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Archive for March, 2011

Posted by The Agonist on March 29th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

Julian Borger and Richard Norton-Taylor | March 29

Guardian NewsRome is negotiating an African haven for the Libyan leader as international pressure mounts on him to go

Yves Herman/Reuters
Efforts appear to be under way to offer Muammar Gaddafi a way of escape from Libya, with Italy saying it was trying to organise an African haven for him, and the US signalling it would not try to stop the dictator from fleeing.

The move came amid mounting diplomatic and military pressure on Gaddafi as Britain tries to assemble a global consensus demanding he surrender power while intensifying air strikes against his forces. An international conference in London – including the UN, Arab states, the African Union, and more than 40 foreign ministers – will focus on co-ordinating assistance in the face of a possible humanitarian disaster and building a unified international front in condemnation of the Gaddafi regime and in support of Nato-led military action in Libya.

Belgian Defence Minister De Crem at Araxos airbase Belgian defence minister Pieter De Crem by a Belgian F16 fighter at Araxos, Greece. Diplomatic pressure on Gaddafi to go is mounting. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

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Posted by The Agonist on March 29th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

7:30PM EDT: The President speaks on Libya from the National Defense University in DC.

Watch: http://wh.gov/live

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Posted by The Agonist on March 28th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

Andrew M. Exum, Zachary M. Hosford | Policy Brief | March 28

Center for a New American Security – While the situation in Libya continues to change rapidly, the most prudent course of action for the United States is to execute a strategy that would minimize the U.S. commitment to Libya and protect the United States from a potentially protracted and resource-intensive conflict, according to this policy brief by Center for a New American Security (CNAS) experts Andrew Exum and Zachary Hosford.

In Forging a Libya Strategy: Policy Recommendations for the Obama Administration, authors Exum and Hosford argue that U.S. interests in Libya, which include the protection of civilians and providing momentum to the revolutionary fervor sweeping the region, come at a potentially high cost to the United States. In addition, continued engagement may detract focus and resources away from other critical issues in the region and globally. Exum and Hosford offer four policy recommendations for the United States that limit the U.S. expenditure of blood or treasure: …

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Posted by The Agonist on March 28th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

ASADABAD | March 28

Daily Times – Taliban abducted around 50 off-duty Afghan policemen in an ambush in northeastern Afghanistan, the group and provincial officials said on Sunday.

Taliban-led militants have stepped up their fight this year against the Afghan government and its Western backers at a time when Kabul has announced security responsibilities for seven areas will be handed to Afghan forces in July. The policemen were abducted by militants in the Chapa Dara district of remote northeastern Kunar province after returning from neighbouring Nuristan province where they had travelled to collect their salaries, Nuristan Governor Jamaluddin Badr said. “The policemen were in civilian clothes and had no weapons with them,” Badr told journalists from Nuristan.

Mohammad Farooq, a senior police officer in Nuristan, confirmed around 50 policemen had been kidnapped by terrorists. …

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Posted by Just Foreign Policy on March 24th, 2011

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

Here is some unsolicited advice for the Obama Administration: you essentially have four days to put US involvement in the Libya war on a path that doesn’t look like open-ended quagmire.

Otherwise, when the House comes back next week, you’re going to get in trouble.

Many people have difficulty imagining the possibility that Congress could give the Obama Administration difficulty over the Libya war. Since 2001, many people think, Congress has rolled over for both the Bush and Obama Administrations on questions of war and peace. Why should now be any different?

The view that Congress has only rolled over misses important history. For example, the legislative fight over a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq was a significant contributor to the fact that we have such a timetable for withdrawal today, even though such a timetable was never enacted legislatively. Congress lost the issue legislatively, but eventually won the issue politically.

But the more important point here that many people aren’t thinking about yet is that the political dynamics of the coming debate over the Libya war could be very different from the debates over Iraq and Afghanistan. If the Libya war is going full-bore next week with heavy US involvement, there could be significant opposition in Congress, especially in the House, from both Democrats and Republicans.

read more

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on March 23rd, 2011

A new report put out today by The Century Foundation urges the start of serious peace talks among the parties to the Afghanistan War. The report warns that even with the massive influx of U.S. troops over the past year, the war has settled into a stalemate in which neither side has a credible potential to eliminate the other on the battlefield. As such, the only credible path to an end to the Afghanistan conflict is through serious negotiations, which must begin now.

