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Archive for April, 2011

Posted by Newshoggers.com on April 12th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

We're heading into the 2012 US election campaign with the nation involved in three quagmire wars. Is it too much to ask that the bi-partisan penchant to allow military intervention substitute for creative foreign policy come under some serious scrutiny this time around?

In Iraq, as Pepe Escobar writes, Mookie Sadr still isn't dead and is threatening a resurgent Sadrist rsistance if Maliki and the US don't keep their promises to get all US troops out in 2011.

The SOFA was signed by former president George W Bush in November 2008. According to the text, the whole of the US military, plus their civilian personnel, must exit Iraq by December 31, 2011, at midnight. If Washington does not honor the agreement, the US will be technically at war with Iraq – as in US soldiers illegally deployed without the consent of the US Congress.

There's absolutely no evidence this SOFA will be amended before the deadline, although Maliki's government, under extreme pressure, could always ask the Barack Obama administration to extend the occupation. But for this, Maliki needs the Sadrists – which are part of the government.

So Muqtada's message is actually a stern warning to Maliki. And by the way, this is not only about 47,000 US boots off the ground; it's about the end of the Iraq chapter of the US empire of military bases (other rallies went on Saturday near US bases in Kirkuk, Dhi Qar, and al-Asad base in Anbar province).

No wonder both the Obama administration and the Pentagon are on red alert. Vice President Joe Biden urgently called Maliki after Gates left Iraq to keep up the pressure. Iraqi parliamentarians, for their part, stress any extension would have to be approved by parliament. And Muhammad Salman, from the Sunni Iraqiya party (most Sunnis are Iraqi nationalists who also want the US out) has already talked about a popular referendum.

The SOFA itself was supposed to be approved by referendum (it never happened). In a nutshell, the only players who want the US to stay are the military in Iraqi Kurdistan – who fear they may be overpowered by Iraqi Arabs.

What it really comes down to is what is Maliki most afraid of: the Sadrist threat or the lack of US troops to back his regime? That will depend on his confidence in and control over the Iraqi army. But that the US wants to stay in Iraq is now a given.

In Libya, as most of us predicted the "short, good war" promised has turned into another quagmire that's not helping anybody.

"Regrettably, the longer this goes on, the more the civilian population will be affected by the conflict, by the fighting and we are deeply troubled by what we're starting to see as more fundamental issues affecting daily life," Simon Brooks, head of the Red Cross mission in Benghazi added.

Indeed, the chances of this new quagmire impacting Sarkozy's election campaign negatively – when it was always intended to to the reverse – has the French in a bit of a panic. The UK, knowing full well that the recently-signed UK/France defense pact which is the conservative government's only chance of funding the British Navy is in danger if they don't toe Sarkozy's line, duly line-toed.

Speaking out about the military campaign, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Nato needed to be more assertive in its operations in Libya.

"Nato must play its role fully. It wanted to take the lead in operations," Mr Juppe said, calling efforts so far "not enough".

William Hague later echoed Mr Juppe's comments, stressing that Col Gaddafi needed to step down: "We must maintain and intensify our efforts in Nato.

"That is why the United Kingdom has in the last weeks supplied additional aircraft capable of striking ground targets threatening the civilian population.

"Of course it would be welcome if other countries also did the same," he said on arrival at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

The US will now come under intense pressure from its allies across the pond to get more heavily involved again, so as to effect regime change before sarkozy's election deadline rolls around.

And as for Afghanistan….well, this says it all, from MoJo's Adam Weinstein:

“And while observing the Soviet difficulties in Afghanistan with a certain sense of vindication, the US military are at the same time reminded of the difficulties of defeating a determined guerrilla opponent who enjoys sanctuaries and is fighting in rugged terrain. After all, if a country with relatively few public opinion concerns or moral compunctions about its tactics cannot beat a bunch of ill-equipped Afghan tribesmen, what does that say about the ability of the United States — with its domestic constraints, statutory limitations, moral inhibition, and zealous investigative reporters — to carry out a successful action against a guerrilla force?

