Thursday, December 27, 2012

Drone Strikes Are Causing Child Casualties -- 178 So Far

By Robert Greenwald
Beaver County Peace Links via

Dece 26, 2012 - During my recent trip [2] to Pakistan as part of our upcoming documentary film, Drones Exposed, I was struck most by the stories [3] told to me by children who had experienced a U.S. drone strike firsthand. The impact of America’s drone war in the likes of Pakistan and Yemen will linger on, especially for the loved ones of the 178 children [4] killed in those countries by U.S. drone strikes.

War Costs’ latest video (with accompanying report [5]) brings attention to the children who have died as a result of drone strikes. The video names some of the children who perished in these strikes, and points out the obfuscation tactics of American officials who will not own up to the significant amount of civilian casualties that have occurred due to this legally- and morally-dubious policy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Afghanistan and the Future of the Peace Movement

U.S. soldiers stand guard as they watch the transfer ceremony of security responsibilities from NATO troops to Afghan security forces in Qalat, Zabul province south of Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo: Allauddin Khan)

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via The Nation

Dec 13, 2012 - President Barack Obama reportedly plans to remove all but 6,000 to 9,000 US troops from Afghanistan by 2014, ending the American combat role, saving tens of billions of dollars, and leaving an unpopular, incompetent and corrupt Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s regime needing a diplomatic fix to avert collapse into civil war.

According to McClatchy, Pakistan and Afghanistan are conducting negotiations aimed at a settlement with the Taliban by 2015. Though the McClatchy headline suggests the US is cut out of the process, it is more likely that the negotiations are being “outsourced” in keeping with US rhetoric about any settlement being “Afghan-led.”

Although there has been no official announcement, the numbers have been published by both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times in recent days. The Los Angeles paper predicts 6,000 to 9,000, while the New York Times reports “no more than 10,000… despite the desire of some military officers for a larger force.” Troop cuts in that range would mean a 90 to 95 percent reduction from the more than the peak 100,000 boots on the ground in 2010. It would require a reduction of 60,000 between now and late 2014. The pace of the withdrawal has yet to be announced, but is expected after Obama meets with Karzai in Washington next month to discuss a US postwar role.

Obama’s decision on a residual force is expected to be well below Pentagon requests, which range from 15,000 troops on up. Opposition to Obama’s reductions is expected from neo-conservative and military advocates, as well as Congressional hawks. Obama has gained political cover, however, from the recent 62 Senate votes cast for an “accelerated” withdrawal and a similar message in a letter from 94 House members. The recent New York Times editorial finally endorsing a one-year withdrawal also provides critical support from within the mainstream political and national security establishments.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Assault Weapons Are Weapons of Mass Destruction and Should Be Banned

By Robert Creamer
Progressive America Rising via HuffPost

Dec 16, 2012 - The tragedy in Connecticut forces America to confront a simple question: Why should we allow easy access to a weapon of mass destruction just because it could conceivably be referred to as a "gun"?

I count myself among the many Americans who at various points in their lives have owned and used long guns -- hunting rifles and shotguns -- for hunting and target shooting. No one I know in politics seriously proposes that ordinary Americans be denied the right to own those kinds of weapons.

But guns used for hunting have nothing in common with assault weapons like the ones that were used last week in the mass murder of 20 first-graders -- except the fact that they are referred to "guns."

Rapid-fire assault weapons with large clips of ammunition have only one purpose: the mass slaughter of large numbers of human beings. They were designed for use by the military to achieve that mission in combat -- and that mission alone.

No one argues that other combat weapons like rocket-propelled grenades (RPG's) or Stinger Missiles should be widely available to anyone at a local gun shop. Why in the world should we allow pretty much anyone to have easy access to assault weapons?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Obama Reviewing Afghanistan Options

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via Peace Exchange

Dec. 5, 2012 - Military commanders are pushing President Obama to keep a maximum number of American troops through the coming Afghanistan “fighting season,” maximizing their combat role before the December 2014 date for ending offensive operations.

There currently are 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan at an unfunded cost of at least $65-70 billion. To retain those numbers from spring through autumn 2013 – the span of the fighting season – would continue present cost levels, not to mention the toll on troops becoming the last to die or suffer wounds as the American war winds down.

The Senate weighed in last week with a 62-33 vote in general favor of an accelerated troop withdrawal, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is expected to forward a similar proposal signed by 100 House members this week.

An October Pew poll showed 60 percent of Americans favoring withdrawal as soon as possible, a sharp shift from 2008 numbers.

Neoconservatives such as Fred and Kimberley Kagan are calling for 30,000 American troops to remain in country to assume counterterrorism roles, including drones, airpower, special ops, and backup troops for force protection.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Debate: Both Sides Hide Growing Militarism Under a 'Peace' Blanket




Our Task: First Defeat National Security Council

Document 68 (NSC 68): Then Attack NSC 68 'Lite'

By Harry Targ
Beaver County Peace Links via Heartland Radical

After the outbreak of fighting on the Korean peninsula, NSC 68 was accepted throughout the government as the foundation of American foreign policy (U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian).

The third and last presidential debate of the 2012 election season, October 22, 2012, addressed issues of foreign policy and their connections to the United States economy. The debates reflected the idiosyncrasies of American politics, 2012, as well as the enduring features of the United States empire.

As to the candidate’s realization that he needed to “move to the center,” Mitt Romney tried to portray himself as peace-oriented. This approach contradicted the neo-conservative vision of the 17 of 24 key foreign policy aides advising him. These former Bush advisors and associates of the Project for a New American Century or (PNAC), stand for a foreign policy designed to reestablish United States global hegemony. PNAC, formed in the 1990s, in its official positions argued that the United States, as the last remaining superpower, must use that power to remake the world. The PNAC vision combines the ideology of the United States as the “city on the hill” and the “beacon of hope” for the world, with the advocacy of using overwhelming military force to achieve imperial goals.

Romney, contrary to prior statements, endorsed the Obama administration plans for withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. He, like President Obama, supported the Syrian opposition short of U.S. direct military intervention. He called for maintaining sanctions against Iran to force the latter to end its alleged nuclear program while avoiding war. And Romney, like Obama, endorsed challenging China’s trade policy while engaging in constructive diplomacy with the burgeoning new superpower.  These and other Romney statements mirrored (for better or worse) the foreign policies of President Obama. The flexible Republican candidate “moved to the center” on foreign policy because of his perceived need to present an image of wisdom and caution to the America voters who oppose a continued presence in Afghanistan, getting directly involved in wars against Syria and Iran, and the wars on “terrorism,” “drugs,” and other crusades.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Iran: Myth of the ‘Surgical Strike’


Expect High Human Toll from Robust Military Assault Against Iranian Nuclear Program

By Wayne White
LobeLog Foreign Policy

An excellent Oct 18 article, “The Myth of ‘Surgical Strikes’ on Iran“, by David Isenberg highlighted many of the conclusions of a sobering study by industrialist Khosrow Semnani on the potentially steep human cost of even a relatively selective attack against Iran’s diverse nuclear infrastructure.

Semnani maintains that if the most important facilities are hit during work shifts, on site casualties could be as high as 10,000. Additionally, since a few of the most important Iranian nuclear installations are located near population centers, toxic nuclear materials unleashed by the attacks could possibly inflict an even higher number of casualties on civilians.

Yet, Semnani focused most of his attention on the the casualties stemming from attacks focused on just one critical slice of the nuclear sector, with less detailed references to other targets (which he notes could involve a grand total of “400?) that might be struck in an especially robust air campaign against Iran. Indeed, if the US in particular decided to carry out such attacks, some detail on the potential — in fact likely — impact far beyond Iran’s most high-profile nuclear facilities and their immediate surroundings needs to be added to this picture to gain a full appreciation of the extent of potential Iranian casualties.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The New York Times Finally Calls for Afghan Withdrawal

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links

Oct 16, 2012 - America’s flagship newspaper, the New York Times, called Sunday for the US to leave Afghanistan “on a schedule dictated only by the security of the troops.” The editorial was the first in a national publication to call for rapid withdrawal during more than ten years of war.

Of course there were paranoid bloggers who felt it was another trick and not quick enough. And conservatives will call it “cut and run.” But the editorial was a courageous defense of unilateral withdrawal, lending enormous legitimacy to peace forces in Congress and the administration.

