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Archive for March, 2012

Posted by The Agonist on March 31st, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Marcy Wheeler has a long post, in the “must read” category, as she sets out the most sensible account I’ve seen in an attempt to square the circle of conflicting accounts about what happened during the Panjwai Massace: “that there was just one gunman at the village of Alkozai, but multiple solders were present at Najiban“.

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Posted by The Agonist on March 31st, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Robert Fisk | Mar 31 | The Independent

So back to THAT BLOODY WAR. I mean not the Syrian one – where we’re going to stay hands off – or the Libyan one (where we were hands on, but not touching the ground). Nor the Iraqi one, which is a war at 60-a-day fatalities (pretty much equal with Syria’s daily death toll, though we can’t make that comparison). Nope. Of course, I mean the Afghan war which we fought in 1842 and in 1878-80 and in 1919 and from 2001 to 2014 (or 2015 or 2016, who knows?). We wouldn’t let them down this time, we said about the Afghans – or Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara said – in 2001. Oh yes we will.
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I admit to a dark chuckle when the US President announced a few days ago that Syria could not hold a free and fair election while it was at war. Obama was absolutely right. But we therefore have to forget that the same Obama accepted the results of two corrupt elections in an Afghanistan at war – ballot boxes stuffed in traditional ways – and then telephoned Kabul to congratulate President Karzai on his fraudulent victory. Doesn’t anyone check the screenplay in Washington these days?
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Posted by The Agonist on March 30th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

John Henry Browne, the lawyer for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales:

“When we tried to interview the injured civilians being treated at Kandahar Hospital we were denied access and told to coordinate with the prosecution team,” Browne said in the earlier statement.

“The next day the prosecution team interviewed the civilians injured. We found out shortly after the prosecution interviews of the injured civilians that the civilians were all released from the hospital and there was no contact information for them.” That means potential witnesses will scatter and could prove unreachable, Browne said.

Prosecutors had not shared their investigative findings with his team, and would not share images captured by a surveillance camera on a blimp above the base which the Army says shows Bales returning to the camp after the alleged shooting, he said.

So Yalda Hakim is liable to remain the only Western journalist to interview the survivors, and it seems certain now we won’t be hearing their testimony under cross-examination at any US trial. Other possible eyewitnesses have already scattered, both villages are deserted, Hakim found.

Browne says “When prosecutors don’t cooperate, it’s because they are concerned about the strength of their case”, but this goes further than just the prosecutors. It looks like the next step in an organized cover-up to me.

Update CNN interviewed Yalda Hakim today about disparities in witness accounts of the killing.

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Posted by The Agonist on March 29th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Via Anand Gopal, a small measure of just how dumb and counter-productive extending the Western occupation of Afghanistan has become.

U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan have assigned “guardian angels” — troops that watch over their comrades even as they sleep — and have ordered a series of other increased security measures to protect troops against possible attacks by rogue Afghans.

Keywords that should not be used to tag this post: liberators, hearts & minds, victory, mission accomplished, people-centric, freedom.

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Posted by The Agonist on March 29th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Tremendous reporting from Yalda Hakim of Australia’s SBS network, the first Western journalist to reach the two Afghan villages where Sgt Robert Bales is alleged to have been the sole killer of 16 innocents. (H/t Matt Aikins)

When Hakim reaches the village of Alkozai, a place she’s told at first is unreachable because its now laced with Taliban mines, she finds it empty – the people gone. She’s told they’ve fled to Kabul and elsewhere. It took the personal intervention of President Karzai before the US military would let her talk to the survivors being treated at a US military base’s hospital. One child shot in the massacre tells Hakim that, while there was one shooter in her house, there were other US soldiers outside in the yard holdinglights. Yet she also spoke to the Afghan soldiers who saw a single American soldier enter the base after the time of the murders in Alkozai and then leave again an hour later – presumably to head for more killing in the village of Najiban. One of them told her he got his Afghan duty officer to notify the Americans about the lone soldier walking into the base at 1.30am, the other that the same thing happened when the lone soldier left at 2.30am. Karzai’s investigator, General Karimi, wonders aloud how the Americans on the base could therefore have been unaware of something terrible going on that night. General Karimi also explicitly says that, according to villagers testimony, Bales was the soldier who had threatened them with revenge for the injury of his friend in an IED explosion a few days before. Hakim also interviewed one woman who had her child die in her arms, and who speaks of “they” when talking of those involved in her boy’s murder.

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Posted by The Agonist on March 28th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

I know it’s been said dozens, if not hundreds, of time already – but the notion that the Western invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has been good for women’s rights there really is ridiculous tosh.