— From now-General Petraeus’s Princeton Ph.D. dissertation.

Three wars in Moslem countries, three quagmires – and not one of them unpredictably so. We really need a national conversation on the propensity to reach for the military hammer, some day sooner rather than later.

Update: Andrew Bacevich -

 Here is where we find Barack Obama and George W. Bush (not to mention Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter) joined at the hip. When it comes to the Islamic world, for more than three decades now Washington's answer to how has been remarkably consistent: through the determined application of hard power wielded by the United States. Simply put, Washington's how implies a concerted emphasis on girding for and engaging in war.

Presidents may not agree on exactly what we are trying to achieve in the Greater Middle East (Obama wouldn't be caught dead reciting lines from Bush's Freedom Agenda, for example), but for the past several decades, they have agreed on means: whatever it is we want done, military might holds the key to doing it. So today, we have the extraordinary spectacle of Obama embracing and expanding Bush's Global War on Terror even after having permanently banished that phrase to the Guantanamo of politically incorrect speech.

The key point is this: like those who preceded them, neither Obama nor his Harpies (nor anyone else in a position of influence) could evidently be bothered to assess whether the hammer actually works as advertised — notwithstanding abundant evidence showing that it doesn't.

The sequence of military adventures set in motion when Jimmy Carter promulgated his Carter Doctrine back in 1980 makes for an interesting story but not a very pretty one. Ronald Reagan's effort to bring peace to Lebanon ended in 1983 in a bloody catastrophe. The nominal victory of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, which pushed Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait, produced little except woeful complications, which Bill Clinton's penchant for flinging bombs and missiles about during the 1990s did little to resolve or conceal. The blowback stemming from our first Afghanistan intervention against the Soviets helped create the conditions leading to 9/11 and another Afghanistan War, now approaching its tenth anniversary with no clear end in sight. As for George W. Bush's second go at Iraq, the less said the better. Now, there is Libya.

The question demands to be asked: Are we winning yet? And if not, why persist in an effort for which great pain is repaid with such little gain?

Indeed.

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Posted by The Agonist on April 12th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

April 11

BBC – The US has focused on regaining control of territory from Taliban insurgents in Helmand

A drone missile strike is suspected of killing two US soldiers by mistake in southern Afghanistan last week, US military officials have said.

The apparent case of “friendly fire” is being investigated – if it is confirmed it would be a rare instance of pilotless aircraft killing US forces.

The incident took place in Helmand province where US-led troops are trying to push back Taliban insurgents.

US drones frequently target suspected militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Critics say hundreds of civilians have also been killed in such strikes in recent years.

The two US soldiers who lost their lives – sergeant Jeremy Smith, 26, and seaman Benjamin Rast, 23 – were part of a unit sent to reinforce marines coming under heavy fire from insurgents outside the town of Sangin, US network NBC News, which first reported the incident, said.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on April 12th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

Commentary By Ron Beasley®

Matt Yglesias correctly points out that the Obama administration and the Democrats don’t have to be held hostage when the rise in the debt ceiling comes up and he has a plan.

This isn’t a sudden “shutdown.” Nor is is true that we have to default on obligations to our bondholders. Rather, it means that government outlays are now limited by the quantity of inbound tax revenue. But for a while, the people administering the federal government (to wit Barack Obama and Timothy Geithner) will be able to selectively stiff people. So the right strategy is to start stiffing people Republicans care about. When bills to defense contractors come due, don’t pay them. Explain they’ll get 100 percent of what they’re owed when the debt ceiling is raised. Don’t make some farm payments. Stop sending Medicare reimbursements. Make the doctors & hospitals, the farmers and defense contractors, and the currently elderly bear the inconvenient for a few weeks of uncertain payment schedules. And explain to the American people that the circle of people who need to be inconvenienced will necessarily grow week after week until congress gives in. Remind people that the concessions the right is after mean the permanent abolition of Medicare, followed by higher taxes on the middle to finance additional tax cuts for the rich.