Without saying so, the Times has endorsed the long efforts of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and others in Congress, pushed with active support from thousands of persistent grassroots activists, for Congress to cut all funding except for that needed for “responsible withdrawal.”

The Times separated itself from the largely unrepentant “liberal humanitarians,” who pushed the Afghan military intervention in the name of women’s rights and democracy. “The Taliban will take over parts of the Pashtun south, where they will brutalize women and trample their rights…Warlords will go on stealing,” the paper acknowledged. Afghanistan will become like Vietnam, they added, as if this was a terrible but tolerable thing.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Citizen Diplomacy Against Drones Over Pakistan

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links

Oct 5, 2012 - A delegation of American peace activists has succeeded in directly engaging the US ambassador to Pakistan over the drone attacks, which have killed civilians and inflamed anti-US opinion in South Asia and around the globe. A video of the meeting between the delegation, organized by Code Pink, and US ambassador Robert Hoagland was posted October 3.

The drone policy is opposed by groups as diverse as Code Pink activists, counter-insurgency experts at the Long War Journal and the New America Foundation. They are seen by the Obama administration as inflicting serious damage on insurgent sanctuaries as the US gradually withdraws troops from Afghanistan. From a political viewpoint, the drone strikes result in few American casualties and are invisible to a public addicted to television.

A fierce information war is underway over competing calculations of civilian casualties, with the CIA claiming a “yearlong perfect record” and independent researchers counting in the hundreds. Left out of the body count debate is the political-diplomatic impact, which has added immeasurably to public rage in Pakistan, Afghanistan and across the Islamic world, while at the same time diluting potential peace sentiment in the United States.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

American Public Opposes War with Iran

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via Peace Exchange Bulletin

Sept 18, 2012 - Among key findings of a survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs are these:

  •     51% oppose the UN authorizing a strike on Iran, 70% oppose a unilateral U.S. strike on Iran, and 59% do not want to get involved in a potential Iran-Israel war; 45% favor the UN authorization of a strike;
  •     “In the hypothetical situation in which Israel were to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, Iran were to retaliate against Israel, and the two were to go to war, only 38 percent say the United States should bring its military forces into the war on the side of Israel. A majority (59%) says it should not.” (p. 30)
  •     54% do support an attack by U.S. ground troops against terrorist training camps and facilities, down from 82% in 2002.

    To deal with the crisis in Syria, majorities of Americans support diplomatic and economic sanctions (63%) as well as a no-fly zone in Syria (58%).

Those numbers may be what is causing Benyamin Netanyahu, and his allies in AIPAC, to step up their campaign of implied political threats against the Obama administration for its relative caution over Iran’s nuclear program.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Next Time You Hear ‘Support Our Troops’ from the Right, Remember This:

GOP Blocks Veteran Jobs Bill

Beaver County Peace Links via New York Times

Sept. 19, 2012 - Veterans won't be getting a new, billion-dollar jobs program, not from this Senate. Republicans on Wednesday afternoon blocked a vote on the Veterans Job Corps Bill after Jeff Sessions of Alabama raised a point of order - he said the bill violated a cap on spending agreed to by Congress last year. The bill's sponsor, Patty Murray of Washington, said that shouldn't matter, since the bill's cost was fully offset by new revenues. She said Mr. Sessions and his party colleagues had been furiously generating excuses to oppose the bill, and were now exploiting a technicality to deny thousands of veterans a shot at getting hired as police officers, firefighters and parks workers, among other things.

The vote was 58-40; the bill needed 60 votes to proceed.

It would be easier to admire the Republicans' late-breaking fiscal scrupulosity if their motives - denying the Obama administration any kind of victory this year, whatever the cost to jobless vets - weren't so transparent.  It's probably useful to remind Republicans like John McCain (a "nay" on the jobs bill) that wounded, jobless and homeless veterans aren't a fact of nature. They're a product of the wars that Congress members voted for, the war debt they piled on, and the economy they helped ruin.

"It's unbelievable that even after more than a decade of war, many Republicans still will not acknowledge that the treatment of our veterans is a cost of war," Ms. Murray said in a statement after the vote.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Return of the NeoCons: What A GOP Victory Means for War and Peace

Ryan a Pawn in Neo-Con Return

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via

August 20, 2012 - Dan Senor, left, at a briefing on Saturday for the Romney campaign on a plane en route to Israel. (Photo: Stephen Crowley)The neo-conservatives have consolidated their plan for control of US foreign policy with the vice-presidential nomination of Paul Ryan.

Ryan is being briefed by Dan Senor, described mildly in the New York Times as "an expert on Israel and the Middle East." Senor, however, is anything but expert. He was the spokesperson, or spin-doctor, for the initial Coalition Provisional Authority, which occupied Iraq in 2003 with promises about democracy blooming after weapons of mass destruction were removed. Not since Vietnam had state propaganda so completely dominated the narrative, in keeping with the Pentagon/neo-con view that "the liberal media" caused the fall of Saigon.

Ever since, Senor, often armed with "fat briefing books under his arm,” has supplied Republicans with spin in furtherance of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and hawkish pro-Israeli forces represented by Sheldon Adelson. It was Senor who traveled with Romney to London, Israel and Poland on his recent foreign policy tour, and it was Senor who told the traveling media that Romney would support an Israeli strike on Iran.

Senor has achieved more respectability than Bush or Dick Cheney in Washington power circles, apparently by indefatigably showing up with briefing books, by his marriage to former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, his ties to wealthy hedge-fund investors, and political connections across the Beltway. He is the chief spokesman for a neo-con circle advising Romney, one including more controversial hard-liners such as Bush's UN ambassador John Bolton. Senor's sister, Wendy Singer, is the AIPAC representative in Israel.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Survey: Voters OK With Defense Cuts

Your tax dollars rusting away in the desert

Military Industrialists happy with politicians who ignore antiwar majority voters

By Sandra I. Erwin
Nation Defense via Beaver County Peace Links

The Pentagon and defense industry should be thankful that politicians don’t make military-spending decisions based on public opinion.

A survey unveiled this week by three non-profit organizations challenges the conventional wisdom on how Americans feel about military spending and whether defense budget cuts are needed to help tackle the nation’s debt.

Respondents said they would support slashing the Pentagon’s 2012 budget of $562 billion budget by up to $127 billion. The data gleaned from the survey suggests that the public is comfortable with a leaner, but well-equipped military.

Unlike the standard yea-or-nay polls that simply ask Americans whether they favor cutting defense, increasing it, or keeping it the same, a survey conducted by the Program for Public Consultation, Stimson and the Center for Public Integrity departed from the norm and provided 665 respondents with contextual information to help inform their answers.

Armed with detailed information about federal budget trends, military spending, defense strategy and weapon procurement planning documents — data not easily available to most Americans — most of the survey respondents supported cuts to various portions of the U.S. military budget.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Not Needed – A Return of the NeoCon War Party

If You Liked the Iraq War, You'll Love Romney's Foreign Policy

By Robert Creamer
Beaver County Peace Links via HuffPost

Romney's trip abroad has demonstrated that his foreign policy operation is "bush league" in more ways than one.

By now the entire world has gotten a chance to see that Mitt Romney is no foreign policy or diplomatic genius.

He went to Britain and insulted his host's preparation for the Olympic Games -- leading major British papers to run banner headlines like: "Mitt the Twitt" and "Nowhere Man."

He massively damaged whatever ability he might have had to broker Middle East peace were he elected president by theorizing that the economic difficulties of Palestinians stemmed from their inferior "culture."

On his visit to Poland, Romney received the endorsement of former Polish President and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa. The Polish Solidarity union itself -- with which Walesa is no longer associated -- responded by issuing a statement attacking Romney as an enemy of working people.

Romney's debut on the foreign policy stage opened to horrible reviews.

He seems to insult people wherever he travels. He has demonstrated that he is completely tone-deaf -- that he has no ability to understand what other people hear when he speaks. That's bad enough in domestic politics -- but it disqualifies a leader from effectively representing the interests of the United States in dealings with other countries.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Who Will Vote for the Antiwar Majority on Military Budgets?

