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Archive for March, 2011

Posted by Derrick Crowe on March 9th, 2011

The Pentagon wants you to ignore some inconvenient facts about the failure of the escalation strategy in Afghanistan.

The latest Petraeus/Gates media tour is under way in preparation for the general’s testimony to Congress next week, and they’re trotting out the same, tired spin they’ve been using since McChrystal was replaced in disgrace last year. Despite the most violent year of the war so far, despite the highest civilian and military toll of the war so far, and despite the continued growth of the insurgency, they want you to believe that we’re “making progress.” While they spend this week fudging and shading and spinning, we’ll waste another $2 billion on this brutal, futile war, and we won’t be any closer to “victory” than we are today.

Let me make a couple of predictions about Petraeus’ testimony based on experience. He will attempt to narrow the conversation to a few showcase districts in Afghanistan, use a lot of aspirational language (“What we’re attempting to do,” instead of, “What we’ve done“) and assure the hand-wringers among the congressional hawks that he’ll be happy to suggest to the president that they stay longer in Afghanistan if that’s what he thinks is best. Most importantly, he will try to keep the conversation as far away from a high-level strategic assessment based on his own counterinsurgency doctrine as possible, because if Congress bothers to check his assertions of “progress” against what he wrote in the counterinsurgency manual, he’s in for a world of hurt.

Here’s what Petraeus’ own U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual says about the main goal of a COIN campaign:

“I-113. The primary objective of any COIN operation is to foster development of effective governance by a legitimate government.”

Not by any stretch of the imagination is the counterinsurgency campaign under Petraeus’ direction serving what his own field manual says is the primary goal of his campaign. If we were looking for a legitimate government in Afghanistan, it’s crystal clear that we backed the wrong horse. Hamid Karzai and his family are neck-deep in any number of corruption scandals, the most glaring of which involves the largest private bank in Afghanistan and a sweeping control fraud scheme that has already resulted in unrest across the country. (That scandal, by the way, is likely to result in a U.S.-taxpayer-funded bank bailout for Kabulbank, according to white-collar crime expert Bill Black.) The Karzai administration is an embarrassment of illegitimacy and cronyism, and the local tentacles of the Kabul cartel are as likely to inspire people to join the insurgency as they are to win over popular support.

Even if the Karzai regime where a glimmering example of the rule of law, the military campaign under Petraeus would be utterly failing to achieve what counterinsurgency doctrine holds up as the primary way in which a legitimate government wins over support from the people: securing the population. From the COIN manual:

“5-68. Progress in building support for the HN ["host nation"] government requires protecting the local populace. People who do not believe they are secure from insurgent intimidation, coercion, and reprisals will not risk overtly supporting COIN efforts.”

The United Nations reports that 2010 was the deadliest year of the war for civilians of the decade-long war, and targeted killings of Kabul government officials are at an all-time high. Petraeus often seeks to deflect this point by citing insurgent responsibility for the vast majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, but that is largely beside the point. As his own field manual makes clear, reducing the number of civilians killed by your forces is insufficient according to COIN doctrine. If you can’t protect the population (or the officials within the host nation government!) from insurgent violence and intimidation, you can’t win a counterinsurgency.

Petraeus and Gates like to talk around this blatant break in his own strategic doctrine by narrowing the conversation to what they call “security bubbles.” In his recent remarks following his trip to Afghanistan, Gates spoke of “linking zones of security in Helmand to Kandahar.” But those two provinces have seen huge spikes in violence over the course of the past year, with attacks initiated by insurgents up 124 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Today’s New York Times explains one of the main reasons for these jumps in violence as U.S. troops arrive in new areas:

“[G]enerals have designated scores of rural areas ‘key terrain districts.’ The soldiers are creating, at cost of money and blood, pockets of security.

“But when Americans arrive in a new area, attacks and improvised bombs typically follow — making roads and trails more dangerous for the civilians whom, under current Pentagon counterinsurgency doctrine, the soldiers have arrived to protect.”

The military escalations in Afghanistan have failed their key purpose under counterinsurgency doctrine, which is to secure Afghans from insurgent violence and intimidation.

While the U.S. government is failing to achieve its military objectives in Afghanistan, it’s also failing to make good on the other components of counterinsurgency strategy, especially the civilian/political component. Here’s what The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual says on p. xxix, emphasis mine:

“Nonmilitary Capacity Is the Exit Strategy

“The [counterinsurgency] manual highlights military dependence not simply upon civilian political direction at all levels of operation, but also upon civilian capabilities in the field. ...[T]he primacy of the political requires significant and ongoing civilian involvement at virtually every level of operations.”

To meet this prerequisite for a successful counterinsurgency strategy, the administration promised a “civilian surge” to accompany the military escalation. But the March 8, 2011 edition of The Washington Post shows that the civilian surge has so far been a flop that’s alienating the local population:

“Efforts to improve local government in critical Afghan districts have fallen far behind schedule…according to U.S. and Afghan officials familiar with the program.

“It is now expected to take four more years to assess the needs of more than 80 ‘key terrain’ districts where the bulk of the population lives, based on figures from Afghan officials who said that escalating violence has made it difficult to recruit civil servants to work in the field.

“…Of the 1,100 U.S. civilian officials in Afghanistan, two-thirds are stationed in Kabul, according to the State Department.

“‘At best, our Kabul-based experts simply reinforce the sense of big government coming from Kabul that ultimately alienates populations and leaders in the provinces,’ a former U.S. official said.”

As with the military side of the equation, the civilian side of the strategy is so badly broken that it’s actually pushing us further away from the administration’s stated goals in Afghanistan.

The costs of this pile of failure are huge. It costs us $1 million per troop, per year to maintain our occupation of Afghanistan. That’s $2 billion every week. Politicians at the federal level are contemplating ugly cuts to social safety nets, while politicians at the state level are already shredding programs that protect people suffering in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In this context, the admonitions from the White House and the Pentagon to be patient while this misbegotten strategy limps along the progress-road-to-nowhere seem perverse. The American people have been patient for roughly a decade now, but that patience has run out.

Petraeus and Gates want to you to ignore the ugly truths of the Afghanistan War: it’s not making us safer, and it’s not worth the costs. The escalation strategy isn’t working. It’s not going to work. Enough is enough. End it now.

If you’re fed up with this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the costs, join a local Rethink the Afghanistan War Meetup and follow Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on March 8th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

This from the AP:

The United States is beginning to decide what its responsibilities will be in Afghanistan after U.S. combat troops leave, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday, but he ruled out permanent military bases in the strategically important country.