Of course this won’t happen -  because they really don’t want to.  Obama and the Democrats are owned  by the same people that own the Republicans.  We on the the progresive side used to say the Clinton was the best Republican president since Eisenhower.  Well Obama has accepted the imperial presidency of George W. Bush which as I see it makes him the best Republican president since George H.W. Bush.  While Clinton was to the right of Eisenhower Obama is to the right of Bush 41. He is owned by Wall Street  and the military industrial complex.  The most important paragraph in Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald’s Crossing Zero is this:

By late 2009 it was clearer than ever that both Congress and the State Department had come to rely on the American military to set the policy agenda. In fact, it appeared that it might even be impossible for Washington to return to a civilian-orchestrated strategy of nation-building anywhere, after thirty years of militarily enforced privatized foreign policy schemes. An entire industry now existed to lobby against any efforts to reverse the trend, change the status quo or even to make private contractors accountable for the taxpayer money they received. A book by Allison Stanger, One Nation Under Contract, outlined the dimensions of a problem where the private sector had become a “shadow government” operating outside the law with billions of federal dollars, but little to no accountability for how or where the money was spent.

It’s impossible for congress to reduce military spending because they depend on money from defense contractors get reelected – the best government money can buy.   Of course the same thing can be said for the too powerful to fail banks.  The plutocrats are in the drivers seat.  If the Tea Party figures that out they may prove to be our salvation.

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Posted by The Agonist on April 11th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

I read this story with interest yesterday. What it describes is our increasing reliance on high tech weapons. This we all know. But what it only implies is that the assumptions underlying the use of such weapons have not changed. For example, up to the moment when weapons were fired on the column of Afghans, the question of whether there was even a weapon was open. The question whether there were children had not been settled. Everyone involved in the process of deciding to kill these people, none of them on the ground, most as a matter of fact were in Nevada or Florida, or flying several thousand feet above in the air and the on the ground observers were five or six kilometers away.

To this day no one knows how many innocents died in the attack.

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Posted by The Agonist on April 8th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

This is exactly why the creators and enforcers of the Bush torture regime should have been prosecuted:

[S]uspected terrorists are still being held under hazy circumstances with uncertain rights in secret, military-run jails across Afghanistan, where they can be interrogated for weeks without charge, according to U.S. officials who revealed details of the top-secret network to The Associated Press.

The Pentagon also has said that detainees only stay in temporary detention sites for 14 days, unless they are extended under extraordinary circumstances. But U.S. officials told the AP that detainees can be held at the temporary jails for up to nine weeks, depending on the value of information they produce. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the program is classified.

More than a dozen former detainees claimed they were menaced and held for weeks at the Joint Special Operations Command site last year, forced to strip naked, then kept in solitary confinement in windowless, often cold cells with lights on 24 hours a day, according to Daphne Eviatar of the group Human Rights First, which interviewed them in Afghanistan.

Eviatar said her monitoring group does not believe the JSOC facility is using the full range of Bush-era interrogation techniques, but she said there’s a disturbing pattern of using fear and humiliation to soften up the suspects before interrogation.

Many of those interviewed said “they were forced to strip naked in front of other detainees, which is very humiliating for them,” Eviatar said. “The forced nudity seems to be part of a pattern to make detainees feel disempowered.”

Forced nudity is torture. Call this what it is: torture light. And it is still on going.

And happening in American with Bradley Manning.

So, to recap: we still have secret, black-site prisons in Afghanistan and use torture. How is this any better than Bush?

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Posted by The Agonist on April 7th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

Daniel Serwer | April 7

Ahmad Masood / ReutersThe Atlantic – News that the U.S. may negotiate with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan raises many questions, the most important of which is, should we, or shouldn’t we? That question has generated a small cyberspace library of its own in recent weeks, with the consensus so far in favor. It is widely believed that there are at least informal official talks about talks going on behind closed doors. But should we harbor any continuing doubts? And what can we expect from negotiations?