Majorities in Both Red and Blue Districts Favor Deep Cuts in Defense Spending

Majorities in Districts with High Defense Spending Also Favor Cuts

Try the Interactive Defense Budget Exercise
Majority of Americans Willing to Make Defense Budget Cuts

A unique survey conducted by the Program for Public Consultation, the Stimson Center, and the Center for Public Integrity has found that substantial cuts to the defense budget are favored by majorities in both Red and Blue districts, as well as majorities in districts that benefit from high levels of defense spending.
In conducting this study, a representative sample of Americans were shown the 2012 defense budget from different perspectives and presented with arguments that experts make for and against cutting defense spending in 2013. Working online, they were then able to specify their preferred defense spending level.
Among those living in Red districts (i.e. ones represented by a Republican), 74% favored cutting defense; in Blue districts (represented by a Democrat), 80% favored cuts.

Overall, respondents living in districts benefiting from the highest level of defense spending were no less willing to cut than those in districts benefiting from much lower levels of defense spending. Three quarters of respondents in the top 10% of beneficiary districts favored reductions, and their average cut slightly exceeded that of the full sample. Overall there was no statistical correlation between the level of defense spending in a district and the level of support for defense cuts.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It’s Called the ‘Graveyard of Empires’ for a Reason


The American Defeat in Afghanistan

By Tom Hayden
Peace & Justice Resource Center

July 6, 2012 - The United States government is facing defeat in Afghanistan. But that is not a bad thing in comparison to the alternative: waging war for another decade.

The recent pledges of Western funding and non-NATO ally status are little more than a cover for the defeat the US government is facing in Afghanistan, the famed graveyard of empires. Afghanistan will not be a US outpost flanking China, nor a bonanza of mineral wealth for the easy taking, nor the vanguard of an Islamic Spring. The Taliban will not be defeated, nor the Karzai regime rendered stable.

As Gideon Rose, editor of Foreign Policy, notes in the attachment below, the defeat will be covered up, because that is what governing elites do. Or, to borrow from the cruder language of Sarah Palin, the outcome will be lipstick on a pig.

There will be repercussions from the coming defeat. In Afghanistan, perhaps a renewed civil war. In the US and NATO, continued immunity for national-security elites from the consequences of their terrible judgments. A crippling political debate at home over “who lost Afghanistan?” And a cloud of confused depression for Americans who sent their sons and daughters into “the good war.”

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Twisting Words to Make War


Lost in Translation: Iran Never

Threatened to Wipe Israel Off the Map

By Steve Rendall
Beaver County Peace Links via Extra! June 2012

The menacing threat has been repeated endlessly in U.S. corporate media in recent years: Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” “Iran,” “Israel” and “wipe” in one form or another occur together in more than 17,000 articles in the Nexis news database over the last seven years. It plays a critical role in the case for pre-emptive war against Iran. There’s just one problem: It never happened.

Mideast expert and blogger Juan Cole (Informed Comment, 5/3/06) noted long ago that Iranian leaders never called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” but a recent admission by an Israeli official to that effect suggests that there is hope this information might finally penetrate the corporate media bubble.

On Al Jazeera English (4/14/12), Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor agreed with interviewer Teymoor Nabili’s suggestion that the supposed remarks were never actually made. Iranian leaders, Meridor said, come basically ideologically, religiously, with the statement that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive. They didn’t say “we’ll wipe it out,” you are right, but [that] it will not survive, it is a cancerous tumor, it should be removed.

The Persian phrase Meridor was asked about was used by Ahmadinejad in a 2005 speech in which neither maps nor wiping were mentioned. As Cole explained (Informed Comment, 5/3/06):

The actual quote, which comes from an old speech of Khomeini, does not imply military action, or killing anyone at all.... The phrase is almost metaphysical. He quoted Khomeini that “the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time.” It is in fact probably a reference to some phrase in a medieval Persian poem. It is not about tanks.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Who Will Speak for Us, the Antiwar Majority, in Congress?

With Kudos to PDA’s Barbara Lee!

Last week for the first time, the majority of Democrats voted in favor of the Lee Amendment limiting funding for the Afghanistan War to the safe and orderly withdrawal of US troops and security contractors. (101 ayes, 79 Noes).

This represents a sea-change of opinion from the time that Rep. Barbara Lee stood alone among her House colleagues eleven years ago, challenging the wisdom of the war.

It is unfortunately no surprise that this amendment was defeated 113-303. However, in our upcoming work it will be important to emphasize that the President's political base is now in clear opposition to his Afghanistan war policy.

On the 2013 NDAA as a whole (HR 4310) we did better than anticipated with a final vote of 120 Noes and 299 Ayes. Fortunately the majority of Democrats voted against the 2013 NDAA. (104-77). The reasons for Democratic voting on this item are ambiguous because the White House itself was displeased with the final version of the bill and because civil liberties was also an important concern. Yet clearly for many Democrats a major factor was the size of the military budget at a time when domestic programs are under attack.

Going forward, it seems possible that with greater unity we might achieve a better result in the next round of votes. The bill now goes to the Senate, where there will be various efforts to shorten the American stay in Afghanistan and to cut billions from the Pentagon budget.

Our Legislative Working Group will continue to support these initiatives, as well as stronger amendments to end the war in Afghanistan and to garner more NO votes against the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

Provided below are links to the Roll-calls on the Lee Amendment and the 2013 NDAA itself. If your member of Congress voted for peace and against the authorization of $242 billion, it might be helpful to send a message of thanks.

Roll Call for 2013 Defense Authorization Act:

Roll Call for Lee Amendment

Many thanks for everyone who did the Congressional Calls last week. If you obtained any additional information from a Congressional Office, please pass along to

Ufpj-afghanistan mailing list

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What Is Obama's Position on Afghanistan? Say It Again?


‘Winding Down’ the War vs. ‘Losing Afghanistan’

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via HuffPost

May 16, 2012 - As a candidate opposing the Iraq War, Barack Obama improved his hawkish credentials by promising to track down Osama bin Laden, expand drone attacks, and escalate the American troop numbers in Afghanistan. Three years later, bin Laden is dead, the drones inflame Pakistan opinion and complicate a peace settlement, and 33,000 American troops are scheduled to pull out by the end of 2012 with "steady withdrawals" to continue after. Sixty-eight thousand U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan by this year's end, with the deadline for withdrawing most of them by December 2014.

By the numbers, Afghanistan has already directly cost taxpayers $528.8 billion, and the Obama request for Afghanistan this fiscal year is $107 billion. That does not include the hidden, indirect costs -- accrual such as long-term Social Security, disability, and medical care for veterans, etc. -- partly spurred by an order last year from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, which will add hundreds of billions, if not trillions to the ultimate financial impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The president's internal political calculation in 2008 was that he could never pull out of Afghanistan without killing Al Qaeda's top leadership and building a firewall against a Taliban return to power. While perhaps correct politically, this has led to an Afghan quagmire shaken by severe contradictions.

  • Hamid Karzai remains an unpopular, unreliable president whose term ends in 2014, the year of the troop withdrawal deadline. He seeks $3.5-6 billion each of the next two years to build up the Afghan armed forces, plus a Western commitment to funding for at least another decade, an impossible expectation.
  • According to Pentagon evaluations, those troops are unable to function independently, though insurgent infiltrators are skilled at shooting NATO allies. (Twenty percent of NATO fatalities have occurred this year, according to The New York Times).
  • Foreign aid to Afghanistan equals its entire gross national product and, according to the World Bank, "cannot be sustained."
  • "Intractable Graft by Elite Afghans" makes reform out of reach.

Earlier this year, the Taliban indicated through intermediaries a willingness to hold dialogue with the West, in Qatar, but demanded the release of several detainees now in Guantanamo, possibly in exchange for an American POW, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Those discussions are in trouble, partly because of Republican opposition to releasing U.S.-held Taliban combatants. As a result, the Obama administration's hope for progress in negotiations has hit the skids.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Afghanistan: Our Longest War and Biggest Fantasy

By Harry Targ
Beaver County Peace Links

On May Day, 2012 President Obama made a secret trip to Afghanistan and spoke to the nation and the troops on the ground about past, present, and future policy. What the speech revealed was a replication of a ten-year fantasy narrative about why we went to war on Afghanistan, what our goals were, and what the future holds in the region for the United States and, most importantly, the Afghan people.

