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Posted by robertgreenwald on May 10th, 2011

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

The Pentagon is working the press again, this time in support of a so-called withdrawal plan that would break a promise made to the American people by their president. According to The Wall Street Journal:

“U.S. military officers in Afghanistan have drawn up preliminary proposals to withdraw as many as 5,000 troops from the country in July and as many as 5,000 more by the year’s end…”

This joke of a “withdrawal” plan isn’t anything remotely approaching a real drawdown. It’s less than a 10 percent reduction in U.S. forces in Afghanistan over 6 months. It puts the Pentagon squarely at odds both with the stated desires of the White House and the very clearly articulated will of the American people. If you agree, sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition to get the troops out of Afghanistan.

First, let’s remember what the White House said on this:

“After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home….[O]ur troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended — because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.”–President Barack Obama, Dec. 1, 2009.

“I’m confident that the withdrawal will be significant. People will say this is a real process of transition; this is not just a token gesture.”–President Barack Obama, April 15, 2011.

“In July of 2011, you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out, bet on it.”–Vice President Joe Biden, qtd. in Jonathan Alter’s The Promise.

The American people are and have been crystal-clear about their expectations for a drawdown for months now.

  • Rasmussen Reports’ latest polling (published on May 9, 2011) shows that 56 percent of likely voters want troops brought home within a year, and more than half of those want all troops withdrawn immediately. The number of likely voters who want troops home within a year has increased by four percentage points since the beginning of March.
  • A Pew Research poll taken May 5-8 shows that 49 percent of Americans want troops removed from Afghanistan “ASAP.”
  • An NBC News poll taken May 5-7 shows that 56 percent of Americans disapprove of leaving some troops in Afghanistan until 2014.

These are not ambiguous numbers. Heading into a presidential election season, likely voters and Americans in general are telling pollsters and their elected representatives that they expect a real troop withdrawal, with most of them wanting troops out within a year. The Pentagon’s draft plan isn’t remotely in the ballpark of what the American people want.

Bringing home 5,000 people in July and maybe another 5,000 people by the end of the year is an insignificant, token withdrawal from a force of well over 100,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan. It’s less than a 10 percent adjustment of the American personnel on the ground. The Pentagon is telling the White House and the American people to take a hike.

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda has been driven from Afghanistan. The last plausible excuse for keeping troops in Afghanistan is gone. Yet, the military continues to fight a counterinsurgency campaign with tens of thousands of U.S. troops, a campaign that’s failed to blunt the ever-growing level of insurgent attacks across Afghanistan. Civilian casualties are at an all-time high. Troop injuries and acute stress are at an all-time high in the war. Costs are at an all-time high. There’s no rational reason left to continue this farce.

The Pentagon’s token troop adjustment would break a promise made to the American people by their president, and it would blatantly flout the will of the voters. The “plan” is laughable and should be rejected by the White House. President Obama and Congress must demand a real plan to get the troops home as swiftly and safely as possible.

If you’re fed up with this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the costs, sign our petition to get troops home.

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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 robertgreenwald on March 21st, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Robert Greenwald on Twitter.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on February 19th, 2011

Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker is using phony budget projections to manufacture a staged “fiscal emergency” in his state so that he can whack programs and political opponents, but even his fake “emergency” pales in comparison to the cost of the Afghanistan War to his state. In fact, the U.S. would only have to bring home 151 troops from Afghanistan to save more money than Walker’s ridiculous union-busting plan. Better yet, ending the Afghanistan War altogether would save taxpayers in Wisconsin $1.7 billion this year alone, more than ten times the amount “saved” in Walker’s attack on state employee rights.

One might ask, “Isn’t Walker’s fake budget crisis a state budget issue? How would ending the Afghanistan War pay for that?” We get this question a lot when we talk about the cost of war to a state’s taxpayer. Keep in mind that state budgets are tangled with federal spending. That’s especially true over the past couple of years, as state budgets have relied on federal Recovery Act funds to balance their books during the recession. Spending decisions at the federal level are therefore doubly important, as they not only affect the national budget, but also what funds are available to help preserve state-level public structures.

That brings us to Walker’s slash-and-burn approach to the state budget. 