The arguments in favor are often based on the explicit proposition that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, with the implicit understanding that the U.S. will want to get out as soon after 2014 — the date fixed by NATO for turnover of security responsibilities to the Afghan government — as possible. If we really believe there is no military solution, why bother fighting to what conflict management experts call a “mutually hurting stalemate,” a condition in which neither side can improve its position by further military effort? If we want to get out, why not make the arrangements now rather than waiting for what we believe to be inevitable? Much blood and treasure can be saved and little of value lost. …

Delegates of an Afghan peace jirga in Kabul discuss negotiating with the Taliban. By Ahmad Masood / Reuters

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Posted by The Agonist on April 6th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

According to President Obama, Congressional Republicans and his office are less than one percent away from a temporary budget deal.

I have an idea.

In order to bridge the gap between the Republicans budget axe and Obama’s budget scalpel, how about we shut the wars in Afghanistan and Libya down, and the occupation in Iraq?

You know, it doesn’t have to be a troop pullout. We can simply have a “peace holiday:” a short-term cessation of all military activities. Let the troops enjoy the sunshine, soak up local culture, and mingle amongst the citizens of those nations.

We’ll save bookoo money on munitions, fuel, reconaissance. All of that will go towards funding important things like feeding the hungry back here at home, helping someone find a job, keeping our borders secure, cleaning up the environment ahead of the busy summer travel season, and Social Security checks flowing.

After all, the cynical timing– after Social Security checks for April had been sent and cashed– surely did not play into the Republicans strategy, did it?

That should more than close the gap between both sides and allow time for the rest of us to ridicule the Republican budget proposal for 2012 sufficiently that they tuck their tales between the candyass cheeks and suck it up as the losers they are.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on April 5th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

While millions of Americans are out of work or struggling to pay their bills, our government is spending billions of dollars a week on a war we don’t support in Afghanistan. At no time is this more apparent than on Tax Day, which is coming up on April 18.

Use our new Afghanistan War Tax Calculator to find out how much of your income taxes will be spent on war.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once famously said, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” But unfortunately, they’re also what we pay when our elected officials make huge, expensive mistakes, and in this case, use lots of expensive weapons to kill people. According to our friends at the National Priorities Project, 27.4 percent of our income taxes will go to pay for the Afghanistan War and other military spending. Already the taxpayer is on the hook for $107.3 billion just for this year, and just for the hugely expensive Afghanistan War. Those billions of dollars are supposed to help us build up our community and lay the groundwork for a brighter future for our children but, instead, they’re being used to fight a war the American people don’t support.

President Obama likes to talk about “winning the future” these days, but the U.S. is in a losing situation in Afghanistan. We’re bleeding wealth and lives at an unacceptable rate, and things are only expected to get worse this year as fighting season resumes in the spring. Meanwhile, the Pentagon and their political allies want the president to ignore the clear will of the American people, who want troops out within a year. The military is reportedly pushing the president to pull out only an “insignificant” number of troops, despite the fact that it will cost us $1 million per troop to keep forces in Afghanistan this year. Bleeding that many resources on a war that’s not making us safer all the way until 2014 is losing, regardless of what General Petraeus’ spin shop tells us. We’re losing the future in Afghanistan.

So what would “winning the future” look like in Afghanistan?

At bare minimum, winning the future would mean recapturing the resources meant to be spent on war and putting them to use rebuilding our battered communities. Winning the future would mean unhooking our country from a decade-long war and being more free to pursue objectives that are actually in our national interest, instead of going with the inertia of a 10-year-long mistake. In short, winning the future means getting our troops out of Afghanistan.