…Gates said the U.S. is interested in keeping a military presence in this former al-Qaida haven beyond the planned end of combat in three years. At a news conference with Karzai, Gates said a team of U.S. officials would arrive here next week to begin negotiations over a new compact for U.S.-Afghan security relations after 2014.

The Iraq lesson learned is: have a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in place by the US 2012 elections if you want to take the war off the table for discussion. Cynical political manouvering for the win!

But if Gates really wants no permanent bases in Afghanistan then maybe the Pentagon should stop building them. For the fiscal year of 2011 alone, over $1.3 billion in funding was asked of Congress for "multiyear construction of military facilities". And maybe he should explain the about-turn to Karzai, who said back in February that he was in talks with the United States about the possible establishment of permanent US military bases in Afghanistan.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on March 8th, 2011

This Saturday, March 12, people in hundreds of communities across the country and around the world will gather for Rethink the Cost, a worldwide Meetup day organized by Rethink Afghanistan. We’ve put together a list of resources for your groups to use to make sure you have a successful event.

Leaflets

Rethink Afghanistan produced new leaflets to help you get the word out in your local community that the Afghanistan War isn’t making us safer and isn’t worth the cost. If your Meetup group wants to do something immediately on March 12 to make an impact locally, consider printing stacks of these leaflets and distributing them by hand to people in your hometown. Check out the leafleting guide we posted on the Rethink Afghanistan Facebook page for helpful tips as well.

Videos

We’ve compiled our war-cost-related Rethink Afghanistan videos into one YouTube playlist. Use videos from this list to spark conversations at your Meetup about the cost of war, or use your Meetup to plan screenings of these videos in your neighborhood.

5 Things You Should Do to Have a Successful Meetup (shamelessly stolen from various places on the Meetup site):

  • Call your venue a day or two in advance and let them know how many people you expect to come. This will prevent any confusion when you get there. And if it’s a place that you’ve never been to before, you might want to stop by sometime before your Meetup to check it out.
  • Get to the venue a little bit early. This will allow you set aside space and get there before any members do.
  • Bring a Meetup table top sign, or something else that helps members find you: name tags, a distinctive t-shirt – something that lets them know who you are.
  • Be welcoming! Be on the lookout for people wandering around looking lost and ask them if they’re here for the Rethink the Cost Meetup. Stand up and shake each attendee’s hand as they arrive and actually say, “Welcome! We’re glad you’re here!”
  • Bring a digital camera (or a cellphone with a good camera) and encourage your members to do the same! That way you can snap a couple of photos and post them to Flickr with the #RethinktheCost or #RethinkAfghanistan tags, which will let us and other Rethinkers across the country see all the fun you had at your Meetup.

We hope this helps! If you’ve not already RSVP’ed for your local Rethink the Cost Meetup, please do! If there’s not a Meetup near you, you still have time to start your own group. See you on Saturday!

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Posted by alexthurston on March 6th, 2011

(N)ever Again  
Old Secretaries of Defense Never Die, They Just Write Bestselling Memoirs 
By Tom Engelhardt

Talking about secretaries of defense…

Oh, we weren’t?

Well, let’s.  After all, they’re in the news. 

Take former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who, on leaving government service — and I hope you don’t mind if I mangle a quote from General Douglas MacArthur here — refused to die, or even fade away.  Instead, he penned Known and Unknown, a memoir almost as big as his ego and almost as long — 832 pages — as the occupation of Iraq, which promptly hit the bestseller lists (making the American reader a Known Unknown). 

Now, Mr. Known Knowns, etc., is duking it out on Facebook, Sarah-Palin-style, with “the chief gossip-monger of the governing class,” the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward.  Amusingly enough, Woodward has just savaged Rumsfeld for pulling a Woodward in his memoir by playing fast and loose with reality.  He posted his review at the Best Defense (as in, you know, a good offense), the war fightin’ blog of former Washington Post reporter and bestselling author Tom Ricks.  Small world down there in Washington!

It’s enough to make you nostalgic for… well, I have no idea what. 

Meanwhile, present Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, officially preparing to fade away later this year, hit the news as well.  His much-hinted-at retirement now seems like the Titanic looming on the military-industrial horizon.  (Take note, New York publishers and literary agents: Gates wrote a memoir the last time he faded away as CIA Director.  That was back in the Neolithic Age of the elder Bush.  It came out in 1996 and was titled From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War.  Still, chalk that effort up to another century and start preparing the contracts for Into the Shadows, The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Two More Presidents and How They Didn’t Win Much of Anything.)

To be exact, Gates made news by going to West Point to speak to the cadets in what was plugged as the first of a number of “farewell” addresses.  (The second came a week later at the Air Force Academy.)  In the process, he made the headlines for quoting — somewhat oddly — General Douglas (the original fader) MacArthur.

Now, give Gates credit.  The man has superb speechwriters who channel both his obvious intelligence and his sometimes-mordant sense of humor.  (Hint for Hillary: When he leaves the scene, you should grab any wordsmiths he lets loose.  It would help if you laced some self-deprecating humor, however borrowed, into those statements of yours that ­blank [fill in the country, tyrant, or protest movement] must do what you say and then that you just repeat when whoever or whatever predictably doesn’t…)

Examined Heads

…Oh sorry, I dozed off.  What was I saying?

Something about old soldiers?

Anyway, here was the eye-popping quote that everyone picked up and highlighted from Gates’s address:  “But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”

Have his head examined”: strong words indeed, not to say strong advice for his successor!  As quoted, it did sound like a late-in-term awakening on America’s wars.  After all, the Secretary of Defense had to know that it would be the money paragraph, the one reporters would carry off, in a speech significantly about other matters. 

Quoted by itself, it also had to seem like a mix of a mea culpa, a j’accuse aimed at his former boss, President George W. Bush, and his predecessor Rumsfeld, and a never-again statement about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan he’s been overseeing since 2006 and, in the case of Afghanistan, expanding since 2008. 

Those four words from MacArthur seem to tell the only tale worth telling.  Supreme Commander, southwest Pacific area, during World War II, “emperor” of occupied Japan, and commander of United Nations forces in the Korean War until cashiered by President Harry Truman, MacArthur later urged President John F. Kennedy not to get involved in a “land war on mainland Asia” — that is, in Vietnam.