The President announced he was signing an agreement between the two countries which will define “a new kind of relationship” in which Afghans will assume primary responsibility for their security and “we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states.” The future of this relationship will be bright as “the war ends, and a new chapter begins.”

The announcement sounded eerily like the policy of “Vietnamization” which President Nixon put in place in 1969; handing over ground action to the South Vietnamese government while the United States escalated the bombing of targets in North and South Vietnam and invaded neighboring Cambodia. The South Vietnamese government and military were incapable of assuming “primary responsibility” and in the end were overthrown by powerful forces in the countryside.

The President explained that President Bush correctly launched a war on Afghanistan in October, 2001 because the country allowed terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden an al Qaeda “safe-haven” for terrorist planning and attacks, ultimately leading to the tragedy of 9/11. While Bin Laden escaped to Pakistan, the U.S. continued fighting the Taliban who have “waged a brutal insurgency.”

Subsequently, he claimed, using the dehumanized language of violence –prone discourse, the U.S. military has “taken out over 20 of their top leaders” including bin Laden himself. But the war continues. While the United States downsizes its troop commitments policy will include:

  • a transition of the war to our Afghan military allies. Importantly Obama proclaimed that at the NATO summit this month in Chicago, “our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year.” However, “international troops will continue to train, advise and assist Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed.”
  • training of Afghan Security Forces, leading to an Afghan force of 352,000 troops which NATO will support to create “a strong and sustainable long-term Afghan force.”
  • increasing US/NATO/Afghan cooperation “including shared commitments to combat terrorism and strengthen democratic institutions.” President Obama declared that these commitments, in the short run involving counter-terrorism and continued training, do not include the building of permanent U.S. bases.
  • pursuing a negotiated peace with the Taliban if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence and “abide by Afghan laws.”
  • working towards stability in South Asia, including partnering with neighboring Pakistan. The President assured viewers that “America has no designs beyond an end to al Qaeda safe-havens, and respect for Afghan sovereignty.” In short, the central goal of United States policy is to destroy al Qaeda, in the short run to stabilize Afghanistan, and “to finish the job we started in Afghanistan…”

The speech reflects the classic pattern of U.S. military globalization coupled with tortured ahistorical fantasy narratives that have characterized policy since the end of World War II.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where Are We At, Where Are We Headed? A Study Guide…


Ideas about Antiwar, Antimilitarist Strategies for the Years Ahead

Written by War Times
07 April 2012

As the global and U.S. political landscape shifts, a new round of strategic discussion is taking place in many sectors of the antiwar movement. Below are the key assessment points and questions used by War Times to kick off our collective's effort to (1) take stock of the current volatile moment and (2) look for effective paths forward. The third part of this discussion paper is a short essay on antimilitarist strategies by War Timer Lynn Koh that expresses some of what we felt were the most useful ideas coming out of our deliberations. We are sharing this material in hopes of pushing forward a much-needed dialogue not only among activists who are focused mainly on antiwar and international solidarity efforts, but also with grassroots organizers whose work is mainly in other movements but who see the importance of making opposition to war, empire and militarism an integral part of a revitalized U.S. progressive movement. –Max Elbaum, Francesca Fiorentini, Rebecca Gordon, Hany Khalil and Lynn Koh for War Times

1. Taking stock of the big picture: What can we expect on the war/peace/militarism front in the post-Iraq War, new-U.S.-military-doctrine, continuing-Great-Recession years ahead?

The U.S. is an empire in decline. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, intended to be the first steps in securing a whole new level of U.S. global hegemony (and right-wing rule at home) instead over-stretched Washington militarily, financially and politically and accelerated the empire's downward trend. In the wake of these wars and the 2008 financial-then-economic crisis, the U.S. elite is adjusting its strategies to maximize U.S. clout in the period ahead.

The elite is united on the maintenance of U.S. military superiority over all rivals (combined) and the willingness to employ force and threats of force as a key part of its global arsenal. But it is badly divided over how adventurous to be in waging war (especially regarding deployment of ground combat troops) and how unilateral to be. The new military doctrine initiated by Obama, which stresses "rebalancing" toward Asia and use of drones and special operations over deployment of ground troops represents the "realist" strategy for the next stage. The Neocon faction, now out of power, wants much more aggressive use of force particularly in the Middle East; and their crusade is bolstered by the fact that a significant swatch of the white population has embraced a racist 'clash of civilizations' zealotry which sees white Christian-Jewish civilization pitted against a whole range of dangerous anti-American, anti-Western Civilization, anti-Israel "others" ranging from Al-Qaeda to Obama.

Under these circumstances, "low level" wars, expansion of military bases and threats against other countries (in Africa and Latin America as well as in the Asia/the Pacific region and the Middle East) will likely be constant features of the decades ahead. And there will be a near-constant danger of larger scale wars pushed by the far right as well. The kind of push is taking place right now with the right's crusade for an attack on Iran.

Simultaneously, the military-industrial complex and the militarist approaches to human relations it advocates will buttress regressive policies and structures on all fronts of social struggle. Military spending and militarist hostility to "enemies" drain resources from social programs; bolster the elite's austerity-for-the-masses program; distort the economy generally; foster racist, anti-immigrant and sexist views and practices; are key excuses to curtail civil liberties, and are a major force in continuing dependence on fossil fuels and threatening environmental disaster. In other words, militarism as both an institutional reality and set of ideas is an obstacle not only to peaceful relations among nations and peoples but to all social progress.

Questions: What do things look like on the war/peace/militarism front over the next 5-10 years? What impact will the 2012 election campaign, and its potential outcomes, have on what lies ahead? Readings:

Bob Wing, The Arab Spring and the Changing Dynamics of Global Struggle

Max Elbaum, Fighting for Peace Against an Empire in Decline

Tom Hayden, End to Long War Doctrine?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Labor Coalition Warns Against War With Iran


By Roger Bybee
Beaver County Peace Links via In These Times

US Labor Against the War says "it is time to invest at home"

A broad coalition of influential labor organizations and leaders is urging the Obama administration to avoid any steps that would escalate tensions with Iran, which allegedly poses a nuclear threat in the near future. US Labor Against the War—which is independent of U.S. unions but affiliated with scores of unions and labor councils around the country—is alarmed both by the potential for a catastrophic U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran, and the resulting drain on resources needed to rebuild America's economy.

The USLAW statement highlights the human costs of yet another U.S. assault, but also stresses how an attack on Iran would rob U.S. workers of the resources needed to rebuild an economy still wracked by high unemployment and falling wages.

USLAW declared in a statement last month:

“    the AFL-CIO National Executive Council said in its statement on jobs and labor’s agenda on August 3, 2011: "There is no way to fund what we must do as a nation without bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The militarization of our foreign policy has proven to be a costly mistake. It is time to invest at home."

    …the budget crises at federal, state and local levels and their devastating consequences for working people make all the more urgent reductions in U.S. military operations and expenditures, and the transfer of those funds to meet pressing domestic needs…

Yet momentum continues to build for an attack on Iran, with Republican presidential candidates taunting the Obama administration as insufficiently tough toward Iran and supposedly hostile to Israel.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Note to Obama: We Need a Peace Candidate

A Protest of NATO From NATO Countries

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via HuffPost

Peace movements in every country are raising their voices against the war in Afghanistan in advance of the May 18-20 NATO summit in Chicago. Some will converge on Chicago, while others will march in NATO capitols. Around two-thirds of the public in NATO countries now opposes the war, and most of their governments are anxious to withdraw if a face-saving path can be found.

The Obama administration and its allies are scrambling to showcase an announcement of progress before the Chicago summit gathering, which thousands of journalists are planning to cover. The administration already has relocated the G-8 summit on the world fiscal crisis, originally planned at the same time, to the secure seclusion of Camp David.

To support a peace petition by citizens of NATO countries, please sign here.

The administration faces a growing reality of quagmire, possibly even deeper chaos, in Afghanistan. Sixty-nine percent of Americans say the U.S. "should not be involved", a jump of 16 percent from last year. The percentages tend to be even higher in NATO countries.