Many of us are about to write checks to the IRS, and we’re about to do it at a time when, frankly, we don’t have a lot of money to spare. That’s why it’s important that we take a good, hard look at where our dollars are going and make sure our elected officials hear from us when they make bad decisions that waste scare resources. Please take a minute to use the new Afghanistan War Tax Calculator to find out how much you paid in taxes for war, and use our tool to forward it on to your Member of Congress. It’s time Congress got the message that we want this wasteful war stopped, now.

If you're tired of this war that's not worth the costs, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter, and find others in your hometown who oppose this war at your local Rethink the Afghanistan War Meetup.

Follow Robert Greenwald on Twitter.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on April 5th, 2011

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

While millions of Americans are out of work or struggling to pay their bills, our government is spending billions of dollars a week on a war we don’t support in Afghanistan. At no time is this more apparent than on Tax Day, which is coming up on April 18.

Use our new Afghanistan War Tax Calculator to find out how much of your income taxes will be spent on war.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once famously said, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” But unfortunately, they’re also what we pay when our elected officials make huge, expensive mistakes, and in this case, use lots of expensive weapons to kill people. According to our friends at the National Priorities Project, 27.4 percent of our income taxes will go to pay for the Afghanistan War and other military spending. Already the taxpayer is on the hook for $107.3 billion just for this year, and just for the hugely expensive Afghanistan War. Those billions of dollars are supposed to help us build up our community and lay the groundwork for a brighter future for our children but, instead, they’re being used to fight a war the American people don’t support.

President Obama likes to talk about “winning the future” these days, but the U.S. is in a losing situation in Afghanistan. We’re bleeding wealth and lives at an unacceptable rate, and things are only expected to get worse this year as fighting season resumes in the spring. Meanwhile, the Pentagon and their political allies want the president to ignore the clear will of the American people, who want troops out within a year. The military is reportedly pushing the president to pull out only an “insignificant” number of troops, despite the fact that it will cost us $1 million per troop to keep forces in Afghanistan this year. Bleeding that many resources on a war that’s not making us safer all the way until 2014 is losing, regardless of what General Petraeus’ spin shop tells us. We’re losing the future in Afghanistan.

So what would “winning the future” look like in Afghanistan?

At bare minimum, winning the future would mean recapturing the resources meant to be spent on war and putting them to use rebuilding our battered communities. Winning the future would mean unhooking our country from a decade-long war and being more free to pursue objectives that are actually in our national interest, instead of going with the inertia of a 10-year-long mistake. In short, winning the future means getting our troops out of Afghanistan.

Many of us are about to write checks to the IRS, and we’re about to do it at a time when, frankly, we don’t have a lot of money to spare. That’s why it’s important that we take a good, hard look at where our dollars are going and make sure our elected officials hear from us when they make bad decisions that waste scare resources. Please take a minute to use the new Afghanistan War Tax Calculator to find out how much you paid in taxes for war, and use our tool to forward it on to your Member of Congress. It’s time Congress got the message that we want this wasteful war stopped, now.

If you’re tired of this war that’s not worth the costs, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter, and find others in your hometown who oppose this war at your local Rethink the Afghanistan War Meetup.

Follow Robert Greenwald on Twitter.

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Posted by The Agonist on April 4th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

C. Christine Fair | April 4

AFP/Getty imagesForeign Policy – The bizarre mock trial and execution of Islam’s most revered book went unnoticed in the American and international media until April 1, when angry mobs in the usually peaceful northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif stormed a U.N. compound and slaughtered at least eight people. The violence quickly spread beyond the city of Mazar-i-Sharif into Kandahar, Jalalabad, and Kabul. The crowed was mobilized following Friday prayers at the shrine of Hazrat Ali, in which the event was recounted, enraging the attendees.

While Mr. Jones was deliberately provocative, this butchery of innocent Afghans and international U.N. workers is mind-boggling. How is it possible that the actions of a largely reviled, fringe lunatic in central Florida could result in protests in Afghanistan and Pakistan and spawn the deaths of so many people — including Afghan Muslims?

Photo/STR/AFP/Getty Image

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