Via Think Progress:

Approximately 400 women and girls are currently imprisoned for “moral crimes” in Afghanistan, says a new report released today by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The report finds that almost all girls in juvenile detention in Afghanistan had been arrested for “moral crimes” which usually involved escaping from unlawful forced marriage or domestic violence.

Some women and girls have been convicted of “zina,” sex outside of marriage, after being raped or forced into prostitution.

“It is shocking that 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban, women and girls are still imprisoned for running away from domestic violence or forced marriage,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW. “No one should be locked up for fleeing a dangerous situation even if it’s at home. President Karzai and Afghanistan’s allies should act decisively to end this abusive and discriminatory practice

And of course neither President Karzai nor Afghanistan’s Western “allies” will do a damn thing. Karzai because he needs the traditionalist, misogynist bloc to hang on to power and his head (and probably agrees with them on this), those allies because they give lip service to women’s rights right up until they clash with more “important” things like permanent bases in the region and perpetuating the welfare service to the US military-industrial complex that the Afghan occupation has provided.

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Posted by The Agonist on March 27th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Panetta says polls cannot dictate Afghan war plans.

Does anyone remember Dick Cheney saying, in response to exit polls during the 2006 elections which showed that only 17% of Americans supported the Bush administration’s policy on Iraq, that “I don’t think any president worth his salt, can afford to make decisions of this magnitude according to the polls…This president does not make policy based on public opinion polls”?

I seem to remember a lot of people who now support the Obama administration’s policy in Afghanistan blindly were pretty upset with Cheney’s obvious contempt for democracy and the will of the people…

…nah, I must be misremembering.

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Posted by Peace Action West on March 26th, 2012

From our partners at Peace Action West

Rebecca Griffin with Rep. Pete Stark

with Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), a leader on peace issues and one of Peace Action West’s 2012 endorsed candidates

Last week, Katie and I spent the week in Washington, DC, bringing Peace Action West’s priorities to Capitol Hill and connecting with other organizations from around the country that are doing wonderful work to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Here’s a quick update on the top issues we talked about in our meetings with more than 25 different congressional offices:

Chipping away at the bloated nuclear weapons budget

We joined in on the lobby days of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a coalition of grassroots groups around the country working on nuclear weapons, power and waste. It was inspiring to spend a few days with their knowledgeable, committed and passionate activists, ranging in age from teenagers to octogenarians. In addition to meetings with congressional staff, ANA had an awards ceremony at which they presented awards to activists as well as Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA). I even got the opportunity to sing original lyrics to jazz songs about nuclear weapons written by a great antinuclear activist at the Monday night pizza party.

The message in our meetings was that Congress needs to slash the increased budget for nuclear weapons activities in the FY2013 budget, targeting wasteful programs and facilities that would increase our capacity to build nuclear weapons—a huge waste, especially when we are reducing our reliance on nuclear weapons. We also urged representatives to cosponsor Rep. Markey’s SANE Act, which would cut nuclear weapons spending by $100 billion over the next decade. Given the intense budget pressures, there is room for progress in pushing Congress to make these cuts, and encouraging statements from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the committee that sets the nuclear weapons budget, are a good sign that we can see results if we keep pushing in the next couple of months.

Continuing the drumbeat to end the war in Afghanistan

The momentum against the war in Afghanistan is even stronger now after several weeks of tragic incidents that call the wisdom of keeping a military presence there into question. Members of Congress certainly understand that the war isn’t getting any more popular with the American public, and many of them are eager to find opportunities to continue pushing for an end to the war.

Our big question was what comes next after the success of the Senate and House letters supporting a quicker military withdrawal. We encouraged people to support Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill limiting funding to a safe and responsible military withdrawal from Afghanistan. The next big step will be using the May NATO summit as an opportunity to push the administration for an accelerated withdrawal (there are some reports that they are looking at a few different options for withdrawal).

Silencing the war drums on Iran

Congress has a history of not being particularly helpful when it comes to reasoned debate and policymaking on Iran. The latest manifestation of this is a pair of resolutions that supports lowering the threshold for military action against Iran to nuclear weapons capability. This is a disturbingly vague term that means different things to different people (the sponsors of the resolution have not offered a clear definition), and undermining the administration’s position and pushing for a more militaristic approach to the Iran problem is highly counterproductive. We strongly urged representatives and senators not to cosponsor the bill, but supporters of the bill have mobilized heavily in favor of it, so we will need to push back hard in the coming weeks.