As Christian Science Monitor reporter Brad Knickerbocker typically wrote, Gates’s “recollection of Gen. MacArthur’s famous warning — given to President John F. Kennedy in 1961 as the U.S. buildup in Vietnam was beginning — was a sober message for the young men and women about to become the next generation of U.S. military commanders.”  Gates, in other words, was citing a “famous” example of how MacArthur used his hard-won experience in a terrible, stalemated war in Asia to try to stop another disastrous war a decade later.  A flattering analogy, one might say.

There’s only one problem: it just wasn’t so.  MacArthur’s “famous warning” came not in 1961, but in 1950.  As Michael D. Pearlman explains in his book Truman & MacArthur: Politics, Policy, and the Hunger for Honor and Renown, MacArthur made that comment soon after North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea.  He believed they were only conducting a “reconnaissance-in-force.” On June 26th, 1950, MacArthur, writes Pearlman, “was ‘astonished’ to receive directions to resist the invader.  ‘I don’t believe it.  I can’t understand it.’  John Foster Dulles, who favored a prompt military response, recorded him saying that anyone thinking of throwing American forces into the breech ‘ought to have his head examined.’” 

MacArthur’s urge, then, was prospective, not retrospective — a gut reaction that has, in the last decades, Gates’s decades, been notably absent in Washington.  There’s no way of knowing whether this was clear to Gates or his speechwriter, but under the circumstances it was an odder phrase to quote than the reporters covering his address imagined, for it highlighted an essential problem with Gates and the rest of Washington’s global wrecking crew.  For them, the idea of going in has seldom been an alien one.  It’s going in the wrong way that bothers them — and the problem (as Gates essentially admitted in his speech) is that you only know it’s the wrong way afterwards.

That striking quote of his, read in the context of his full speech, leaves a somewhat different taste behind.  Even the assumed prohibition against future Iraq- and Afghan-style wars is more cryptic than you might imagine.  The best Gates can do is this: “The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq — invading, pacifying, and administering a large third world country — may be low.”  Low, but not evidently nil in a world where all options always remain “on the table.”

Of course, his real focus at West Point was on quite a different kind of conflict.  He was there, in a sense, on a business trip to the future as the deliverer of prospective bad news to the future officers of the U.S. Army.  Their leaders, he wanted to tell them, were about to lose an intra-service struggle for the fruits of the still-growing but increasingly embattled Pentagon budget in economically fierce times.

In terms of future funding, and so future war-fighting, their service, he was there to tell them, was not well positioned.  “The Army,” he said, “also must confront the reality that the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements — whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf, or elsewhere.”

(Note to journalists in a collapsing industry: it’s not often that a long-gone beat comes back, but that’s the case here.  In the 1950s, the services fought bitterly for shares of a far more limited military budget.  In fact, for a funds-starved Army in the early 1960s, Vietnam was, in budgetary terms, its breakout moment.  Now, budgetary war in Washington, missing-in-action for decades, is back, so the Secretary of Defense insisted.)

At West Point, but not at the Air Force Academy, think of Gates, then, as the Grim Reaper of military careers, telling the cadets that their future wouldn’t be in giant, never-to-be-used tank forces and that he was worried about just how they would indeed be employed.  As if to emphasize his point, on the very same day, another fading warrior, retiring Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey, Jr., was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, even though dreaming of a future “sipping Coronas [and] watching sunsets on the beach in Scituate [Massachusetts].”  There, he was to give his own valedictory to the Association of the U.S. Army and the “Defense Industry,” while making a most un-Gatesian plea for that same pot of gold. 

Wielding an infamous Vietnam-era phrase, the general worried that unnamed government types already “think they see the light at the end of the Afghanistan tunnel” and so were clamoring to cut the Army’s budget, even though the U.S. remains in an “era of persistent conflict.” He then issued this warning:

“A Nation weary of war, struggling to get its domestic economy going again, looks to cash in on a ‘Peace Dividend’ and drastically cut back on defense. But, we’ve seen time and again that a ‘Peace Dividend’ is, at best, a mirage and, at worst, a danger to the long-term security of our Country, our allies and our interests… [W]e simply cannot afford to dismantle this incredible Army that we have so painstakingly built over the past decade.” 

“We Have Never Once Gotten It Right”

Let’s assume that, after so many years overseeing the Afghan War, Gates may, in fact, be a somewhat chastened man.  Perhaps there is evidence of this in his carefully articulated reluctance (as well as that of Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen) to do the American thing and throw the U.S. military at any problem — in this case, a no-fly-zone over Libya. It’s certainly evidence that General Casey and the Secretary of Defense agree on one thing: they are dealing with a “stressed and tired” force.  After two wars in a single decade, with a Global War on Terror thrown in, the thought of launching yet another campaign “in another country in the Middle East” might well leave any Secretary of Defense feeling sour.

Of course, given the twin disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan, who on Earth would want to repeat them?  Gates does seem, however provisionally, to be sidelining the recent Holy Grail of the U.S. Army and its key commander, General David Petraeus: counterinsurgency, or COIN.  If there are to be no more major land wars in Asia, then evidently U.S. soldiers won’t be spending much time “protecting the people” and “nation-building” either. 

However briefly, Gates offered the cadets a glimpse of a different war-fighting future (one that sounded eerily reminiscent of Donald Rumsfeld’s once bright and shiny vision of a faster-than-lightning, “net-centric” Army lite). “The strategic rationale for swift-moving expeditionary forces, be they Army or Marines, airborne infantry or special operations,” Gates said, “is self-evident given the likelihood of counterterrorism, rapid reaction, disaster response, or stability or security force assistance missions.” 

In other words, instead of “shock and awe,” “regime change,” and long-term occupations, he now imagines “counterterror” as well as air force and naval operations against “terrorists, insurgents, militia groups, rogue states, or emerging powers” that would be so decisive and effective as to “to prevent festering problems from growing into full-blown crises which require costly — and controversial — large-scale American military intervention.”

It sounds brilliantly un-Afghan, doesn’t it?

In other words, Gates seems to have a better idea of how, in the future, to go in.  What his speech lacked was any suggestion, no less analysis, of how to get out of the war that remains, for the months to come, his responsibility. 

Recently, journalist Dexter Filkins wrote a review of Bing West’s new book, The Wrong War, in the New York Times.  As much as anything else, it offered a devastating portrait of counterinsurgency (“a new kind of religion”) in Afghanistan as a failed faith.  Filkins, who covered both Iraq and Afghanistan for the Times, concludes that counterinsurgency has failed big time in the Afghan context, creating only a “vast culture of dependency: Americans are fighting and dying, while the Afghans by and large stand by and do nothing to help them.”  Gates may well agree.