“Under Walker’s plan, most public workers – excluding police, firefighters and state troopers – would have to pay half of their pension costs and at least 12 percent of their health-care costs. They would lose bargaining rights for anything other than pay. Walker, who took office last month, says the emergency measure would save $300 million over the next two years to help close a $3.6 billion budget gap.”

So on average, Walker’s slash-and-burn attack on the unions in his state would save $150 million per year for two years. But if Wisconsin is truly in a state of fiscal emergency, as Walker claims, why is he not demanding the president withdraw troops from Afghanistan and make the savings available as fiscal aid to states? Every troop deployed in Afghanistan costs the U.S. $1 million per year, so simply bringing home 151 troops would save more money than his plan. And, with fiscal 2011 Afghanistan War spending alone to top $1.7 billion for Wisconsin taxpayers, an end to the war would free up more than ten times his plan’s cash, which the president could use for state fiscal aid.

Of course, the end of the Afghanistan War would mean that people with whom Walker is cozy would lose some important revenue streams. Remember Wackenhut, the war contractors that disgraced us by holding drunken, nude firelight romps in Afghanistan on the State Department’s dime? Walker got them a sweet privatized state security contract in a prior fit of “cost-savings” that failed to add up. But who needs to rein in death, destruction and obscenity when you can take a whack at the unions, right? Walker’s not actually interested in fixing a supposed emergency. He’s interested in paying off allies and zinging enemies, and you can tell that by his silence on war spending that’s bleeding his state taxpayers dry.

At any rate, state politicians in Wisconsin and beyond are going to have to face a moment of truth when federal stimulus aid runs out at the end of this year. Their citizens hate the Afghanistan War, and they won’t go along with draconian cuts to vital public structures or attacks on collective bargaining. They can either wise up and join the chorus of people calling for an end to the war, or be ready to face tens of thousands of fed-up protesters and angry voters. Your move, folks.

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

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Posted by robertgreenwald on February 18th, 2011

Americans of all ideological persuasions are fed up with the Afghanistan War. We’re fed up with a $5.7 billion-per-month military campaign that’s gone nowhere over the past 12 months. We’re fed up with being told we’ll have to do without vital public services because of the sorry state of our national finances, while at the same time our politicians are spending $2 billion a year to police a dusty Afghan town called Marjah. But most of all, we’re tired of the song-and-dance from officials who think they can spin a year full of ugly setbacks as “progress.” We know better.

We’re so fed up, in fact, that over the past week, with the help of Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan campaign, several hundred ordinary Americans pooled their resources in an online fundraising drive and picked three everyday people to star in the first-ever anti-Afghanistan-War TV ad. The ad has run all this week in Washington, D.C. on CNN to get make sure politicians know we want our troops brought home–because it’s time.

For months, public opinion polls have been very clear on Americans’ opposition to the Afghanistan War. This past week, Gallup’s latest poll showed that 72 percent of Americans want Congress to act this year to speed up troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. This support cuts across ideological lines, with strong majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents wanting Congress to rein in the war. And yet, somehow, President Obama and Congress persist in requesting and approving funds to keep this war going long past a time period acceptable to most of their constituents.

What will it take to get policy-makers’ attention to the fact that the war isn’t making us safer and isn’t worth the cost? The worst year for U.S. troop deaths ever so far in the war? Check. The worst year for civilian casualties? Check. The highest annual cost of the war so far? Check. We could throw in 9 percent unemployment at home, an economic crisis, and deficit hysteria at home as well. There’s simply no justification for continuing to spend almost $6 billion a month on a futile, brutal war while cutting programs that keep people from freezing in the winter.

Take, for example, one of the hardest hit cities in the new economy: Detroit, Michigan. The Detroit metropolitan area has an unemployment rate of more than 11 percent. But this year alone, taxpayers in Detroit will pay $180.4 million for the war. WIth that same amount of money, Detroit could have hired 2,523 elementary school teachers, 3,435 firefighters, or 2,815 cops for a year. Our communities here in the U.S. are suffering in a terrible economic vise. When do we stop wasting money on this futile war and start getting serious about getting American back on its feet?

Some Members of Congress, thankfully, do hear the voices of their constituents. Today, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and a bipartisan set of cosponsors introduced the Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act, a bill designed to force the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. And, many of these elected officials spent the week working to restrict funding for war during the debate over the continuing resolution to fund the government. They face an uphill fight in a Capitol awash with war industry lobbying dollars, but every time they take a vote, they’re building on the last roll call, expanding the number of people willing to stand up and say, “enough.”