The Century Foundation’s call for serious negotiations to end the war reinforces the message pushed by the Rethink Afghanistan campaign for months, specifically that the only feasible way to end the war is through a political settlement, and the longer we wait, the less acceptable the settlement is likely to be. From the foundation’s report:

“For all sides, the longer negotiations are delayed, the higher the price is likely to be for restoring peace at the end. While negotiations will involve difficult trade-offs and priority-setting, a substantive agreement that would end the war in a way acceptable to all parties is possible. The sooner a peace process starts, the better the odds that a genuine peace can be reached well ahead of 2014.”

Earlier this year, a report by Felix Kuehn and Alex Strick van Linschoten showed that current U.S. policy was standing in the way of negotiations and allowing more radical elements, who are less open to negotiation, to take control of the Taliban. This latest report reinforces the view that the sooner the U.S. abandons its demand for a de facto surrender before talks can begin, the better.

The Century Foundation’s report also relayed the importance of withdrawing troops from the war:

“A willingness of ISAF troop contributors, and particularly the United States, to accept a phased withdrawal will thus be an important component of any political settlement. In negotiating a phased withdrawal with the Afghans, there will need to be consideration of the capacity of the declining force levels to deter signatories from reneging on their obligations during the transition period, as well as a consideration of whatever residual elements, if any, the future Afghan government might wish to request after major forces have withdrawn, and what ongoing military training, assistance, and support—if any—the Afghan government would seek for its own security forces.”

This new report is just another indication that the ongoing war isn’t making us safer and isn’t worth the cost, and the time is now to start real negotiations to end the conflict.

You can read the Century Foundation’s full report here, and a webcast of the event is available here.

If you’re fed up with this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the costs, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter, and find others who agree with you in your hometown at your local Rethink Afghanistan Meetup.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on March 21st, 2011

President Obama’s decision to participate in the strikes in Libya has already cost U.S. taxpayers “well over $100 million,” according to the National Journal. The Journal also relayed that, “the initial stages of taking out Libya’s air defenses could ultimately cost…coalition forces between $400 million and $800 million.” The administration launched this new war (and yes, it is a war) with no official congressional authorization, little public debate and with a vague, possibly even non-existent, endgame in mind. It’s as if the lessons of the last decade are completely lost on policymakers in the United States.

Congress and the President should be ending the wars we were already in, not starting new ones in new Arab countries where even the hint of civilian casualties could quickly set fire to a bonfire of anti-U.S. sentiment. For example:

“A day after a summit meeting in Paris set the military operation in motion, a vital Arab participant in the agreement expressed unhappiness with the way the strikes were unfolding. The former chairman of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, told Egyptian state media that he was calling for an emergency league meeting to discuss the situation in the Arab world, and particularly Libya.

“‘What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,’ he said, referring to Libyan government claims that allied bombardment had killed dozens of civilians. “

This is what happens even when there’s no definitive proof of civilian casualties. And don’t kid yourself for a second: there will be civilian casualties. Just remember the opening days of the Iraq War, where none of the first 50 “precision” airstrikes hit their intended targets.

One would think that two horrendously expensive military disasters would be enough for the president and his advisers. After all, over in Afghanistan, we’re already spending $1 million per soldier, per year, and spending approved by Congress will bring the total price tag just for direct Afghanistan War costs to half-a-trillion dollars this year. And that war is a caustic catastrophe that severely undermines U.S. national interests. Is a war where more troops have died this year than any other year of the conflict, where more civilians have died than any other year of the conflict, where more U.S. resources have been wasted than any other year of the conflict, not enough to hold the administration’s attention?

The Obama Administration shouldn’t think for a second that the fact that this expensive new military assault is taking place while policymakers are slashing basic services and public-sector jobs will be lost on the American people. This unwise military spending splurge has even caught the attention of leading Senate Republicans:

“Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Richard Lugar, R-Ind., says Congress should have had the opportunity to weigh in on what he said will be ‘a very expensive operation, even in a limited way.’

“’It’s a strange time in which almost all of our congressional days are spent talking about budget, deficits, outrageous problems,’ Lugar said Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. ‘And yet [at the] same time, all of this passes.’”

The American people want Congress and the administration to be ending the wars which we were already fighting before this weekend, not starting new ones. We couldn’t afford the other two wars we were already fighting before the cruise missiles started flying over Libya. This new war makes us less safe and spends precious resources on a war with an alarmingly vague end-game.