Filkins also seems unconvinced that slipping more COINs in the Afghan slot machine will improve the situation significantly.  (“[N]othing short of a miracle will give [Americans] much in return.”)   For all we know, Gates may agree with this, too.

Here’s the catch: nearly 10 years into our second Afghan War, Filkins simply can’t seem to imagine a way out of the failed effort, or much else but more of the same.  It’s there that the discussion simply ends for him, as it does for the Secretary of Defense, as it does, generally speaking, for Washington. 

Gates himself is now preparing to depart (some might say jump ship) with his war still at a boil.  At West Point, he had advice galore for the next Secretary of Defense, and yet it’s striking that his speech avoided a serious look at Afghanistan and how to end his war.  He was perfectly willing to offer the cadets a window into the future on a range of subjects — on almost anything, in fact, but that war. 

When it came to his primary responsibility, however, all he offered was this fragment of a sentence, a reference assumedly to American contingency-based drawdown plans to remove “combat troops,” but not tens of thousands of trainers and other forces by the end of 2014: “…after large U.S. combat units are substantially drawn down in Afghanistan…”  (In his subsequent address to the Air Force Academy, he denied that anything he said at West Point was an attack on “the wisdom of our involvement in Afghanistan.”)  

The Secretary of Defense was clear on one thing: it’s a joke to imagine that you can predict the future trajectory of war, American-style.  “And I must tell you,” he said in his second most quotable set of lines, “when it comes to predicting the nature and location of our next military engagements, since Vietnam, our record has been perfect.  We have never once gotten it right, from the Mayaguez to Grenada, Panama, Somalia, the Balkans, Haiti, Kuwait, Iraq, and more — we had no idea a year before any of these missions that we would be so engaged.”

And yet he still dreams of those future “swift-moving expeditionary forces” heading towards places which will surely maintain that “perfect record.”

Of course, it’s worth remembering that not everybody got everything wrong.  In response to most of those wars, there were antiwar movements, large or small, that said: wrong place, wrong time, wrong idea, get out.  And not all of this happened retrospectively either.  In the specific case of Iraq, for instance, an enormous antiwar movement preceded the war and offered this piece of clear advice in no uncertain terms: don’t do it!

That movement was right.  The war-makers were wrong.  Yet no one from that movement is taken seriously in the mainstream media or in Washington to this day.

Here’s something important to remember: Vietnam did not start out as “Vietnam,” nor Iraq as “Iraq,” nor Afghanistan as “Afghanistan.” The fabulous dreams of doing it right always precede the horrific wars and, time after time, those in power never seem to feel MacArthur’s urge not to do it.  Somehow, they never imagine that, sooner or later, disaster and blowback will be in the offing, though based on recent history that’s the only reasonable prediction to make in such circumstances.

Almost a decade after we invaded Afghanistan and “triumphed,” our latest “wise men” — in Washington and in the media — are still at a loss.  The inability to win or be reasonably successful over so many years has, by now, penetrated almost, but not quite, never quite, to the core, leaving them bereft of solutions, except for continuing without serious hope.  And when it comes to this, too, for those who remember Vietnam, there’s nothing new under the sun.

Unexamined Heads

The problem isn’t that no one can predict the next war.  It’s that so many heads in Washington go unexamined.  As a result, our leaders are desperately behind the learning curve of Americans generally. 

Perhaps this is the moment to offer a simple future lesson for the Secretary of Defense — if not the one who will leave office in 2011 with the Afghan War still roaring along, then the next one — and here it is: it doesn’t really matter whether you go in big with tanks and counterinsurgency-style nation-building on the brain or small with a counterterror-lite footprint backed by air power. 

The issue Gates, like his peers, still focuses on is how to go in better.  The issue that needs to be focused on isn’t the “how to” but the going in

The lesson that Washington still seems incapable of drawing from its endless experience of such wars in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is this: don’t go in, because the Age of Intervention is over.

It really doesn’t matter whether ours is “the finest military in the world,” as Gates assured the cadets, or “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known” as our presidents have taken to saying.  It doesn’t matter that the U.S. Army is battle-hardened and that it has years of counterinsurgency experience under its belt.  It doesn’t matter whether we favor the Navy and the Air Force over the Army in our future wars.  What matters is going to war.  What matters is the illusion that military power is our key problem-solver, our go-to position of choice.

It’s time, once and for all, to lock the gates.  It’s time to use the U.S. military only in the genuine defense of this country. 

It doesn’t seem like the hardest lesson in human history to grasp, but it has been: don’t go in.  This isn’t a utopian’s recipe, but a realist’s.  You just have to remind yourself that your intervention will never turn out the way you fantasize or plan, no matter what your fantasies or plans may be.

Let me say it one more time because I know no one’s listening: don’t do it. 

Afterward, write your 832-page books, enjoy your honors, duke it out with journalists, but when you’re Secretary of Defense, your job is to defend America against the urge to intervene.  Intervention doesn’t work.  Not in the long run, often not in the short one either.  Not these days.  Not at all. 

Your job is somehow, in a Washington that can’t imagine such a thing, to turn ever again into never again.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com.  His latest book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books). To listen to a TomCast audio version of this post, read by Ralph Pochoda, click here or download it to your iPod, here.

[Note of thanks to: Jim Peck for helping spark this one, Ralph Pochoda for reading the TomCast audio version so sonorously, and the indispensible Christopher Holmes for applying his remarkable proofreading eye not just to this piece but to every TomDispatch piece.  A deep bow to all three.  In addition, for those of you eager to keep up on American war and fast-moving events in the Middle East, be sure to check out three sites that I find invaluable and visit daily: Juan Cole’s Informed Comment website, Paul Woodward’s War in Context website, and of course Antiwar.com.]

Copyright 2011 Tom Engelhardt

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Posted by DownWithTyranny on March 5th, 2011

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!


-by Doug Kahn

Here’s how it goes down in Sheriff Joe’s gulag, as written in the Arizona Republic last November: 

Inmate William Hughes, 24, was shown in a jail surveillance video being led by three escort officers into a room in the psychiatric ward of the Lower Buckeye Jail. After the officers bend Hughes– who is manacled and handcuffed and wearing a “spit mask”– over the table, Gerster is seen walking almost casually up to the table, stepping lightly onto it, then placing a foot onto Hughes’ neck and evidently leaning onto his foot.