A March 7 New York Times headline, "Intractable Afghan Graft Hampering U.S. Strategy", summarizes the terminal ineptitude of the Karzai regime. According to NATO data, only one of the Afghan army's 158 battalions is able to fight on their own, up from zero last year. (New York Times, March 16, 2012) Meanwhile those same Afghan soldiers and police are "killing their colleagues among the international military force here at an alarming rate", according to another New York Times report. (March 28, 2012) One result of the deepening quagmire has been a collapse of U.S. military morale and discipline, as seen in widely-publicized cases of American soldiers burning Qurans, urinating on dead bodies, and a shooting spree against innocent Afghan villagers. The suicide rate in the American armed forces is at a historic high.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Where Can We Find a Congressman to Speak for the Antiwar Majority?

CNN Poll: Afghan War Support Hits New Low

Beaver County Peace Links via CNN Political Unit

(CNN, April 2) - Support for the war in Afghanistan has fallen to an all-time low with the majority of Americans saying the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan before the 2014 deadline set by the Obama administration, according to a new poll.

The CNN/ORC International survey released Friday indicated only 25% of Americans favored the war in the Asian country. A majority of Republicans voiced opposition to it, for the first time since the war began in 2001.

Just 37% of the general public said things are going well for the U.S. in Afghanistan, while only 34% said America is winning the war. The approval likely contributed to the 55% of those surveyed who said the U.S. should remove all of its troops from the country before 2014.

Twenty-two percent expressed support for the 2014 timetable and an additional 22% said the U.S. should keep some troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Leaders at the Pentagon have recently responded to low poll numbers by stressing the importance of fighting the war on the ground.

"We cannot fight wars by polls," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday. "If we do that we're in deep trouble. We have to operate based on what we believe is the best strategy to achieve the mission that we are embarked on. And the mission here is to safeguard our country by ensuring that the Taliban and al Qaeda never again find a safe haven in Afghanistan."

The poll, conducted for CNN by ORC International, surveyed 1,014 American adults by telephone between March 24 and March 25 with a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

– CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Is the Hijab Now a ‘Hoodie’ for Muslim Women?


Shaima Alawadi Dead: Iraqi Woman Who Was Severely Beaten In California Home Dies

Huffington Post Report

March 24, 2012, EL CAJON, Calif. — A 32-year-old woman from Iraq who was found severely beaten next to a threatening note saying "go back to your country" died on Saturday.

Hanif Mohebi, the director of the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he met with Shaima Alawadi's family members in the morning and was told that she was taken off life support around 3 p.m.

"The family is in shock at the moment. They're still trying to deal with what happened," Mohebi said.

Alawadi, a mother of five, had been hospitalized since her 17-year-old daughter found her unconscious Wednesday in the family's house in El Cajon, police Lt. Steve Shakowski said.

The daughter, Fatima Al Himidi, told KUSI-TV her mother had been beaten on the head repeatedly with a tire iron, and that the note said "go back to your country, you terrorist."

Addressing the camera, the tearful daughter asked: "You took my mother away from me. You took my best friend away from me. Why? Why did you do it?"

Police said the family had found a similar note earlier this month but did not report it to authorities.

Al Himidi told KGTV-TV her mother dismissed the first note, found outside the home, as a child's prank.

A family friend, Sura Alzaidy, told UT San Diego () that the attack apparently occurred after the father took the younger children to school. Alzaidy told the newspaper the family is from Iraq, and that Alawadi is a "respectful modest muhajiba," meaning she wears the traditional hijab, a head scarf.

Investigators said they believe the assault is an isolated incident.

"A hate crime is one of the possibilities, and we will be looking at that," Lt. Mark Coit said. "We don't want to focus on only one issue and miss something else."

The family had lived in the house in San Diego County for only a few weeks, after moving from Michigan, Alzaidy said. Alzaidy told the newspaper her father and Alawadi's husband had previously worked together in San Diego as private contractors for the U.S. Army, serving as cultural advisers to train soldiers who were going to be deployed to the Middle East.

Mohebi said the family had been in the United States since the mid-1990s.

He said it was unfortunate that the family didn't report the initial threatening note.

"Our community does face a lot of discriminatory, hate incidents and don't always report them," Mohebi said. "They should take these threats seriously and definitely call local law enforcement."

El Cajon, northeast of downtown San Diego, is home to some 40,000 Iraqi immigrants, the second largest such community in the U.S. after Detroit.

Also on HuffPost: 799 406 50 1.7K

Thursday, March 15, 2012

End Atrocities by Ending the War

Terror, Trauma, and the Endless Afghan War

By Amy Goodman
Beaver County Peace Links via Nation of Change

We may never know what drove a U.S. Army staff sergeant to head out into the Afghan night and allegedly murder at least 16 civilians in their homes, among them nine children and three women. The massacre near Belambai, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, has shocked the world and intensified the calls for an end to the longest war in U.S. history. The attack has been called tragic, which it surely is. But when Afghans attack U.S. forces, they are called “terrorists.” That is, perhaps, the inconsistency at the core of U.S. policy, that democracy can be delivered through the barrel of a gun, that terrorism can be fought by terrorizing a nation.

“I did it,” the alleged mass murderer said as he returned to the forward operating base outside Kandahar, that southern city called the “heartland of the Taliban.” He is said to have left the base at 3 a.m. and walked to three nearby homes, methodically killing those inside. One farmer, Abdul Samad, was away at the time. His wife, four sons, and four daughters were killed. Some of the victims had been stabbed, some set on fire. Samad told The New York Times, “Our government told us to come back to the village, and then they let the Americans kill us.”

The massacre follows massive protests against the U.S. military’s burning of copies of the Quran, which followed the video showing U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Afghans. Two years earlier, the notorious “kill team” of U.S. soldiers that murdered Afghan civilians for sport, posing for gruesome photos with the corpses and cutting off fingers and other body parts as trophies, also was based near Kandahar.

In response, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rolled out a string of cliches, reminding us that “war is hell.” Panetta visited Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, near Kandahar, this week on a previously scheduled trip that coincidentally fell days after the massacre. The 200 Marines invited to hear him speak were forced to leave their weapons outside the tent. NBC News reported that such instructions were “highly unusual,” as Marines are said to always have weapons on hand in a war zone. Earlier, upon his arrival, a stolen truck raced across the landing strip toward his plane, and the driver leapt out of the cab, on fire, in an apparent attack.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Note to Obama: Don’t Go Here

Circle Of Clowns Playing With Fire:

The GOP's Warmongering on Iran

By Bill Fletcher, Jr
Progressive America Rising via Seattle Medium

March 14, 2012 - It is difficult to watch the spectacle of the Republican primaries and not agree with whoever it was that originated the description of those candidacies as nothing more or less than a ‘circle of clowns.’ At each moment one or the other candidate seems to go deeper into the swamp, whether through denigrating science, attacking women or attempting to ridicule President Obama for supporting college education.

With this evolution of the campaign it feels as if we are going deeper and deeper into a new dark age with mysticism, fear, militarism, racism and misogynism as the defining characteristics.

What never ceases to amaze me is the manner in which these politicians have, with the exception of the right-wing libertarian Ron Paul, jumped up and down on the band-wagon in favor of war with Iran. In concert with an element of the Israeli political establishment and their supporters in the USA, they have been beating the drum for military strikes against Iran as a means of stopping the alleged efforts of Iran to achieve a nuclear weapon.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Warning from a Warmonger on Iran

Dangerous, Ignorant Warmongers


The drums of war are being banged again by those that cater to the economic wishes of the military/industrial/security complex.

By Leslie H. Gelb
Beaver County Peace Links via The Daily Beast

March 9, 2012 - I'm not supposed to tell you this. I'm violating the code. I'm giving away the deepest, darkest secret of the foreign policy clan: even though we sound like we know everything, we know very little, especially about the intentions of bad guys and the consequences of war.

But since the media keeps treating us like sages and keeps ignoring our horrendous mistakes, we carry on with our game, and do a lot of damage. Let me give you of few of the more recent examples of how ignorant and dangerous we are, and why you should be wary of any flat out “truths” and certainties uttered by my clanspeople.

Take Iran. Those who can't wait to start a war with Iran tell us that Tehran is within three seconds, three months, or a year of developing a nuclear weapon. I promise you they don't know this for anything near a fact. They're trying to push Israel and the United States into a military attack against Iran.

Here's all we do know for sure: Iran is enriching uranium and has the capacity to enrich enough of it to a level of purity sufficient to make nukes - maybe, perhaps, in a year or two or more. Iran may have or may be developing related capacities to place this uranium into explosive form in a bomb or missile warhead. We have suspicions about the latter based on various kinds of imaging and listening intelligence.