But hey, just remember the silver lining: Every time a Tomahawk cruise missile blows up a building in Libya (and everyone inside it), war-profiteer Raytheon makes $1.5 million.

If you’re fed up with wars that don’t make us safer and that aren’t worth the cost, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter, and meet others who share your views at your local Rethink Afghanistan Meetup.

Follow Robert Greenwald on Twitter.

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Posted by Peace Action West on March 19th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

Celebrated women’s rights activist and former member of the Afghan parliament Malalai Joya was scheduled to promote a new edition of her book “A Woman Among Warlords.” The Afghan Women’s Mission is reporting that those plans have been derailed because the US government won’t allow Joya into the country:

Colleagues of Ms. Joya’s report that when she presented herself as scheduled at the U.S. embassy, she was told she was being denied because she was “unemployed” and “lives underground.” Then 27, Joya was the youngest woman elected to Afghanistan’s parliament in 2005. Because of her harsh criticism of warlords and fundamentalists in Afghanistan, she has been the target of at least five assassination attempts. “The reason Joya lives underground is because she faces the constant threat of death for having had the courage to speak up for women’s rights – it’s obscene that the U.S. government would deny her entry,” said Sonali Kolhatkar of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a U.S. based organization that has hosted Joya for speaking tours in the past and is a sponsor of this year’s national tour.

Joya has also become an internationally known critic of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan. Organizers argue that the denial of Joya’s visa appears to be a case of what the American Civil Liberties Union describes as “Ideological Exclusion,” which they say violates Americans’ First Amendment right to hear constitutionally protected speech by denying foreign scholars, artists, politicians and others entry to the United States.

It adds insult to injury that the US would bar Joya from entering the US because of her “underground” status since (despite claims to the contrary) the US military presence has clearly not brought about a situation in which this women’s rights advocate can operate freely and safely.

Joya is an incredibly effective advocate for ending the war in Afghanistan, especially when she powerfully dismantles US government assertions that the war is in the interests of Afghanistan’s women. Many people, including progressives, are rightly concerned about the fate of women in Afghanistan. Joya spreads an effective message about the need for women’s rights movements in Afghanistan to be homegrown and not imposed by an occupying power (especially one whose success in elevating women’s rights in the country is in question). I was fortunate enough to hear her speak in Berkeley in late 2009 and wrote this about her talk at the time:

Joya did not mince words in denouncing the occupation of Afghanistan and disabusing the audience of the notion that the situation in Afghanistan has improved in the last eight years. Comparing the occupation to the rule of Taliban, Joya said the Afghan people went from “the frying pan to the fire.” She pointed out that violence against women is not only a problem from the Taliban; the warlords the United States and NATO work with are “a photocopy of the Taliban.”

As we know, much of General McChrystal’s strategy in Afghanistan depends on partnering with the Afghan government. Joya spoke out against the Karzai regime and what she called “the tragic drama of the so-called election.” One glaring example of how the Karzai regime does not protect women’s rights is the “personal status law” that Joya condemned, a piece of legislation signed by Karzai that severely limits women’s rights by essentially legalizing marital rape and requiring Shiia women to get permission for actions as simple as leaving their homes. Joya herself is in more danger now than during her years of teaching in underground girls’ schools under the Taliban. She has been the target of five assassination attempts, and told us she was even threatened with rape within Parliament for speaking out.

We need voices like Joya’s to reach the American public. People need to hear her difficult words about the effect of the US presence in Afghanistan, and to consider the desires of the Afghan people in making decisions about whether to continue the nearly ten-year-old war. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) has written a letter to the Consul General, signed by several other members of Congress, urging a reconsideration of Joya’s visa application.  There’s still time for them to walk back from this untenable position. I sincerely hope they do.

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Posted by Peace Action West on March 19th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

Yesterday, the House voted on Reps. Kucinich and Jones’ resolution that would have directed the president to remove all US troops from Afghanistan within 30 days, and if that was deemed unsafe, by the end of 2011.

The bill gave war opponents in the House another opportunity to draw attention to the failing strategy and to highlight growing public opposition to the war. Rep. Farr (D-CA) summed it up effectively when he took to the floor in support of the resolution:

As many of my colleagues demand $100 billion spending cuts, they need look no further than our reckless war spending. For the good of our troops and the health of our economy, this war must end.

And this viewpoint is shared across the nation. According to a recent Washington Post poll, nearly two-thirds of the American people support an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. Mr. Speaker, our job in this chamber is to represent our constituents, and they have spoken loud and clear. The American people are fed up with a war that has done little to improve our national security or bolster our international standing. Furthermore, after nearly ten years of fighting, it is crystal clear that the problem in Afghanistan cannot be solved by military means alone. Stabilization and reconstruction, governance, and peace-building activities can help to stabilize states, promote rule of law, and bring enduring peace at a sliver of the cost we pay for troops on the ground.

In the end, 93 representatives voted in favor of the bill. While we would have preferred a majority, it’s important to keep in mind that at this time last year, only 65 representatives voted in favor of a nearly identical bill.  That’s significant growth, especially when many members of Congress are hesitant to “tie the president’s hands” with specific dates, especially ones that specifically contradict his stated plan. More and more members of Congress are willing to draw a line and say it’s time to get out. See how your representative voted here.

Some Senate Republicans criticized what they called “mixed messages” about whether the US is staying or going in Afghanistan when General Petraeus testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week. They’re right, though I’m sure we want the administration to affirm the opposite messages. When we continue to get members of Congress on the record with votes like this, we are saying that the one message is clear: it’s time for this war to end.

 

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Posted by DownWithTyranny on March 18th, 2011

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

Rep. Karen Bass did the right thing yesterday

Yesterday Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) pointed out during the debate over NPR that public radio is twice as popular as the American occupation of Afghanistan. That didn’t stop Republicans from ramming through a resolution to defund NPR– or one to keep the war going. Dennis Kucinich’s resolution to safely remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of year had a dozen cosponsors: Mike Capuano (D-MA), John Conyers (D-MI), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Bob Filner (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). In the end, 8 Republicans and 85 Democrats voted to end the occupation. 222 Republicans and 99 Democrats voted for endless war. It failed 93-321.

No Democrats who voted against the resolution will be eligible for a Blue America endorsement in 2012. One of the Republicans eager to continue the war, Dave Reichert in the Seattle suburbs, voted against the wishes of his district. The Democrat– and Blue America endorsee– who almost beat him in 2008 was Darcy Burner. I’m hoping she runs again next year and I asked her how she was thinking about the war during the vote yesterday. She told me “Our strategy in Afghanistan isn’t working. It’s way past time we ended the war. Congressional Republicans claim we’re so broke that we can’t afford to educate our kids, repair our roads, keep cops and firefighters on the job, or invest in clean energy. But then they turn around and vote to keep spending $118 billion per year on our military presence in Afghanistan– more than the cost of all of the catastrophic cuts they’ve proposed combined Our military succeeded in driving al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan. We won. Now let’s come home.”

I also spoke to two pro-peace stalwarts in Florida who Blue America will always be behind, neither of whom had a chance to vote yesterday. Last year Alan Grayson introduced a bill similar to the one Kucinich introduced. I spoke with him on the phone minutes after the vote yesterday and this is what he told me:

We are cutting funds for schools, police departments, fire departments, health clinics, sanitation, water and sewer services, highway departments and public transportation, but it seems like there is always money for war. In the right wing’s New America, you can forget about health, safety, jobs, benefits, reading, writing, and getting from point A to point B. But thanks to our spending almost $1 trillion a year on the military, at least you won’t have to worry about a Soviet invasion.

Nick Ruiz is running for the House seat next door to Alan’s and currently occupied by right-wing rubber stamp Sandy Adams. She voted for more war. He wouldn’t have. “When industrial scale war operations become the number one special interest of the United States government, as evinced by the fact that we spend approximately half of all the revenue we take in on military activities– it comes as no surprise at all, that despite the valiant efforts of Rep. Dennis Kucinich and others to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, they are simply outnumbered, and in this case, outgunned by the radical Republican Right. With order takers like Rep. Sandy Adams all over America ready to execute the agenda of the Republican brass at beckon call– Democrats had better buck up, or the war years shall never end.”

If you’d like to hep Nick’s campaign, you can do it here… or perhaps you want endless war in Afghanistan.

A personal note here. Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign– and an old friend and ally– introduced me to California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass on the night she announced her run for the House seat that Diane Watson was retiring from– the House seat in my own Los Angeles district. Karen has been on the right side of all the tough issues in this state. But after chatting with her about education policy I asked her about Afghanistan. She is against war and went off on Bush. I think I stunned her by reminding her that the occupation of Afghanistan is an Obama problem now, not a Bush problem and I asked her if she would be willing to vote to defund that occupation despite Obama wanting it to continue. She seemed to look at me like I was from another planet. I don’t think the idea had ever crossed her mind. Later when she addressed the whole group of people at Rick’s house she pointed to me– not in an entirely friendly way– and said I wanted her to oppose the president.

Today, I’m proud to say, she did. It was her first war vote and she came through with flying colors, in effect, taking Alan Grayson’s place on the line, voting the way he would have voted. I was so glad the Member of Congress representing my neighborhood really did represent my neighborhood, a neighborhood as adamantly opposed to Obama’s failed occupation of Afghanistan as it was opposed to Bush’s failed war there. Two California Republicans– John Campbell and Dana Rohrabacher– also voted to end the occupation. And so did 20 California Democrats besides Karen Bass– Judy Chu, Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr, Bob Filner, Mike Honda, Barbara Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Doris Matsui, Jerry McNerney, George Miller, Grace Napolitano, Laura Richardson, Linda Sánchez, Loretta Sanchez, Jackie Speier, Pete Stark, Mike Thompson, Maxine Waters, Henry Waxman and Lynn Woolsey.

Except for Mike Capuano (MA), Democrats likely to be seeking higher office next year– Shelley Berkley (NV), Joe Donnelly (IN), Martin Heinrich (NM), and Chris Murphy (CT)– all voted against Kucinich’s resolution.

And is another war looming? An hour after the House voted to continue the occupation of Afghanistan into the knowable future, the UN Security Council voted unanimously– with 5 abstentions (Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India)– for a probably pointless No Fly Zone over All Measures Necessary Against Libya. Voting for the No Fly Zone were the U.S., U.K., France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Gabon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal and South Africa.

The measure allows not only a no-fly zone but effectively any measures short of a ground invasion to halt attacks that might result in civilian fatalities. It comes as Colonel Qaddafi warned residents of Benghazi, Libya, the rebel capital, that an attack was imminent and promised lenient treatment for those who offered no resistance.

…The United States, originally leery of any military involvement in Libya, became a strong proponent of the resolution, particularly after the Arab League approved a no-fly zone, something that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called a “game changer.”

With the recent advances made by pro-Qaddafi forces in the east, there was a growing consensus in the Obama administration that imposing a no-fly zone by itself would no longer make much of a difference and that there was a need for  more aggressive airstrikes that would make targets of Colonel Qaddafi’s tanks and heavy artillery– an option sometimes referred to as a no-drive zone. The United States or its allies might also send military personnel to advise and train the rebels, an official said.

In the most strident verbal attack on Colonel Qaddafi to date by an American official, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that the Western powers had little choice but to provide critical military backing for the rebels. “We want to support the opposition who are standing against the dictator,” she told an applauding audience in Tunisia on Thursday. “This is a man who has no conscience and will threaten anyone in his way.”

She added that Colonel Qaddafi would do “terrible things” to Libya and its neighbors.“It’s just in his nature. There are some creatures that are like that.”

The Qaddafi government responded to the potential United Nations action with threats.

“Any foreign military act against Libya will expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea to danger and civilian and military facilities will become targets of Libya’s counter-attack,” it said in a statement carried on Libyan television and the official news agency, JANA, Reuters reported. “The Mediterranean basin will face danger not just in the short-term, but also in the long-term.”

There were reports on Thursday that warplanes were already bombarding the outskirts of Benghazi for a second day, opening shots, perhaps, in the battle. And after days of batterings at the hands of Qaddafi loyalists, the opposition forces welcomed the promise of Western assistance.

Is a U.S. president allowed to commit troops and stuff without a declaration of war? I thought that was impeachable when Bush did it. What’s the difference?

Tallahassee Teabaggers Demanding Rubio Oppose Unconstitutional U.S. Attack On Libya

Sure, most of the teabaggers are clueless reactionary imbeciles and racists. This group in Tallahassee certainly fits that bill. But they are also demanding their boy Marco Rubio follow Ron Paul down a path against unconstitutional wars against small nations not attacking us, in this case, Libya. Regardless of warmongers Lieberman, McCain and Kerry, most Americans, not just crazed teabaggers, oppose attacking Libya. Will Rubio follow McCain and Lieberman– or stick with the teabaggers who got him into office. Watch Ron Paul on the House floor yesterday:

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