After Gerster takes his foot off Hughes’ neck, another detention officer, Alan Keesee, walks up to the table and slams Hughes’ head against the surface. Keesee, 32, was detained Monday for questioning and released.

Charges against both officers are pending.

Later in the video, Hughes is seen being led by deputies toward a cell, and Gerster is seen punching Hughes four times in the back of the head and kicking him in the left leg.

In another video, made on June 5, inmate Michael Flores, 28, who was being restrained on a psychiatric-ward bed but evidently using abusive language, is apparently struck in the jaw by Gerster, who was under orders to supervise the inmate during his time under restraint.

Be aware that this video shows gross brutality against a human being. 

From the Phoenix NewTimes last December 3, about the June 5 beat-down of Michael Flores: 

In a second instance, inmate Michael Flores is seen chained to a bed in a cell after it was claimed he was aggressive with deputies and banged his head against a wall. As dictated by jail policy, Gerster was monitoring the bound inmate from behind a desk just outside of the open cell.

“He was probably mouthing off,” Chief Jerry Sheridan, chief of custody for the county’s jails, said at the press conference.

Out of nowhere, Gerster jumps from his chair, tosses the desk aside, goes into the cell, and punches Flores in the face.

Flores went to a hospital 3 days after his release and was found to have a broken jaw. The hospital staff called the Sheriff’s Department to report the injury, and they supposedly started an investigation. Remember that these are the Sheriff’s Department’s own videos.
 
Chief Sheridan’s excuses, after the press and public saw the videos: 

“There were more than 14 hours of videotape to be reviewed, and Mr. Flores was not always available to talk to,” Sheridan said. “Also, there was the matter of due process. But when the November incident took place, we went back to the June incident.”

The reference to ‘due process’ is apparently the Sheriff’s excuse for not taking Gerster off the job in September, when this occurred:

Gerster is also under arrest for using the jail’s computer system to get the home address of an inmate, then giving the address to a friend whose estranged wife was dating the inmate, Sheridan said.

Authorities allege that Gerster’s friend used the information to locate the former inmate, then assault him and the estranged wife. Gerster’s friend, Dennis McCarty, was arrested by Tempe police Sept. 19 and charged with aggravated assault, burglary and criminal damage.

Arpaio and Sheridan said an investigation is under way into the actions of officers who witnessed the actions of Gerster and Keesee.

Sheriff Joe’s comment:  

“It’s tough being a detention officer.” Arpaio said he is also reviewing how detention officers are assigned to the “extremely demanding” psychiatric ward duty. “I will look at having volunteer officers in the psych ward,” Arpaio said. “Perhaps we can find people who will be best suited to work in that environment.”

Now, Leave Arizona and Go Back to Civilization
 
John Boehner’s statement last week that union members are terrorists: 

“We’ve given them a machine gun and put it right at the heads of the local officials and they really have their hands tied.”

So they tie their hands behind their backs and murder them? 

Is this an example of language that tends to mainstream images of violent, armed aggression? Because it came from a man in a prominent position of responsibility in government, 3rd in the line of succession to the Presidency, does it help create a more permissive set of acceptable public actions, enabling the unhinged among us to actualize their most deranged thoughts, commit acts like the Tucson shootings of Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other people, killing six of them?
 
If you agree, you’re happy about the formation of The National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona. 

“This institute is the right people in the right place at the right time,” said Fred DuVal, vice chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents and former co-chairman of Giffords’s finance committee.

The center will be funded with private donations, and $1 million has already been raised, said DuVal, who will head the working board of the institute, which is his brainchild. The institute plans to organize workshops and conferences in Tucson, Washington and elsewhere nationwide, and will bring together leaders from across the political spectrum to develop programs to promote civil discourse.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush will serve as honorary chairmen of a new center at the University of Arizona that will focus on civility in political debate, university officials will announce Monday.

Do We Really Need To Look at Violent Words? 

Don’t actions speak louder than words? How about having national and local leaders who avoid committing or ordering violence against other human beings, unless it’s absolutely, positively necessary. Beyond that, it’s essential for all of us to debate the why, when and who of government-sanctioned violence.
 
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Torturing people suspected of being present in the room when violence against Americans was discussed, then keeping them in prison indefinitely without trial, even when our own government has come around to thinking they’re innocent.
 
Instituting a policy accepting the killing of hundreds of innocent people, including children, in drone strikes inside Pakistan. These strikes are purportedly against suspected terrorists; targeting done by mercenaries, or contract killers, if you will. Creepy apologies from our employees, terming the killing of innocent people regrettable but necessary. Bombing, rocketing and strafing people in remote valleys of Afghanistan, based on sketchy ‘intelligence’. And when investigators from the government of Afghanistan finds 65 people, including children, were killed in one incident, quibbling over the number of innocents killed.)  

Hiring mercenaries to wage a secret war in Pakistan, and trying to make contract killers immune to prosecution under the justice system of Pakistan by claiming they’re actually U.S. diplomats. The New York Times

The New York Times had agreed to temporarily withhold information about Mr. Davis’s ties to the agency at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk. Several foreign news organizations have disclosed some aspects of Mr. Davis’s work with the C.I.A.

On Monday, American officials lifted their request to withhold publication. George Little, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to comment specifically on the Davis matter, but said in a statement: “Our security personnel around the world act in a support role providing security for American officials. They do not conduct foreign intelligence collection or covert operations.”

Since the United States is not at war in Pakistan, the American military is largely restricted from operating in the country. So the Central Intelligence Agency has taken on an expanded role, operating armed drones that kill militants inside the country and running covert operations, sometimes without the knowledge of the Pakistanis.

The government of Pakistan reports that 851 U.S. State Department employees have diplomatic immunity in Pakistan. Diplomats. Absurd.
 
Distributing Tasers, weapons with lethal capabilities, to tens of thousands of police officers, without strict guidelines; leading to many officers shocking people, some fatally, even when extreme force isn’t necessary. (Haven’t we already settled this, proscribing the indiscriminate use of rubber bullets and night sticks?) Digby chronicles the worst of these incidents on Hullabaloo; just head on over and search for ‘taser’. 

This week, from the New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — Nine young boys collecting firewood to heat their homes in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan were killed by gunners in NATO helicopters who mistook them for insurgents, according to a statement issued Wednesday by NATO, which apologized for the mistake.

I may be too suspicious of the Times and the our Government, but could we have some kind of general description of these “gunners”? Were they actually soldiers or mercenaries? What nationality? This isn’t some kind of video game with anonymous “gunners”, it’s human beings blowing up other human beings. 