Rep. Barbara Lee is offering a bill that would bring more sanity to the debate, appointing a special envoy for talks and lifting a counterproductive “no contact” policy, while also explicitly affirming that money cannot be spent on military action without prior authorization from Congress. We also urged representatives to cosponsor this bill and give the president political space to pursue a peaceful solution with Iran.

Reining in massive military spending

Congress still hasn’t settled the question of what will happen with the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts that are supposed to go into effect next year because of the super committee’s failure to make a deficit deal. There are many hawks who are desperately trying to find a way to prevent additional cuts to the military budget, despite the fact that the Pentagon could sustain the sequestration cuts without harm to our national security. There’s not much appetite for dealing with this issue in an election year, and it likely won’t come up until a lame duck session at the end of the year. We urged members of Congress to oppose any deal that makes domestic spending bear the brunt of cuts and lets the Pentagon off the hook.

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by The Agonist on March 24th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

We’ve heard a lot about what might have happened the night Sergeant Robert Bales is accused of killing 17 and wounding several others in two Afghan villages near his base, but it’s pretty much all been hearsay – reports of what people were supposedly told by witnesses. So kudos for some fine work from GlobalPost, who actually managed to track down and interview two eyewitnesses of the killings. However, they also report that the US military isn’t allowing those wounded in the attack – all receiving care at a US military base – to talk to the press.

Habibullah tried his best to describe the shooting for GlobalPost. He drew a map of the three houses in his village, Alkozai, where four people were killed. His house was in the middle. He said his wife woke him up early in the morning — he can’t recall the exact time — shouting that American soldiers were at the house next door. Habibullah told her not to worry.

“This is a night raid,” he remembered telling her.

Night raids — surprise attacks by US soldiers on houses they suspect are associated with the Taliban, are common in this volatile region. “The Americans usually pick one house to raid, and then they leave.”

But a few moments later residents from neighboring houses began fleeing to Habibullah’s, telling everyone to hide. The attacker — or attackers — soon followed, he said.

“I didn’t hear a lot of shooting and I didn’t hear helicopters,” Habibullah recalled. But he did see “two or three Americans” enter his compound, “using lights and firing at my father, who was wounded.”

…Massouma, who lives in the neighboring village of Najiban, where 12 people were killed, said she heard helicopters fly overhead as a uniformed soldier entered her home. She said he flashed a “big, white light,” and yelled, “Taliban! Taliban! Taliban!”

Massouma said the soldier shouted “walkie-talkie, walkie-talkie.” The rules of engagement in hostile areas in Afghanistan permit US soldiers to shoot Afghans holding walkie-talkies because they could be Taliban spotters.

“He had a radio antenna on his shoulder. He had a walkie-talkie himself, and he was speaking into it,” she said.

After the soldier with the walkie-talkie killed her husband, she said he lingered in the doorway of her home.

“While he stood there, I secretly looked through the curtains and saw at least 20 Americans, with heavy weapons, searching all the rooms in our compound, as well as my bathroom,” she said.

After they completed their search, the men left, Massouma said. She said that all seven of her children saw the attackers, but she refused to let GlobalPost speak with them.

An Afghan journalist who went to Massouma’s home in the days after the shooting and spoke with one of her sons, aged seven, said the boy told him he looked through the curtains and saw a number of soldiers — although he couldn’t say how many.

More worryingly, however, when Afghan journalists have tried to interview those wounded in the attack, who are being treated at a US military base in Kandahar, they’ve been rebuffed.

US officials in Afghanistan gave several Afghan journalists permission last week to visit survivors of the massacre, who are being treated at the hospital at Kandahar Airfield, a major military base in southern Afghanistan. But when the journalists arrived ISAF officials only allowed them to take a few photographs and then asked them to leave.

“The wounded survivors, who saw everything of the massacre, are crucial to the story,” said one of the frustrated reporters. “But the Americans didn’t allow us to talk to them.”

Global Post’s Afghan eyewitnesses are sticking to their story that there were multiple soldiers involved, despite the preferred media narrative in the US that has Bales as the “solo rogue”. The wounded could settle the uncertainty, so why is the US military holding them incommunicado?

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Posted by The Agonist on March 22nd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

The generals might drag their feet on getting into hopeless new wars in Syria and Iran, but when it comes to the senseless wars America is already in: well there are officers’ careers to be made and troops who need combat experience, dammit!

Thos who remember General Odierno dragging his feet and playing mind-games with the White House on the pace of drawdown in Iraq will not be suprised to learn that General Allen is now doing the same thing in Afghanistan.

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