Now, are these activities something to worry about? Absolutely! But it is not a basis for going to war now or soon. It is a basis for Americans, Israelis, and others to find out more as quickly as possible through better intelligence and diplomacy. Yes, diplomacy, because we can argue forever about exactly what the Iranians have and intend, but making diplomatic proposals allows us to test our hypotheses. If Tehran rejects reasonable proposals, then there are grounds for raising suspicions and waving the war wand.

By the way, this isn't just my view. It is the consensus position of U.S. intelligence agencies. Equally telling, it is what retired senior Israeli intelligence chiefs and military officers have been shouting from the rooftops publicly, totally contrary to the code of silence on these matters.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Afghan Widow: ‘I Just Want You to Leave’


The Ghost and the Machine

By Kathy Kelly
with research by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers

Beaver County Peace Links via HuffPost

Feb, 29, 2012 - Fazillah, age 25, lives in Maidan Shar, the central city of Afghanistan's Wardak province. She married about six years ago, and gave birth to a son, Aymal, who just turned five without a father. Fazillah tells her son, Aymal, that his father was killed by an American bomber plane, remote-controlled by computer.

That July, in 2007, Aymal's father was sitting in a garden with four other men. A weaponized drone, what we used to call an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, was flying, unseen, overhead, and fired missiles into the garden, killing all five men.

Now Fazillah and Aymal share a small dwelling with the deceased man's mother. According to the tradition, a husband's relatives are responsible to look after a widow with no breadwinner remaining in her immediate family. She and her son have no regular source of bread or income, but Fazillah says that her small family is better off than it might have been: one of the men killed alongside her husband left behind a wife and child but no other living relatives that could provide them with any source of support, at all.

Aymal's grandmother becomes agitated and distraught speaking about her son's death, and that of his four friends. "All of us ask, 'Why?'" she says, raising her voice. "They kill people with computers and they can't tell us why. When we ask why this happened, they say they had doubts, they had suspicions. But they didn't take time to ask 'Who is this person?' or 'Who was that person?' There is no proof, no accountability. Now, there is no reliable person in the home to bring us bread. I am old, and I do not have a peaceful life."

Listening to them, I recall an earlier conversation I had with a Pakistani social worker and with Safdar Dawar, a journalist, both of whom had survived drone attacks in the area of Miran Shah, in Pakistan's Waziristan province. Exasperated at the increasingly common experience which they had survived and which too many others have not, they began firing questions at us.

"Who has given the license to kill and in what court? Who has declared that they can hit anyone they like?"

"How many 'high level targets' could there possibly be?"

"What kind of democracy is America," Safdar asks, "where people do not ask these questions?"

One question Fazillah cannot answer for her son is whether anyone asked the question at all of whether to kill his father.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Need to Stop a Very Bad Idea

Iran, Israel and the US: The Slide To War

By Conn Hallinan
Beaver County Peace Links via Dispatches from the Edge

Feb 24, 2012 - Wars are fought because some people decide it is in their interests to fight them. World War I was not started over the Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination, nor was it triggered by the alliance system. An “incident” may set the stage for war, but no one keeps shooting unless they think it’s a good idea. The Great War started because the countries involved decided they would profit by it, delusional as that conclusion was.

It is useful to keep this idea in mind when trying to figure out if there will be a war with Iran. In short, what are the interests of the protagonists, and are they important enough for those nations to take the fateful step into the chaos of battle?

First off, because oil and gas are involved, a war would have global ramifications. Iran supplies [4] China with about 15 percent of its oil, and India with 10 percent. It is a major supplier to Europe, Turkey, Japan and South Korea, and it has the third largest oil reserves and the second largest natural gas reserves in the world. Some 17 million barrels per day pass through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, a significant part of the globe’s energy supply.

In short, the actors in this drama are widespread and their interests as diverse as their nationalities.

According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [5], Iran is building nuclear weapons that pose an “existential” threat to Israel. But virtually no one believes this, including the bulk of Tel Aviv’s military and intelligence communities [6]. As former Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz [7] said recently, Iran “is not an existential” threat to Israel. There is no evidence that Iran is building a bomb and all its facilities are currently under a 24-hour United Nations inspection regime.

Monday, February 27, 2012

GOP Warmongering on the Rise


The Gang That Couldn't Bomb Straight

By Robert Scheer
Beaver County Peace Links via Truthdig Op-Ed

Feb. 26, 2012 - Here we go again. With the economy showing faint signs of life and their positions on the social issues alienating most moderates, the leading Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, have returned to the elixir of warmongering to once again sway the gullible masses.

The race to the bottom has been set by Newt Gingrich, the most desperate of the lot, who on Tuesday charged that "the president wants to unilaterally weaken the United States" because his administration has dared question the wisdom of Israel attacking Iran and proposes a slight reduction in the bloated defense budget.

Let the good times roll, with a beefed-up military budget justified by plans to invade yet another Muslim country. As Paul warned during the South Carolina primary debate as his presidential rivals threatened war with Iran: "I'm afraid what's going on right now is similar to the war propaganda that went on against Iraq." Indeed, the shouting match over which of the other GOP candidates most wants a war with Iran is in sync with the last Republican president's 2003 invasion.

It was an invasion that removed Saddam Hussein, once the U.S. ally in confronting Iran, from power and replaced him with a Shiite leadership long beholden to the ayatollahs of Iran. Of course, as Bush lied, this was not about nation-building aimed at imposing a democracy in our image, but rather, as is the claim now, about preventing radical Muslims from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. In a "Where's Waldo?" moment, it turned out that the dreaded nukes were not in Iraq, and the leading Republican presidential candidates are convinced that Iran now has such weapons and that they need to be taken out.

Not so, say CIA and Pentagon experts in these matters, who insist that Iran is some distance from developing a nuclear weapon, even if that is its intention. In a CNN interview Sunday, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that Iran had not yet decided whether to build a nuclear weapon. He also said the U.S. had told Israel that any Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would be "destabilizing."

But such facts are not troubling to the GOP contenders, who seem not to have realized that there is one Muslim country already in possession of scores of such weapons. That would be Pakistan, the country Bush didn't invade despite its avid support for the Taliban sponsors of al-Qaida. Instead, after 9/11, Bush dropped the sanctions his predecessor, Bill Clinton, had imposed on Pakistan as punishment for its developing a nuclear arsenal. Nor did Bush and his fellow Republican hawks get overly exercised by the revelation that Pakistan was giving nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, Libya and, yes, Iran. It was also the hiding place for Osama bin Laden when Barack Obama made good on Bush's pledge to run the al-Qaida leader to ground.

If Bush had taken out bin Laden, the Republicans would have by now had W's head chiseled into Mount Rushmore, but since it is Obama's success, they are driven mad by this turn of events. On Tuesday, Gingrich came totally unglued, telling a student audience at Oral Roberts University that defeating Obama is "a duty of national security" because the president "is incapable of defending the United States."

Why? Simple. Obama has accepted the eminently sensible proposal endorsed by the Pentagon brass to trim $32 billion from the $655 billion defense budget in 2013. That small cut from a Cold War-style budget that accounts for 45 percent of world spending on the military despite there being no sophisticated military enemy now in sight for the U.S. was judged by Gingrich to render the president "willfully dishonest."

The idea of Newt Gingrich calling anyone else dishonest is an affront to reason, but, with the exception of Rep. Paul, those vying with the former House speaker for the nomination have been quick to indicate they are in full accord with the accusation. Gingrich's rabid support for the U.S. lining up behind an Israeli attack, even a nuclear one, may be explained by his campaign being kept afloat by a Nevada gambling billionaire who contributed $10 million to a pro-Gingrich super PAC and whose prime cause is the Israeli far-right. Rick Santorum offers biblical bromides for his support of Israeli militarism, and for Mitt Romney, the thirst for war just seems a natural extension of his innate say-anything opportunism. What a disreputable crew.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day in War Zones

Afghan boys

Cold, Cold Heart

By Kathy Kelly
Beaver County Peace Links via HuffPort

Feb 14, 2012 - It's Valentine's Day, and opening the little cartoon on the Google page brings up a sentimental animation with Tony Bennett singing "why can't I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart."