That’s why we helped run the first-ever anti-Afghanistan-War ad on TV in Washington, D.C. this week: to support the efforts of public servants willing to cast the tough votes, and to tell our politicians we want our troops brought home–because it’s time.

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

UPDATE: Several Members of Congress have posted blog pieces today at The Huffington Post on this issue. Take a look:

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Posted by robertgreenwald on February 7th, 2011

The new report from NYU’s Center for International Cooperation is a damning description of the U.S. policies in Afghanistan since 2001, and a warning that the escalated military strategy blocks the road to peace while making the Taliban more dangerous.

Separating the Taliban from al-Qaeda: The Core of Success in Afghanistan (.pdf) is the latest in a continuous string of statements from Afghanistan experts that the U.S. war policies that were launched a year ago aren’t making us safer and aren’t worth the substantial costs: $1 million per U.S. troop in Afghanistan per year, for a total of more than $375.5 billion wasted so far. The report is written by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, Kandahar-based researchers who’ve spent more than four years researching the Taliban and the recent history of southern Afghanistan.

George W. Bush’s Leftovers: Mistaking Taliban for Al Qaeda

The main target of criticism in the report is the major conceit passed from the Bush Administration to the Obama Administration on Afghanistan: the conflation of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The authors warn that,

“The claim that the link between the Taliban and al-Qaeda is stronger than ever, or unbreakable, is potentially a major intelligence failure that hinders the United States and the international community from achieving their core objectives.” (p. 4)

Strick van Linschoten and Kuehn summarize a history of the Taliban/Al Qaeda relationship that is likely unfamiliar to most Westerners. As a movement, the Taliban rank-and-file grew out of a history almost totally isolated from the developments in political Islam that formed the experience of Al Qaeda’s leadership, and the core leadership of both groups had little interaction in their organizations’ early years.  The Taliban’s ambitions were and are plainly local, while Al Qaeda’s are oriented toward the idea of an international jihad against “Zionists and crusaders.”  While we in the Western world may find the Taliban’s program of social hyper-conservatism objectionable in its own right, they are not al-Qaeda.

We all know, however, that the mindset of George W. Bush and his administration lacked nuance. His “with us or against us” rhetoric conflated the Taliban with al Qaeda. That conflation effectively short-circuited early attempts to reintegrate Taliban elements willing to work with the new order in Afghanistan:

“The counterterrorism policies of the United States at that time threatened the security of Taliban who might have been willing to join the process, and Afghan officials with whom the Taliban communicated said they could not protect them from detention by the United States. The strong interests of neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran also helped steer Taliban leaders towards taking up arms once again. By 2003 they had regrouped and put command structures in place, connecting to local groups inside Afghanistan to begin an insurgency.”

In short, had the U.S. adopted a more nuanced approach in distinguishing Taliban from Al Qaeda, we might not be facing the insurgency that’s continuing its march across Afghanistan.

President Obama may have a more intellectual way of conflating the threat, “Al Qaeda and their extremist allies” who may provide “safe haven” if they retake Afghanistan, but the essential counterproductive flaw in the thinking remains. U.S. policy talks a big game about reconciling with the “small t taliban,” but our conflation of the Taliban and Al Qaeda blocks any serious attempt at a political settlement. Worse, U.S. military strategies are taking a group that’s distinct from Al Qaeda and making it more vulnerable to Al Qaeda influence.

We’re Making the Taliban More Al Qaeda-Like

Part of the new escalated military campaign in Afghanistan was a massive increase in the number of night raids and other killings of Taliban leadership. The problem is that when the older, more locally focused leaders are killed, they are replaced by a younger breed of commander who’s typically much more radical, and their slow takeover of the insurgency is making it much more dangerous to the interests of the United States.

According to the report,

“These newer generations are potentially a more serious threat. With little or no memory of Afghan society prior to the Soviet war in the 1980s, this new generation of commanders is more ideologically motivated and less nationalistic than previous generations, and therefore less pragmatic. It is not interested in negotiations or compromise with foreigners. They have never lived in an Afghanistan that was at peace. Members of the youngest generation, often raised solely in refugee camps and madrasas in Pakistan, have no experience of traditional communities, productive economic activity, or citizenship in any state; they are citizens of jihad. Al- Qaeda operatives have been known to seek out direct contact with such younger Taliban field commanders inside Afghanistan. “

In other words, the Taliban is not Al Qaeda, but the U.S. military campaign is having the unintended consequence of making it more Al Qaeda-like: decentralized, radicalized and predisposed towards jihad.

It’s Time to Change Course

The Obama Administration’s wrong-headed conflation of the Taliban with the Al Qaeda threat is an ugly relic of the “with us or against us” rhetoric from the Bush years, and it’s time we got over it. This view of the conflict is what got us into this 100,000+ troop counterinsurgency that was launched almost exactly a year ago and that’s brought us nothing but grief since. We’ve had record casualties, record civilian deaths, and record costs, all while the Taliban continued to spread across the country. Not only has the U.S. failed to reverse insurgent momentum, but we’ve managed to make the Taliban even more susceptible to Al Qaeda overtures. If that’s not a rank failure, we don’t know what is.

Bottom line: if we are serious about wanting to protect American security and about reaching a political settlement that gets our troops home, we have to talk to the Taliban. However, that requires a major shift in the Obama Administration’s view of the players in the conflict. Right now, the administration’s strategy is killing off the generation of leaders inside the Taliban that will be most willing to talk.

The president once talked about his opposition to “dumb wars.” Well, this policy in Afghanistan is making this war dumber by the minute. Strick van Linschoten and Kuehn paint a picture of an insurgency that didn’t have to happen and a policy that could lead to a deadlier insurgency with which it will be incredibly hard to reconcile. Our leaders should take a close look at this report, and then get serious about non-military solutions for the conflict. There is no reason for the war we’re fighting anymore.

If you’re tired of this war that’s not making us safer and not worth the costs, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on February 5th, 2011

Cutting the deficit is all the rage in Washington, D.C., these days, and members of both parties are all too willing to put vital public structures like Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block. The implication is that we can’t afford to fund luxurious programs that do extravagant, outlandish things like preventing the elderly from slipping back into a 50-percent poverty rate. This implication is a lie. We have plenty of money. See the so-called “defense” budget for proof.

Here’s what Andrew Bacevich had to say about this situation in his most recent column:

The Pentagon presently spends more in constant dollars than it did at any time during the Cold War — this despite the absence of anything remotely approximating what national security experts like to call a “peer competitor.” Evil Empire? It exists only in the fevered imaginations of those who quiver at the prospect of China adding a rust-bucket Russian aircraft carrier to its fleet or who take seriously the ravings of radical Islamists promising from deep inside their caves to unite the Umma in a new caliphate.

What are Americans getting for their money? Sadly, not much. Despite extraordinary expenditures (not to mention exertions and sacrifices by U.S. forces), the return on investment is, to be generous, unimpressive. The chief lesson to emerge from the battlefields of the post-9/11 era is this: the Pentagon possesses next to no ability to translate “military supremacy” into meaningful victory.

To illustrate Bacevich’s point: We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Marjah by U.S. forces, a move that began the escalated military campaign enabled by President Obama’s huge troop increase. What have we gained in that year in Afghanistan?

  • Country-wide, 2010 was the most violent year of the war so far. Ten thousand people died in war-related violence, including roughly 500 U.S. troops, thousands of civilians and who knows how many insurgents.
  • We spent roughy 20 million on killing each enemy fighter in Afghanistan. Yet, Taliban growth is such that despite reportedly losing more than 5,000 fighters this year, NATO estimates their numbers remain steady across the country.
  • Numerous polls show that opposition to the war is at an all-time high, with 63 percent opposing the war. When you do the math, that’s more than 196 million Americans who want our troops to come home.

Now, ask yourself, “Are these results worth the $2 billion per week we spent on the Afghanistan War last year?” The answer is very clearly, “No.”

Americans have been asking themselves this question this year, if the latest polling from The New York Times and CBS News is any indication. The pollsters were interested in Americans’ feelings about whether and how to cut the national budget. The results show that when forced to pick from among various big-ticket government programs, people in the U.S. very clearly prefer cuts to military budgets before items like Social Security and Medicare. Here’s the percentages of people who favored cuts in various programs:

  • military spending: 55 percent
  • Medicare: 21 percent
  • Social Security: 13 percent

Here’s how they’d prefer to do it, too:

  • Reduce troops in Europe/Asia: 55 percent
  • Eliminate weapons programs 19 percent
  • Reduce pay of veterans: 12 percent
  • Reduce size of military branches: 7 percent

In other words, if Congress forced the American people to choose how to cut spending, Americans would choose to save money by bringing troops home. If policymakers really wanted to play it safe, they’d start by cutting funds intended to be used to deploy troops to Afghanistan. A whopping 63 percent of Americans now say they oppose that particular war, making it the perfect place to cut first.