In criminal law, Blackstone’s ratio is the principle: “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”, expressed by the English jurist William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in the 1760s. That’s civilization, civility. Designating ‘kill zones’ and blasting any human who crosses into the area: not.

I’m not someone with the right to condemn the soldiers who are ordered to kill people without cause. I have no doubt they’ll spend the rest of their lives bearing the spiritual pain of following inhuman orders. I don’t have any idea what that could be like. My draft card arrived at boarding school in 1969, and I tore it up, but I won the draft lottery and never had to pay up. 

Anybody mind if I blame President Obama and numerous Democrats in Congress? The escalation in Afghanistan was his big idea, and I don’t know if he actually believes in it, or uses it as a way to prove himself tough enough to appeal to some unevolved segment of the American electorate. I think it’s the latter, but I admit my perception is influenced by the way regular Democrats in Arizona act when it comes to the issue of immigration.
 
Arizona Democratic elected officials, almost without exception, lack the moral courage to stand up for the rights of ordinary Arizonans (who happen to not be white people), choosing instead to ‘fit in’ by incessantly calling for militarization of the border with Mexico, inveighing against ‘the Mexican drug- and human-smuggling cartels’. Their latest public relations barrage criticizes the Republicans in Congress for voting to cut $600 million from funds available for border control. At least that’s what the press releases claim; probably it was a cut in the budget for the Department of Homeland Security, and I’m too disgusted to want to look into the specifics. It’s the thought that counts, and it’s a rotten cave-in, a calculated misdirection away from the duty to lead people towards more civilized policies.
 
The Tucson Institute is many steps removed from the important debate; I sure hope it doesn’t just focus on creating a list of acceptable metaphors for public debate. 

The National Institute for Civil Discourse – a nonpartisan center for debate, research, education and policy about civility in public discourse– will open Monday in Tucson. It was created in the aftermath of the Jan. 8 shootings in the city where six people were killed and 13 injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor and former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) will serve as honorary co-chairmen. Board members will include former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright; Kenneth M. Duberstein, chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan; Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren; Trey Grayson, director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics; and former representative Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.).

Is it really necessary to debate this point? Anyone with an ounce of spirituality knows this without thinking about it.  

Words are like wind and waves; actions are a matter of gain and loss. Wind and waves are easily moved; questions of gain and loss easily lead to danger. Hence anger arises from no other cause than clever words and one-sided speeches. When animals face death, they do not care what cries they make; their breath comes in gasps and a wild fierceness is born in their hearts. Men, too, if you press them too hard, are bound to answer you with ill-natured hearts, though they do not know why they do so. If they themselves do not understand why they behave like this, then who knows where it will end?

 
Arpaio Nation
 
Arizona is a place where our most prominent public servants, people who are supposed to teach, by example, the proper behavior of citizens in a civilized society, instead glorify guns and lay hands on people. Where they beat the hell out of residents of Joe’s jail. Where a pregnant inmate with a drug addiction was taken to the hospital by Arpaio’s deputies when she went into labor, and the Sheriff insisted she be handcuffed to the bed during the birth of her child.
 
February 3, 2009, Arpaio marched 200 people in his custody (the overwhelming majority Latin@s) into their new tent city, segregated from the rest of the inmates. In chains, shackled together, wearing striped uniforms labeled “unsentenced”. (70% of Joe’s prisoners are just awaiting trial, convicted of nothing.) It was different from a previous spectacle, when he made the inmates march wearing pink underwear and flip-flops. The Phoenix NewTimes’ Stephen Lemons talked to a former State Senator who is one of the driving forces behind the current national boycott of Arizona convention and tourist facilities: 

As I was leaving, I waylaid Alfredo Gutierrez, whose new bilingual Web site Lat Frontera Times is a must read these days, and asked if he knew how Arpaio could top himself after this latest circus act.

“Public floggings,” he quipped. “Every time he does one of  these things, it increases the level of audaciousness… I used to think, ‘Well, now, he’s gone too far, and the public’s gonna have some revulsion to this.’ But I don’t believe that any more. I think he’s got kind of a zeitgeist of hate out there. This Romanesque show is going to resonate.”

After the Tucson massacre in January, a different Sheriff talked to the Arizona Republic about the celebration of violence in Arizona.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was leaving a sheriffs convention in Palm Springs, Calif., a week ago Saturday when he got word of a shooting just outside Tucson.

“Seven people shot. That’s all we knew,” he said.

On the six-hour drive back, he heard more details on the radio. That it was at a town-hall meeting outside a supermarket. That U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot point-blank in the head and was clinging to life. That the gunman, young and possibly mentally unstable, kept firing and killing and wounding others before being tackled and disarmed.

He arrived at headquarters and about a half-hour later was standing before reporters to give a briefing. He started speaking about his friend, Giffords, and about his sadness and his shock. Then, he gave voice to his anger.

What Dupnik said next catapulted him into the national spotlight: The killer, he said, might have been influenced by ugly political rhetoric. He called it “vitriol.” He blamed radio and television commentators.

Some talk-show hosts and politicians denounced him, saying he was placing politics over law enforcement. Others praised him for speaking the truth.

“I’d been feeling those things for years,” Dupnik said in an interview with the Arizona Republic. “I decided to say what I was feeling.”

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on March 4th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Derrick Crowe

Fresh from the reported killing of more than 60 civilians, U.S. forces in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, killed nine boys gathering firewood on a mountainside. General Petraeus says he's sorry.

"We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and, most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions," Gen. Petraeus said in a statement. "These deaths should have never happened."

Too little, too late, general. Nine boys now lie among thousands of others who had a right to life independent of U.S. goals in Afghanistan, and "sorry" doesn't cut it, especially from the general who's tripling the air war over Afghanistan. Air strikes are the leading tactic involved when U.S. and coalition forces kill civilians. We know this. We use them anyway. These boys' deaths, or at least the idea of these boys' deaths, were factored in to a calculation and deemed insufficient to deter the use of air power long before they died, and their deaths don't seem to have changed Petraeus' or ISAF's calculus. Sorry doesn't cut it.

But at least Petraeus didn't try to blame the boys' families for blowing them up to frame him this time.

Sorry certainly doesn't cut it for the brother of one of the dead:

"I don't care about the apology," Mohammed Bismil, the 20-year-old brother of two boys killed in the strike, said in a telephone interview. "The only option I have is to pick up a Kalashnikov, RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] or a suicide vest to fight."