Here in Dubai, where I'm awaiting a visa to visit Afghanistan, the weather is already warm and humid. But my bags are packed with sweaters because Kabul is still reeling from the coldest winter on record. Two weeks ago, eight children under age five froze to death there in one of the sprawling refugee camps inhabited by so many who have fled from the battles in other provinces. Since January 15, at least 23 children under the age of five have frozen to death in the camps.

And just over a week ago, eight young shepherds, all but one of them under the age of 14, lit a fire for warmth on the snowy Afghan mountainside in Kapisa Province where they were helping support their families by grazing sheep. French troops saw the fire, and acted on faulty information, and the boys were all killed in two successive NATO airstrikes. The usual denunciations from local authorities, and Western apologies, followed.

So I'm thinking about warmth, and who we share it with and who we don't.

This is an unexpected trip for me. I had first planned to spend this week at home in Chicago, and then, rather suddenly, agreed to join a group of informal human rights observers traveling to Bahrain for the one year anniversary of their brutally repressed "February 17th Revolution" (please follow events there, and demand that the U.S. cease arming Bahrain's dictatorship, at Bahraini authorities declined to issue me a visa, and so I asked the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers if I could change my plans and spend the coming week with them.

My friends tell me that the apartment where I'm headed has been without electricity for several days in a row. The pipes have frozen, so there will be no running water. But in spite of the cold, it's an especially good time to visit them because twelve of them will be there, on winter vacation from school, including two 14-year-old boys I couldn't meet during my last visit who spent much of the last year away from the others, back home in Bamiyan province, in their mountain villages, supporting their families.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Coming War with Iran

Iranan missiles for taking out aircraft carriers and other targets

Is GOP Rhetoric Setting the

Stage for an Israeli Attack?

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via

Feb. 7, 2012 - Israel now estimates that Iran’s nuclear program is nine months away from “being able to withstand an Israeli attack,” which happens to be the same timeline as the U.S. presidential election. Meanwhile, a well-connected U.S. Pentagon adviser believes that Israel might give the White House only an hour or two warning before attacking Iran, “just enough to maintain good relations between the countries but not quite enough to allow Washington to prevent the attack.”

These troubling assertions were contained in a recent and authoritative article in The New York Times Magazine about a potential Israel-Iran confrontation. Written by the magazine’s Israeli correspondent Ronen Bergman, who has access to top Israeli leadership, the story reports that Israel believes three key conditions for starting a war may have been met.

First, that Israel can cause serious damage to Iran’s sites and “withstand the inevitable counterattack.” Second, that there is tacit support from the “international community,” particularly the United States, for carrying out an attack. And third, all other possibilities of containing the threat have been exhausted, and it will soon be too late to prevent.

Standing in the way, according to the article, is President Barack Obama, whom the Israelis suspect “has abandoned any aggressive strategy that would ensure the prevention of a nuclear Iran and is merely playing a game of words to appease them.” The same conclusion has been suggested elsewhere.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The U.S. Should Stay Out of Syria

By Robert Dreyfuss
Beaver County Peace Links via The Nation

Feb 6, 2012 - A Syrian soldier, who has defected to join the Free Syrian Army, holds up his rifle and waves a Syrian independence flag in the Damascus suburb of Saqba on January 27, 2012. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Let’s be clear what is and what is not happening in Syria.

Lined up in support of regime change in Damascus are the Middle East’s major Sunni powers, led by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Also backing regime change, though less publicly, is the international network known as the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni powerhouse that is providing much, if not most, of the increasingly militarized Syrian opposition forces, especially in Sunni strongholds such as Homs. And backing the Sunni-led regional forces for regime change is NATO, the United States and its allies, who are outraged, just outraged, that Russia and China would dare to veto a carefully crafted UN Security Council resolution targeting President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian opposition, at least in its external form, is murky at best.

As Aisling Byrne wrote recently in the Asia Times:

What we are seeing in Syria is a deliberate and calculated campaign to bring down the Assad government so as to replace it with a regime “more compatible” with US interests in the region.

Various hawks, neoconservatives, think-tank denizens at places like AEI and the Washington Institution for Near East Policy, various pro-Israel right-wingers and most of the Republican candidates for president are demanding stronger action from the Obama administration, and some of them want outright military intervention, arms embargos, direct lethal aid to the insurgents and their paramilitary wing, and other support.

For Saudi Arabia, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf and Turkey, this is about building a Sunni, anti-Shiite coalition against Iran. Iraq, whose Shiite regime is more and more dependent on Iran, is tilting toward Assad, who’s getting strong Iranian support. (Although lately Iran seems to be hedging its bets, talking to the Syrian opposition, in case Assad collapses.) So in its fervor to isolate Iran, the United States is poised at the edge of joining the Syrian civil war. This is not good.

The killings in Syria are ugly, but no doubt wildly exaggerated. Nearly all, repeat all, of the information about the violence in Syria is coming from a handful of exiled Syrian opposition groups backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and various Western powers. Did 200 people really die in Homs this past weekend, conveniently just on the eve of the UNSC debate? Who knows? The only source for the fishy information, though ubiquitously quoted in the New York Times, the wire services, the network news and elsewhere, are the suspect Syrian opposition groups, who have axes galore to grind.

As Byrne reports, skeptically:

Of the three main sources for all data on numbers of protesters killed and numbers of people attending demonstrations—the pillars of the narrative—all are part of the “regime change” alliance. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, in particular, is reportedly funded through a Dubai-based fund with pooled (and therefore deniable) Western-Gulf money…. What appears to be a nondescript British-based organization, the Observatory has been pivotal in sustaining the narrative of the mass killing of thousands of peaceful protesters using inflated figures, “facts”, and often exaggerated claims of “massacres” and even recently “genocide”.

And Byrne points out that the Syrian opposition is getting strong backing and propaganda support from Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news network that is an arm of the Qatari royal family.

Let me add that I agree 100 percent with Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister:

There are some in the West who have given evaluations of the vote on Syria in the United Nations Security Council that sound, I would say, indecent and perhaps on the verge of hysterical. Those who get angry are rarely right.

Lavrov, along with Russia’s intelligence chief, is planning to meet with Assad on Tuesday in Damascus to seek a compromise or some sort of deal. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, said accurately: “The Security Council is not the only diplomatic tool on the planet.”

Both Russia and China vetoed the UN resolution on Syria, triggering huffs and puffs of outrage in the United States.

The Washington Post notes:

Georgy Mirsky, a senior researcher at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, told the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Russia’s blocking of the U.N. resolution is unlikely to deter Saudi Arabia. “Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey will not be standing aside: they will send military instructors, advisers and arms to Syria without any UN Security Council resolutions,” he was quoted as saying. “The Muslim Brotherhood movement may come to power in Syria instead of Assad.

“All this may result in a bloody massacre of the Alawites and a confrontation between the Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East,” he said.

All true.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Truth, Lies and Afghanistan

Taliban fighters

How military leaders have let us down

Beaver County Peace Links via Armed Forces Journal

I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. My duties with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force took me into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy. Over the course of 12 months, I covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces.

What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.

Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency. I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured, but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.

Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.

My arrival in country in late 2010 marked the start of my fourth combat deployment, and my second in Afghanistan. A Regular Army officer in the Armor Branch, I served in Operation Desert Storm, in Afghanistan in 2005-06 and in Iraq in 2008-09. In the middle of my career, I spent eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve and held a number of civilian jobs — among them, legislative correspondent for defense and foreign affairs for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

As a representative for the Rapid Equipping Force, I set out to talk to our troops about their needs and their circumstances. Along the way, I conducted mounted and dismounted combat patrols, spending time with conventional and Special Forces troops. I interviewed or had conversations with more than 250 soldiers in the field, from the lowest-ranking 19-year-old private to division commanders and staff members at every echelon. I spoke at length with Afghan security officials, Afghan civilians and a few village elders.

I saw the incredible difficulties any military force would have to pacify even a single area of any of those provinces; I heard many stories of how insurgents controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot of a U.S. or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base.

I saw little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people. Some of the Afghan civilians I talked with said the people didn’t want to be connected to a predatory or incapable local government.

From time to time, I observed Afghan Security forces collude with the insurgency.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Elect Romney, Get War in Iran?