It’s been almost a year since President Obama launched his escalated military campaign, and we’ve seen no progress towards our strategic goals in the region. If our policymakers were really serious about cutting wasteful government spending, they’d start with this war that’s not making us safer and not worth the costs. Significant troop reductions from Afghanistan this year would not only bring down the deficit in the long run, but also would give the American people what they’ve been asking for for months: an end to this brutal, futile war.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on January 20th, 2011

Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of President Obama’s escalated military campaign in Afghanistan. One year later, violence is still getting worse and costs are skyrocketing. After more than nine years, it’s time to end this war.

Take a strong public stand against the war by posting your picture and comment on Rethink Afghanistan’s new “Because It’s Time” feature.

Rethink Afghanistan Because It's Time

On February 13, 2010, NATO troops launched Operation Moshtarak in the Marjah district of Helmand Province. It was the first major military action enabled by President Obama’s 30,000-troop escalation, and was supposed to be proof-of-concept for Generals McChrystal’s and Petraeus’ counterinsurgency doctrine. The military hype said Afghan forces would be in the lead as coalition forces invaded Taliban-controlled areas. They’d deliver “government in a box, ready to roll.” Over and over, military officials repeated their mantra that the new troops would enable them to “protect the population.”

What followed was a fiasco that still hasn’t ended.

In Marjah, “government in a box” turned out to be “government with a rap sheet,” as it turned out the U.S.-backed district governor was a convicted felon. (He did, however, fit in just fine in the corrupt Karzai regime.) A misfired munition from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) killed a house full of civilians in the first few days of the offensive. Afghan troops trained by the Americans proved often unreliable and inept. All throughout 2010, Marjah remained a danger zone for U.S. troops as the Taliban forces who seemed to flee revealed themselves to be competent guerrillas, melting away before superior firepower only to slowly filter back in to plant roadside bombs and take potshots at troops. Eventually, military officials had to admit that they’d over-promised and under-delivered.

The pattern of hype and embarrassment repeated itself across Afghanistan all throughout 2010, as U.S. military officials repeatedly asserted that an influx of troops would bring security and protect the population, only to see those areas remain violent hot-spots where civilians were rarely safe. NATO similarly invaded Kandahar in force later in the year, and that area remains hotly contested and violent. In fact, violence in Kandahar and Helmand account for more than half of insurgent-initiated attacks for all of Afghanistan. Worse, areas that were previously relatively secure suddenly saw a spike in the number of insurgent attacks at the Taliban continued their relentless expansion across the country.

So. President Obama has had a full year now to prove that his new strategy is worth the costs. What are the results?

While we were wasting $100 billion on this war per year, Americans fought to stay above water in a horrible economy. Unemployment has now topped 9 percent for 20 months straight. Groups like the Salvation Army are reporting an alarming shortfall in resources to help the hungry. And state budgets all across the country are considering huge draconian cuts to their public structures and social safety nets that millions of people rely upon. Not only do most Americans oppose the war, but they rightly worry that it’s making it harder for us to fix these problems here at home.

After a year of escalated fighting across the country–after more than nine years of this war!–it’s absolutely clear that military solutions won’t work in Afghanistan, and they’re certainly not worth the cost. More than 195 million Americans want this war to end, yet their faces don’t seem to be reflected among elected officials to timid to take the morally courageous action of forcing this war to a close. So we’re giving people a chance to put their face and their opposition to the war in full public view.

Today, we’re launching “Because It’s Time” on Rethink Afghanistan to help Americans who oppose this war to make their voices heard. On this page, you can post your photo and a reason why it’s time to bring troops home.

Starting next Wednesday, you’ll have the chance to vote on your favorite comments. Those who get the most votes will get to star in an upcoming Rethink Afghanistan video.

As the one-year anniversary of “Obama’s War” approaches, please take a moment to call for our troops to come home–because it’s time.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on January 16th, 2011

This Monday, January 17th, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It’s a day for us to celebrate one of the most important peacemaking heroes in our nation’s history, and an appropriate moment to reflect on the power of nonviolent social activism motivated by love and a sense of justice. For the millions of us who oppose the Afghanistan War (and yes, there are many, many millions of us in the U.S.), Dr. King points the way to the end of the Afghanistan War and beyond, to the onset of the Beloved Community.

Just don’t tell the Pentagon.

I was amazed and bewildered to find Pentagon officials and paid military propagandists scrabbling to claim Dr. King as a supporter for war-making. From the general counsel down to the writers at the American Forces Press Service, the military bureaucracy was humming with the asserting that if Dr. King were alive today, he’d “understand” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and would consider the activities that take place while fighting those wars akin to the actions of the Good Samaritan from the Christian gospel story. It was one of the most shameful attempts to cover these brutal, futile wars in humanitarian wallpaper I’ve seen in years.

Of course, Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and the American Forces Press Service are wrong. As our new Rethink Afghanistan video shows, virtually every reason given by King in his “Time to Break the Silence” speech for opposing the Vietnam War would damn the Afghanistan War as well.

Here are just a few examples:

King decried the awful willingness of his country to spend $500,000 per each killed enemy soldier in Vietnam while so many Americans struggled in poverty. Yet last year, a conservative figure for the amount we spent per killed enemy fighter in Afghanistan was roughly $20 million.

King spoke of the “monumental dissent” that arose around the Vietnam War. “Polls reveal that almost 15 million Americans explicitly oppose the war in Vietnam,” he said. But today, 63 percent of Americans oppose the Afghanistan War, and when you do the math, that’s 196 million people, give or take the margin of error.

Dr. King also spoke of the “demonic, destructive suction tube” yanking resources and lives out of the fight to get Americans on their feet. That tube is still demonic and destructive: we’ve spent more than $360 billion on this war so far and it will cost us roughly $3 billion per week in the coming year. Add to that the 10,000 people, including about 500 U.S. troops and countless civilians who died last year alone, and you can see exactly what he’s talking about. The hope of our getting out of this abysmal economic vice is burning on the roadsides of Afghanistan every day we refuse to start bringing troops home.

No, it’s safe to say that Dr. King would not regard any conflict that killed 10,000 people in a year as a humanitarian exercise. Nor would he “understand” how a nation in the grip of an economic meltdown like this one could again throw lives and resources away for almost a decade. It’s safe to say that he would move beyond the “prophesying of smooth patriotism” and stand up to end this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost.

As Dr. King was fond of reminding us, “Truth crushed to earth shall rise again.” Help us spread the truth about his legacy and fight the Pentagon’s propaganda by sharing our new video with your friends. Then, join others who want to end this war at

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Posted by robertgreenwald on August 13th, 2010

The movement to rethink the Afghanistan War is picking up steam. In response to the waste of hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives on a disastrous policy, public opinion has turned decisively against the war. People are making their opposition heard in communities all over the country. We’re proud to see that Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan documentary has become an organizing tool for everything from local screenings of the film, to hundreds of Meetups to Rethink the Afghanistan War and other public demonstrations.

The Aug. 8 demonstration in Santa Barbara, California, organized by the local chapter of Veterans for Peace, is just one example of the growing discontent and the creative actions put together by local activists to express it. From the KEYT story:

The recent wave of violence and rising American deaths in Afghanistan are causing many people in Santa Barbara to rethink their attitude toward the Afghan War.

That was the theme of a major demonstration at the beach today.

More than 1,200 crosses were set up on the beach next to Stearns Wharf. And the strong public reaction to the memorial may be an indication that more and more Americans are actually beginning to rethink Afghanistan.

This powerful action and the public response to it shows that people understand that the Afghanistan war isn’t making us safer, and it isn’t worth the costs. We’re extraordinarily proud of the Santa Barbara Veterans for Peace chapter, just as we’re proud of the more than 42,000 people working together and organizing on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook page.

If you want to get together with your neighbors to organize against the war, join or host a Rethink the Afghanistan War Meetup. You can plug into the larger Rethink Afghanistan movement on Facebook.

It’s going to take all of us working together, online and in our local communities, to end this war. We’ve got a great start already. We hope you’ll join us.

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