year. According to the Afghan NGO Safety Office (ANSO),

“The [Taliban] counter-offensive is increasingly mature, complex & effective. Country wide attacks have grown by 59% (p.10) while sophisticated recruitment techniques have helped activate networks of fighters in the North where European NATO contributors have failed to provide an adequate deterrent (p.11). Some provinces here are experiencing double the country average growth rate (p.12) and their districts are in danger of slipping beyond any control. Clumsy attempts to stem the developments, through the formation of local militia’s and intelligence-poor operations, have served to polarize communities with the IEA capitalizing on the local grievances that result. In the South, despite more robust efforts from the US NATO contingents, counterinsurgency operations in Kandahar and Marjah have similarly failed to degrade the IEA’s ability to fight, reduce the number of civilian combat fatalities (p.13) or deliver boxed Government.”

Here’s a helpful chart from ANSO’s report that shows the level of ever-escalating insurgent attacks across Afghanistan.

ANSO Chart, Afghanistan violence

The White House wants to weasel out of the implications of the data above by saying that the reason the statistics are going south is because, as Petraeus so often says, “when you take away areas important to the enemy, the enemy fights back.” So, we’re “on offense,” as President told troops few weeks ago during his trip to Afghanistan. Well, so what? The 1976 Buccaneers went on offense, too, but that didn’t mean they won games.

When the administration claims that they’re seeing “progress” in pockets of southern Helmand and Kandahar (a claim open to serious dispute, by the way, and strangely contradicted by some of Petraeus’ own spin), they’re displaying a familiar kind of confusion between the tactical and the strategic, one that seems to always pop up when we’re confronting a failed war.

“One of the iconic exchanges of Vietnam came, some years after the war, between Col. Harry Summers, a military historian, and a counterpart in the North Vietnamese Army. As Summers recalled it, he said, ‘You never defeated us in the field.’ To which the NVA officer replied: ‘That may be true. It is also irrelevant.’”

Pakistan’s Double Game

That brings us to Pakistan. According to the New York Times, two new National Intelligence Estimates “offer a more negative assessment [than the administration's upcoming review] and say there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border.” But that’s some serious wishful thinking, since Pakistan has long used the Taliban as a cat’s paw to combat growing Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants the militants who threaten it internally suppressed, but it finds the militants who threaten the Karzai regime useful. Fixing that problem would requite U.S. policy follow the roots of their support of the Taliban all the way up to the India/Pakistan animosity, and nothing–nothing–in the U.S.’s military-first strategy comes close to doing so.

Troops Pay the Price

While U.S. politicians nibble at the edges of this real crisis, U.S. troops pay the bloody price, a price that’s gotten much worse with the arrival of the new escalation policy over the course of this year. At least 874 American troops have been killed in the war so far this year, compared to 317 for all of 2009. In the NATO hospital near Kandahar, doctors performed a major amputation once very other day in September.

These statistics go hand-in-hand with the huge rise in civilian casualties, which number some 2,400 this year so far, according to the Campaign for Innocent Civilians in Conflict.

Time for the White House to Get Real

The Obama administration is kidding itself if it thinks the American people will buy this attempted whitewash of the failure of the escalation strategy in Afghanistan. We are in the grips of a desperate unemployment crisis, wrapped in a larger economic meltdown. We are not ignorant of the $2 billion dollars sent per week on the war, and we want that money, and those young people, back here at home so we put people back to work.

Following the death of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the president should take a step back and realize that we all have to travel down that road some day. He should think about what legacy he wants to leave behind him. Postponing a final end to U.S. military action in Afghanistan until 2014 puts U.S. taxpayers and American troops on the hook for an enormous investment of blood and treasure in a failing enterprise with no prospects for a turnaround.

A real, honest review would objectively conclude that the enterprise is failing and that the best alternative is to start removing U.S. troops immediately to stave off continued economic and social damage caused by this war that’s not making us safer nor worth the cost.

Please watch our latest video and share it with your friends. Then, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by Peace Action West on December 15th, 2010

From our partners at Peace Action West

The economic crisis has been dominating the debate lately, from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ epic floor speech to the president’s deficit commission to the raging debate about tax cuts. What is often missing from the debate is the incredible burden that military spending, and especially spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, puts on the federal budget. The Senate can’t even pass health benefits for 9/11 rescue workers without a budget offset, but the House and Senate continue to pass billions for war. It’s important that we help connect the dots between the painful cuts people see in their own communities and the reckless spending on a war that doesn’t make Americans or Afghans safer. California State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano laid out that argument in this week’s San Francisco Bay Guardian:

Who will pay for California’s budget woes? For the last three years, Californians have put up with cuts to programs that are critical to our state’s future and our social safety net. Public education, HIV and AIDS programs, state universities, and CalWORKs have all come under the knife. The elephant in the room, as state and federal governments try to balance budgets on the backs of the working and middle class, is the billions of dollars we are wasting on a misguided war in Afghanistan.

Fresh evidence that the war in Afghanistan is failing rolls in on a daily basis. While the administration justifies the cost in lives and dollars as necessary to fight Al Qaeda, it also acknowledges that there are only 50 to 100 Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. Every soldier in Afghanistan costs U.S. taxpayers $1 million per year. With 100,000 soldiers on the ground, that means we’re spending as much as $2 billion a year on each Al Qaeda fighter.

Would we dream of spending $2 billion on every needy child in California? Or even $1 million? As U.S. and Afghan casualties rise along with the dollar amounts, with little success to show for it, we need to get our priorities in check.

 

Read the rest here.

 

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Posted by Josh Mull on December 15th, 2010

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

We understand that when it comes to making policy around, say, health care, it’s a show. But War? War we have trouble with. According to what we the mainstream media tells us, the image that most Americans get of war, the whole thing just appears confusing and frustrating.

Now there’s even more heavy stuff going down in Washington dealing with the war in Afghanistan, and if we don’t understand the politics behind it, it’s going to be just as confusing and frustrating as the mainstream media makes it appear. If we can see ourselves with the same clarity that we see Afghans however, the whole Beltway affair will make a lot more sense.

Politico lays out the story for us:

As the Obama administration prepares to release its third strategy review of the war in Afghanistan, discussion of U.S. policy focuses on three conflicts. First, the actual military campaign against Afghan and Pakistani insurgents. Second, the political jockeying among Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his countrymen and international groups attempting to get a handle on massive corruption and poor governance. And third, the Washington shadowboxing between factions supporting “double down” or “out now.”

Meanwhile, a growing progressive-realist-centrist axis of agreement has emerged. This fall, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for American Progress, the Afghanistan Study Group and the Center for a New American Security all issued reports on Afghanistan that share a stunning amount of agreement. As a group, they offer a way forward that could be effective, affordable and sustainable. (more…)

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on December 15th, 2010

By Derrick Crowe and Robert Greenwald

On Thursday, December 16, 2010, the White House will use its December review to try to spin the disastrous Afghanistan War plan by citing “progress” in the military campaign, but the available facts paint a picture of a war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost.

Let’s take a look at just the very broad strokes of the information. After more than nine years and a full year of a massive escalation policy:

And yet, we are told we can expect a report touting security gains and “progress,” and that there’s virtually zero chance of any significant policy change from this review. It sort of begs the question: just what level of catastrophe in Afghanistan would signal that we need a change in direction?

Insurgency Growing and Getting Stronger

This cat is already out of the bag, no matter how hard the Pentagon tries to reel it back in. In the ironically named “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” published several weeks ago, the Pentagon told Congress that the insurgency’s organizational and geographic reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding. This growth is reflected in other statistics. According to USA TODAY, U.S. troops were hit with 7,000 more attacks this year compared to last year. About 3,800 troops were killed and injured by IEDs, about 1,000 more than last year. These statistics depict an insurgency with unbroken momentum, despite administration and military claims to the contrary.

As the signers of the Afghanistan Call to Reason put it last week,

“Despite these huge costs, the situation on the ground is much worse than a year ago because the Taliban insurgency has made progress across the country. It is now very difficult to work outside the cities or even move around Afghanistan by road. The insurgents have built momentum, exploiting the shortcomings of the Afghan government and the mistakes of the coalition. The Taliban today are now a national movement with a serious presence in the north and the west of the country. Foreign bases are completely isolated from their local environment and unable to protect the population.”

The insurgents’ momentum is clearly shown by the number of attacks they’ve initiated across the country so far this year. According to the Afghan NGO Safety Office (ANSO),

“The [Taliban] counter-offensive is increasingly mature, complex & effective. Country wide attacks have grown by 59% (p.10) while sophisticated recruitment techniques have helped activate networks of fighters in the North where European NATO contributors have failed to provide an adequate deterrent (p.11). Some provinces here are experiencing double the country average growth rate (p.12) and their districts are in danger of slipping beyond any control. Clumsy attempts to stem the developments, through the formation of local militia’s and intelligence-poor operations, have served to polarize communities with the IEA capitalizing on the local grievances that result. In the South, despite more robust efforts from the US NATO contingents, counterinsurgency operations in Kandahar and Marjah have similarly failed to degrade the IEA’s ability to fight, reduce the number of civilian combat fatalities (p.13) or deliver boxed Government.”

Here’s a helpful chart from ANSO’s report that shows the level of ever-escalating insurgent attacks across Afghanistan.

ANSO Chart, Afghanistan violence

The White House wants to weasel out of the implications of the data above by saying that the reason the statistics are going south is because, as Petraeus so often says, “when you take away areas important to the enemy, the enemy fights back.” So, we’re “on offense,” as President told troops few weeks ago during his trip to Afghanistan. Well, so what? The 1976 Buccaneers went on offense, too, but that didn’t mean they won games.

When the administration claims that they’re seeing “progress” in pockets of southern Helmand and Kandahar (a claim open to serious dispute, by the way, and strangely contradicted by some of Petraeus’ own spin), they’re displaying a familiar kind of confusion between the tactical and the strategic, one that seems to always pop up when we’re confronting a failed war.

“One of the iconic exchanges of Vietnam came, some years after the war, between Col. Harry Summers, a military historian, and a counterpart in the North Vietnamese Army. As Summers recalled it, he said, ‘You never defeated us in the field.’ To which the NVA officer replied: ‘That may be true. It is also irrelevant.’”

Pakistan’s Double Game

That brings us to Pakistan. According to the New York Times, two new National Intelligence Estimates “offer a more negative assessment [than the administration's upcoming review] and say there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border.” But that’s some serious wishful thinking, since Pakistan has long used the Taliban as a cat’s paw to combat growing Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants the militants who threaten it internally suppressed, but it finds the militants who threaten the Karzai regime useful. Fixing that problem would requite U.S. policy follow the roots of their support of the Taliban all the way up to the India/Pakistan animosity, and nothing–nothing–in the U.S.’s military-first strategy comes close to doing so.

Troops Pay the Price

While U.S. politicians nibble at the edges of this real crisis, U.S. troops pay the bloody price, a price that’s gotten much worse with the arrival of the new escalation policy over the course of this year. At least 874 American troops have been killed in the war so far this year, compared to 317 for all of 2009. In the NATO hospital near Kandahar, doctors performed a major amputation once very other day in September.

These statistics go hand-in-hand with the huge rise in civilian casualties, which number some 2,400 this year so far, according to the Campaign for Innocent Civilians in Conflict.

Time for the White House to Get Real

The Obama administration is kidding itself if it thinks the American people will buy this attempted whitewash of the failure of the escalation strategy in Afghanistan. We are in the grips of a desperate unemployment crisis, wrapped in a larger economic meltdown. We are not ignorant of the $2 billion dollars sent per week on the war, and we want that money, and those young people, back here at home so we put people back to work.

Following the death of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the president should take a step back and realize that we all have to travel down that road some day. He should think about what legacy he wants to leave behind him. Postponing a final end to U.S. military action in Afghanistan until 2014 puts U.S. taxpayers and American troops on the hook for an enormous investment of blood and treasure in a failing enterprise with no prospects for a turnaround.

A real, honest review would objectively conclude that the enterprise is failing and that the best alternative is to start removing U.S. troops immediately to stave off continued economic and social damage caused by this war that’s not making us safer nor worth the cost.

Please watch our latest video and share it with your friends. Then, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by The Agonist on December 14th, 2010

From our partners at The Agonist

Noah Shachtman | Dec 14

Wired – November is ordinarily the month when the air war in Afghanistan — and really, the whole American-led campaign — ratchets down for the winter. This November, with Gen. David Petraeus in charge of the war effort, things have been different. Radically different. NATO fighter jets and attack planes launched their bombs and missiles on 850 separate missions this November. That’s three-and-a-half times the number of attack sorties they flew in November 2009.

It’s another sign of the bloody turn the Afghan conflict has taken since Petraeus took over. Petraeusunleashed special operations forces, who have killed or captured thousands of militants. His generals relied on massive surface-to-surface missiles to clear the Taliban out of Kandahar, and ordered tanks to help crush opponents in Helmand province. And then there’s the metastasizing air war.

In the last three months, NATO aircraft have fired their weapons on 2550 sorties, according to U.S. Air Force statistics provided to Danger Room. During the same period last year, there were less than half the number of violent sorties — just 1188.

But that was under a different general, who had a very different attitude about airstrikes — and about the utility of violent coercion in the Afghan campaign.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal famously corralled the use of air power as he tried to implement a counterinsurgency strategy that put winning the locals’ allegiance as the primary goal. Even troops under enemy attack found it tough to call in a strike from above. Better to expose U.S. forces to some danger than risk alienating the population.

In public, Petraeus and his generals said that there would be no major changes to the so-called “rules of engagement,” which govern the use of force. Strikes from the sky were still considered a “choice of last resort,” as Brig. Gen. Jack Briggs II told Danger Room in August. NATO officials tried to explain the uptick in these air attacks and other so-called “kinetic” events as a function of increased troop numbers, or of those soldiers pushing into previously-uncontested territory.

But with each passing month under Petraeus’ leadership, the shift to a more violent strategy becomes more apparent. By November, one U.S. military official was boasting about America’s “awe, shock and firepower.”

Ah yes, shock and awe has such a good record

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