President Obama says he's sorry, too:

President Obama expressed his deep regret for the tragic accident in Kunar Province in which nine Afghans were killed. The President conveyed his condolences to the Afghan people and stressed that he and General Petraeus take such incidents very seriously. President Obama and President Karzai agreed that such incidents undermine our shared efforts in fighting terrorism.

Oh, good, he takes such incidents "very seriously." Here's a fun thought experiment: can you imagine President Obama (or any high-ranking visiting U.S. dignitary, for that matter) scheduling a visit to the graveside of any civilian victim of U.S.-fired munitions on his next trip to Afghanistan? Give me a call when the images from that photo-op make the front pages, would you?

I don't doubt for a second that President Obama and much of Washington officialdom think that they take these deaths very seriously. Yet, they continue to rubber-stamp funds and to approve a strategy and various supporting tactics that are guaranteed to cause future incidents like these. Because that's the case, they're conscripting tax money that we send to D.C. every year for the purpose of building our nation together into policies that we don't support and which kill people for whom we feel no malice. In fact, the strategies and tactics are so ill-conceived that they're putting our money into the hands of insurgents who kill U.S. troops.

From Talking Points Memo:

After nearly a decade of mismanagement, theft and fraud, the U.S. military still hasn't found a way to staunch the flow of what is likely hundreds of millions — if not billions — of dollars in lost fuel in Afghanistan, some of which is sold on the black market and winds up in Taliban hands, a TPM investigation has found.

…When TPM asked Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), a longtime member of the defense spending panel, about the fuel losses on Wednesday, Moran was well-versed on the topic, noting that he and other members of the committee had received private briefings by defense officials about the thorny security, logistics and corruption issues posed by the fuel theft.

Over the years, the transport of the fuel into the country at times has involved agreements to siphon a portion to outside parties in order to guarantee safe passage of the trucks, Moran said, and some of that fuel has ended up in enemy hands.

This same news story also included mention of a report from last year that showed that U.S. taxpayer funds funneled through protection rackets was one of the insurgents' most significant sources of funding:

…A House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee investigation last year revealed that the companies under the host-nation contract often paid private security contractors to ensure safe passage through Afghanistan. The security contractors, in turn, made protection payment to local warlords in exchange for their agreement to prevent attacks.

"In many cases, the investigation discovered, these protection payments made their way into the hands of warlords and, directly or indirectly, the very insurgents that U.S. forces were fighting," Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), the ranking member of the national security oversight subcommittee, wrote in a January letter to Issa highlighting the problems with the trucking contract.

Even completed big-ticket completed projects intended to win hearts and minds for the coalition have resulted in new funding streams for insurgents. From Yahoo! News:

WASHINGTON – By pumping more than $100 million into a hydropower plant, the United States sought to improve the lives of Afghans and win the hearts and minds of tribesmen and farmers who might otherwise turn to the Taliban insurgency. Instead, a prominent outside Pentagon adviser argues, the bungled boondoggle ended up funding the insurgents while doing little to help the United States end the war and bring troops home.

…Half the electricity from the project in the volatile Helmand province goes to Taliban territory, enabling America's enemies to issue power bills and grow the poppies that finance their insurgency, he says.

With our money fueling the insurgency and our killing of civilians driving more people to join the Taliban's side every week, it's little wonder that the insurgency continues to grow in size and sophistication. But that brings us back to that calculation, the one that put those nine dead boys in the column titled "Acceptable Losses." With official promises that more troops would lead to more security for ordinary Afghans having collapsed so badly that they read like a bad joke, what could possibly justify this continued bonfire of lives and resources in Afghanistan? The war's not making us safer and it's not worth the cost. Dragging this out until 2014 won't change that one bit.

This week U.S. forces burned children along with the firewood they were gathering. If we allow this brutal, futile war to continue, you can bet that more children and more of our resources will be kindling to a fire that's not keeping anybody warm. The American people want our troops brought home, and it's time President Obama and Congress took that "very seriously."

If you're fed up with this war that's not making us safer and that's not worth the cost, join a Rethink Afghanistan Meetup near you and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on March 4th, 2011

Fresh from the reported killing of more than 60 civilians, U.S. forces in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, killed nine boys gathering firewood on a mountainside. General Petraeus says he’s sorry.

“We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and, most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions,” Gen. Petraeus said in a statement. “These deaths should have never happened.”

Too little, too late, general. Nine boys now lie among thousands of others who had a right to life independent of U.S. goals in Afghanistan, and “sorry” doesn’t cut it, especially from the general who’s tripling the air war over Afghanistan. Air strikes are the leading tactic involved when U.S. and coalition forces kill civilians. We know this. We use them anyway. These boys’ deaths, or at least the idea of these boys’ deaths, were factored in to a calculation and deemed insufficient to deter the use of air power long before they died, and their deaths don’t seem to have changed Petraeus’ or ISAF’s calculus. Sorry doesn’t cut it.

But at least Petraeus didn’t try to blame the boys’ families for blowing them up to frame him this time.

Sorry certainly doesn’t cut it for the brother of one of the dead:

“I don’t care about the apology,” Mohammed Bismil, the 20-year-old brother of two boys killed in the strike, said in a telephone interview. “The only option I have is to pick up a Kalashnikov, RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] or a suicide vest to fight.”

President Obama says he’s sorry, too:

President Obama expressed his deep regret for the tragic accident in Kunar Province in which nine Afghans were killed. The President conveyed his condolences to the Afghan people and stressed that he and General Petraeus take such incidents very seriously. President Obama and President Karzai agreed that such incidents undermine our shared efforts in fighting terrorism.

Oh, good, he takes such incidents “very seriously.” Here’s a fun thought experiment: can you imagine President Obama (or any high-ranking visiting U.S. dignitary, for that matter) scheduling a visit to the graveside of any civilian victim of U.S.-fired munitions on his next trip to Afghanistan? Give me a call when the images from that photo-op make the front pages, would you?

I don’t doubt for a second that President Obama and much of Washington officialdom think that they take these deaths very seriously. Yet, they continue to rubber-stamp funds and to approve a strategy and various supporting tactics that are guaranteed to cause future incidents like these. Because that’s the case, they’re conscripting tax money that we send to D.C. every year for the purpose of building our nation together into policies that we don’t support and which kill people for whom we feel no malice. In fact, the strategies and tactics are so ill-conceived that they’re putting our money into the hands of insurgents who kill U.S. troops.

From Talking Points Memo:

After nearly a decade of mismanagement, theft and fraud, the U.S. military still hasn’t found a way to staunch the flow of what is likely hundreds of millions — if not billions — of dollars in lost fuel in Afghanistan, some of which is sold on the black market and winds up in Taliban hands, a TPM investigation has found.

…When TPM asked Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), a longtime member of the defense spending panel, about the fuel losses on Wednesday, Moran was well-versed on the topic, noting that he and other members of the committee had received private briefings by defense officials about the thorny security, logistics and corruption issues posed by the fuel theft.

Over the years, the transport of the fuel into the country at times has involved agreements to siphon a portion to outside parties in order to guarantee safe passage of the trucks, Moran said, and some of that fuel has ended up in enemy hands.

This same news story also included mention of a report from last year that showed that U.S. taxpayer funds funneled through protection rackets was one of the insurgents’ most significant sources of funding:

…A House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee investigation last year revealed that the companies under the host-nation contract often paid private security contractors to ensure safe passage through Afghanistan. The security contractors, in turn, made protection payment to local warlords in exchange for their agreement to prevent attacks.

“In many cases, the investigation discovered, these protection payments made their way into the hands of warlords and, directly or indirectly, the very insurgents that U.S. forces were fighting,” Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), the ranking member of the national security oversight subcommittee, wrote in a January letter to Issa highlighting the problems with the trucking contract.

Even completed big-ticket completed projects intended to win hearts and minds for the coalition have resulted in new funding streams for insurgents. From Yahoo! News:

WASHINGTON – By pumping more than $100 million into a hydropower plant, the United States sought to improve the lives of Afghans and win the hearts and minds of tribesmen and farmers who might otherwise turn to the Taliban insurgency. Instead, a prominent outside Pentagon adviser argues, the bungled boondoggle ended up funding the insurgents while doing little to help the United States end the war and bring troops home.

…Half the electricity from the project in the volatile Helmand province goes to Taliban territory, enabling America’s enemies to issue power bills and grow the poppies that finance their insurgency, he says.

With our money fueling the insurgency and our killing of civilians driving more people to join the Taliban’s side every week, it’s little wonder that the insurgency continues to grow in size and sophistication. But that brings us back to that calculation, the one that put those nine dead boys in the column titled “Acceptable Losses.” With official promises that more troops would lead to more security for ordinary Afghans having collapsed so badly that they read like a bad joke, what could possibly justify this continued bonfire of lives and resources in Afghanistan? The war’s not making us safer and it’s not worth the cost. Dragging this out until 2014 won’t change that one bit.

This week U.S. forces burned children along with the firewood they were gathering. If we allow this brutal, futile war to continue, you can bet that more children and more of our resources will be kindling to a fire that’s not keeping anybody warm. The American people want our troops brought home, and it’s time President Obama and Congress took that “very seriously.”

If you’re fed up with this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost, join a Rethink Afghanistan Meetup near you and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on March 4th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

As if it wasn't already obvious enough, it must have occured to even the folks in the White House by now that events over the past month or so in the Middle East have shown up the Afghanistan occupation for the sideshow it truly is.

We've seen demonstrations and revolts across all of North Africa in search of freedom and democracy, with nary an Al Qaeda jihadi in sight. For years to come, the aftermath of these past weeks is likely to be the West's primary foreign policy focus, presenting a massive opportunity for progress in human rights and economic growth for the region which would benefit the whole world.

But that opportunity could well be squandered if we keep on wasting – yes, wasting – thousands of lives and up to $100 billion a year on bombing wood collecting kids in Afghanistan while encouraging neighbour Pakistan to be a two-faced ally at the cost of more billions.

(It could also be squandered if the US and its allies give in to the neoliberal/neoconseravtive love for military intervention at the drop of a hat. The West invading or bombing yet another Muslim nation, with inevitable civilian casulaties, is Bin Laden's wet dream.)

That Afghanistan is now obviously marginal to Western security interests is so obvious even the Financial Times is calling for the insanity to end. And when you've lost the Financial Times…

Still, the US and its allies continue to plan for an "enduring presence" in Afghanistan with at least 30,000 troops, on permanent military bases, occupying that nation well beyond any spurious "withdrawal" in 2014. Anti-occupation logic has won the argument and events have overtaken any rational reason for remaining, but remain we will. "Our politicians keep the troops there because they are too cowardly to admit their terrible mistake and bring them home."

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Posted by Peace Action West on March 3rd, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

Earlier this week in Afghanistan, NATO helicopter gunners killed 9 Afghan boys who were gathering firewood, mistaking them for insurgents. One 14-year-old was the sole breadwinner of his family, and he left behind 13 sisters and 2 mothers. This is the third time in the last 2 weeks that foreign forces have been accused of killing civilians.

Meanwhile here at home, Republicans in Congress are waging a war on the working people of this country, slashing social programs while leaving the war budget untouched.

The war is destroying Afghan lives while fueling painful cuts to programs here at home. It’s time to end it. Please tell your representative and senators to cosponsor new legislation to end the war in Afghanistan.

Three leaders in Congress have introduced new legislation that will pressure the administration to end the war in Afghanistan:
•    Sen. Barbara Boxer’s bill requires the president to present a timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan to Congress.
•    Rep. Barbara Lee has reintroduced her bill to prohibit military spending in Afghanistan unless it is used for a safe and orderly withdrawal.
•    Rep. Woolsey’s new bill directs the president to negotiate an agreement with the Afghan government that would prohibit permanent US military bases and include a timeline for withdrawal.

Click here to tell your representative and senators to cosponsor these important bills.

A military withdrawal is set to start in July, but the president hasn’t said how significant that withdrawal will be, and when the war will end. Some officials are downplaying the July milestone. Defense Secretary Robert Gates referred to it as a “judo” move that would trick the Taliban into thinking the US was leaving when it really wasn’t.  With the clock ticking on that July deadline, now’s the time to let them know you’re serious about ending this war as soon as possible. Take action today.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on March 2nd, 2011

The movement to end the Afghanistan War is gaining momentum, and on March 12, it will gain some more. In a little less than two weeks, supporters of Rethink Afghanistan (“Rethinkers”) will get together with their neighbors in hundreds of communities to talk about what can be done locally to stop the war. We’re going to swap stories, share a coffee or a beer, and make the personal connections with other Rethinkers in our neighborhood that will carry us through to our goal of bringing our troops home. Join us in your hometown for Rethink the Cost, a worldwide Meetup for people who want to end the Afghanistan War.
(more…)

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