‘Regime Change:’ Deja Vu All Over Again

By Max Blumenthal

Feb. 6, 2012 - Should Mitt Romney make it to the White House, his Middle East policy and plan for Iran may be as hawkish as that of Bush Junior, thanks to Eliot Cohen.

In 2005, a group of graduate students at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS) participated in the school’s annual diplomatic simulation. The high-pressure scenario required the students to negotiate a resolution to a standoff with a nuclear-armed Republic of Pakistan. Mara Karlin, a student known for her hawkish politics on Israel and the Middle East, played President of the United States.

Though most of the participants were confident they could head off a military conflict with diplomatic measures, Karlin jumped the gun. According to a former SAIS student, not only did Karlin order a nuclear strike on Pakistan, she also took the opportunity to nuke Iran. Her classmates were shocked. It was the first time in 45 years that a simulation concluded with the deployment of a nuclear weapon.

That year, Karlin received a plum job in the Bush administration’s Department of Defense where, according to her bio she was “intimately involved in formulating U.S. policy on Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel-Palestinian affairs.” Lebanon was a special area of focus for Karlin. She claims to have helped structure the Lebanese Armed Forces and coordinated relations between the US and Lebanese militaries.

According to the former SAIS student, Karlin was a favorite of Eliot Cohen, an ultra-hawkish professor of strategic studies at SAIS, which is regarded in American foreign policy circles as a training ground for the neoconservative movement. Through Cohen’s connections among the neocons occupying key civilian posts in Bush’s Defense Department, the former student claims Cohen was able to arrange an attractive sinecure for Karlin. Besides Karlin, the ex-SAIS student told me Cohen has promoted the career ambitions of many former pupils, including Kelly Magsamen, who worked under Cohen in the Bush administration and now oversees the Iran portfolio in the Obama administration’s State Department.

Today, Cohen is among Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney’s top campaign advisers. He is the primary author of Romney’s foreign policy white paper, which attacks Obama for “currying favor with [America’s] enemies” and “ostentatiously shunning Jerusalem.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Unjust War Meets ‘Christian Politics’

Blessed Be the Bellicose? Jesus Would Weep

By Tony Norman
Beaver County Peace Links via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jan 17, 2012 - Last week, video footage of four U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of three dead Taliban fighters went viral. With the exception of a handful of morally dead ideologues on the right, the reaction to the video was one of revulsion at home and fury abroad.

As Americans, we were reminded that just because we choose not to pay attention to the war in Afghanistan, we share moral complicity for wars fought in our name. The callousness of the four Marines wasn't unprecedented. Relative to the toll on civilian lives in three countries because of American drone attacks, public urination on enemy corpses pales in comparison as a war crime.

In a widely read essay in The Washington Post, war correspondent Sebastian Junger astutely pointed out that a "19-year-old Marine has a very hard time reconciling the fact that it's OK to waterboard a live Taliban fighter but not OK to urinate on a dead one."

Mr. Junger and others point out that these young Marines grew up hearing the contentious policy debates about "enhanced interrogation" and the rationalizations for torture laid out by the Bush administration after 9/11. The soldiers Mr. Junger has written about in the theater of war "are very clear about the fact that society trains them to kill, orders them to kill and then balks at anything that suggests they have dehumanized the enemy they have killed."

As much as we refuse to condone what they did, the soldiers have a visceral reaction to our hypocrisy, too. So, where does a nation turn for a sense of moral clarity and enlightenment during these troubled times? Should it be left to journalists like Mr. Junger to tease out the moral implications of wetting down enemy corpses with splashes of uric acid? Where are our religious leaders, trained as many of them are supposed to be, in the subtleties of god-craft and moral reasoning?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Honor the Message, Honor the Man

Occupy: Resurrecting

Rev. King's Final Dream

By Leo Gerard
United Steel Workers

In public squares across the country, Occupy protesters honor Rev. Martin Luther King's memory on this holiday devoted to him. Their tribute is more meaningful and enduring than the granite monument that President Obama dedicated to Rev. King in Washington, D.C. last year.

That's because the Occupiers are pressing for a cause -- economic justice -- that Rev. King had embraced in the months before his assassination in 1968. And they're pursuing it with the technique he advocated - nonviolent protest.

Rev. King's final crusade, his Poor People's Campaign, and the Occupiers' championing the nation's 99 percent are remarkable in their similarities. It's tragic that in the 44 years since Rev. King launched his campaign for an economic Bill of Rights that the nation's poor and middle class have lurched backward instead of forward. It's hopeful, however, that a whole new generation of idealists has taken up the dream of economic justice.

In the year before Rev. King was gunned down, he persuaded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to join him in a movement devoted to securing for all citizens the basic needs that would enable them to pursue the American Dream, to pursue happiness. He believed every able-bodied person should have access to a job with a living wage. And he believed every American should have decent housing and affordable health care. Without economic security, he said, no man is free.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Madness and Disaster: No War with Iran!

What are We to Make of The USA,

Israeli, Iranian Dance Of Death?

By Bill Fletcher
Progressive America Rising via

Jan 15, 2012 - In watching the USA/Israeli vs. Iranian tensions play out, I found myself thinking about the similarities with the British/Argentine war in the early 1980s over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. Talk about a useless, purposeless war. Except for one thing. The ruling elites of both countries needed it.

In the early 1980s the Argentine military government was in trouble and they knew it. Their regime was unraveling and they desperately needed a means to hold things together. Presto!! They began a pseudo-nationalist campaign to regain control over the desolate Falkland/Malvinas Islands that were occupied by Britain (since 1833). Hoping to distract the Argentine population from the economic crisis that combined with the savagery of the military dictatorship, the junta carried out a military operation that under other circumstances would have been the basis of a comedy. Unfortunately the loss of life that accompanied this war was nothing to laugh at.

Britain, under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, needed its own distractions. The Falklands/Malvinas Islands did not possess any strategic importance to Britain but a nice little war did hold importance. A quick, dirty, little war could, and did, distract the British population from its own political and economic difficulties. It also represented an opportunity for the citizens of a dying empire to reassert themselves, much in the way that a bully picks on a weak neighbor in order to reinforce their own feelings of superiority.

There were no good-guys in that war. It was a war that should never have happened.

In today's situation the USA, Israel and Iran all need distractions. All three countries have been in the midst of severe economic crises. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have protested economic conditions in an unprecedented display of antipathy toward the Israeli political establishment. Iran has been unsettled ever since the emergence of the massive opposition "Green Movement," that followed the questionable elections of 2009. The political challenges faced by the Iranian theocracy accompany growing economic challenges which preceded Western-imposed sanctions (though have been accelerated by those sanctions). And, of course, we in the USA are in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The USA cannot really afford a war with Iran (though this will not necessarily stop the US from initiating one), a point demonstrated just this past week with Obama's announced cuts to the Pentagon, the clear result of the impact of the aggressive US wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel, which claims an existential threat from Iran, knows full well that such a threat does not exist. The only nuclear power in the Middle East is Israel, and any threat to Israel from Iran would be met by a terrible response from both Israel and the USA. But carrying out an attack or encouraging the USA to carry out an attack on Iran would both distract the Israeli population from domestic concerns as well as provide a cover for Israeli military operations closer to home, such as against Hezbollah in Lebanon or against Hamas in the Gaza.

A war with Iran would be a disaster for everyone. For the Iranians, war would be used, much as with the Argentine junta thirty years ago, to clamp down on dissent and wrap everyone in the flag of nationalism. It would be a chance to breathe more life into what appears to be a dying, reactionary theocratic regime that has carried out brutal repression for years, all the while claiming to be an anti-imperialist force.

A war would create greater instability in the Middle East and more than likely encourage some countries that currently do not possess nuclear weapons to seek them in a hurry!

Such a war could very likely lead to an even deeper global economic crisis if the Straits of Hormuz are blocked by the Iranians, thereby cutting off about 20% of the world's oil. It would also be a war that the West cannot, literally, afford to conduct.

There are many reasons to believe that a war will not happen precisely due to the potential catastrophe. That said, there are elements in all three countries that wish to militarily settle accounts with someone on the other side and/or find an opportunity to use "patriotism" - the last refuge of scoundrels, according to 18thcentury British author Samuel Johnson - as a means of suppressing domestic conflicts, particularly the growing demands for political and economic justice.

Let's not get hood-winked. Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfricaForum and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA.