Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan war’

Blowing Billions on War While American Workers Go Under

December 6, 2010

by Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe, The Huffington Post,  Dec 5, 2010

When asked by USA Today‘s pollsters last week, sixty-eight percent of Americans said we worry that the cost of the Afghanistan War hurts our ability to fix problems here in the U.S. This week, we learned just how right we were about that. Friday’s terrible jobs report shows that a crushing 9.8 percent of us are unemployed. And, millions of us are about to lose our lifeline because Congress refuses to extend unemployment insurance benefits. We’re spending $2 billion per week — per week! — in Afghanistan while millions of people face going hungry during the holidays.

Do our elected officials not get it? We’re drowning out here, and the administration is throwing money that could put Americans back to work at a failed war on the other side of the planet. In fact, that’s where the president was when the jobs report came out this morning — in Afghanistan, talking about “progress” again.

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Afghanistan: protest erupts over Nato killings

May 15, 2010

Morning Star Online, May 14, 2010

Hundreds of protesters brandished sticks, threw stones and burned a US flag in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, furious at the killing of civilians by Nato forces in an overnight raid.

More than 500 people poured into the streets in the Surkh Rod district of Nangahar province to protest against a raid by Nato forces that killed at least nine civilians.

Government administrator in Surkh Rod Mohammed Arish said that a father and his four sons and four members of another family had been killed in the operation.

“They are farmers. They are innocent. They are not insurgents or militants,” insisted Mr Arish.

Locals carried several of the bodies during the demonstration.

The protesters blocked roads, hurled stones at a government office and sought to march toward the provincial capital of Jalalabad, before being turned back and at least three people were injured during a clash with police.

Civilian deaths at the hands of Nato forces are highly sensitive.

Public outrage over such deaths led Nato commander General Stanley McChrystal last year to tighten the rules on combat if civilians are at risk.

Gen McChrystal ordered his forces to avoid night raids when possible and bring Afghan troops with them if they do enter homes after dark.

But he stopped short of seeking a complete ban sought by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Nato also said at least nine alleged militants had been killed the previous night during a pursuit in a rural area in eastern Zabul province and confirmed that an operation in the morning a day earlier in Ghazni province had left at least a dozen fighters dead.

Fiction of Marja as City Was U.S. Information War

March 10, 2010

By Gareth Porter,  Inter Press Service News

WASHINGTON, Mar 8, 2010 (IPS) – For weeks, the U.S. public followed the biggest offensive of the Afghanistan War against what it was told was a “city of 80,000 people” as well as the logistical hub of the Taliban in that part of Helmand. That idea was a central element in the overall impression built up in February that Marja was a major strategic objective, more important than other district centres in Helmand.

It turns out, however, that the picture of Marja presented by military officials and obediently reported by major news media is one of the clearest and most dramatic pieces of misinformation of the entire war, apparently aimed at hyping the offensive as a historic turning point in the conflict.

Marja is not a city or even a real town, but either a few clusters of farmers’ homes or a large agricultural area covering much of the southern Helmand River Valley.

“It’s not urban at all,” an official of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), who asked not to be identified, admitted to IPS Sunday. He called Marja a “rural community”.

“It’s a collection of village farms, with typical family compounds,” said the official, adding that the homes are reasonably prosperous by Afghan standards.

Richard B. Scott, who worked in Marja as an adviser on irrigation for the U.S. Agency for International Development as recently as 2005, agrees that Marja has nothing that could be mistaken as being urban. It is an “agricultural district” with a “scattered series of farmers’ markets,” Scott told IPS in a telephone interview.

The ISAF official said the only population numbering tens of thousands associated with Marja is spread across many villages and almost 200 square kilometres, or about 125 square miles.

Marja has never even been incorporated, according to the official, but there are now plans to formalise its status as an actual “district” of Helmand Province.

The official admitted that the confusion about Marja’s population was facilitated by the fact that the name has been used both for the relatively large agricultural area and for a specific location where farmers have gathered for markets.

However, the name Marja “was most closely associated” with the more specific location, where there are also a mosque and a few shops.

That very limited area was the apparent objective of “Operation Moshtarak”, to which 7,500 U.S., NATO and Afghan troops were committed amid the most intense publicity given any battle since the beginning of the war.

So how did the fiction that Marja is a city of 80,000 people get started?

The idea was passed on to the news media by the U.S. Marines in southern Helmand. The earliest references in news stories to Marja as a city with a large population have a common origin in a briefing given Feb. 2 by officials at Camp Leatherneck, the U.S. Marine base there.

The Associated Press published an article the same day quoting “Marine commanders” as saying that they expected 400 to 1,000 insurgents to be “holed up” in the “southern Afghan town of 80,000 people.” That language evoked an image of house to house urban street fighting.

The same story said Marja was “the biggest town under Taliban control” and called it the “linchpin of the militants’ logistical and opium-smuggling network”. It gave the figure of 125,000 for the population living in “the town and surrounding villages”. ABC news followed with a story the next day referring to the “city of Marja” and claiming that the city and the surrounding area “are more heavily populated, urban and dense than other places the Marines have so far been able to clear and hold.”

The rest of the news media fell into line with that image of the bustling, urbanised Marja in subsequent stories, often using “town” and “city” interchangeably. Time magazine wrote about the “town of 80,000” Feb. 9, and the Washington Post did the same Feb. 11.

As “Operation Moshtarak” began, U.S. military spokesmen were portraying Marja as an urbanised population centre. On Feb. 14, on the second day of the offensive, Marine spokesman Lt. Josh Diddams said the Marines were “in the majority of the city at this point.”

He also used language that conjured images of urban fighting, referring to the insurgents holding some “neighbourhoods”.

A few days into the offensive, some reporters began to refer to a “region”, but only created confusion rather than clearing the matter up. CNN managed to refer to Marja twice as a “region” and once as “the city” in the same Feb. 15 article, without any explanation for the apparent contradiction.

The Associated Press further confused the issue in a Feb. 21 story, referring to “three markets in town – which covers 80 square miles….”

A “town” with an area of 80 square miles would be bigger than such U.S. cities as Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and Cleveland. But AP failed to notice that something was seriously wrong with that reference.

Long after other media had stopped characterising Marja as a city, the New York Times was still referring to Marja as “a city of 80,000”, in a Feb. 26 dispatch with a Marja dateline.

The decision to hype up Marja as the objective of “Operation Moshtarak” by planting the false impression that it is a good-sized city would not have been made independently by the Marines at Camp Leatherneck.

A central task of “information operations” in counterinsurgency wars is “establishing the COIN [counterinsurgency] narrative”, according to the Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual as revised under Gen. David Petraeus in 2006.

That task is usually done by “higher headquarters” rather than in the field, as the manual notes.

The COIN manual asserts that news media “directly influence the attitude of key audiences toward counterinsurgents, their operations and the opposing insurgency.” The manual refers to “a war of perceptions…conducted continuously using the news media.”

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of ISAF, was clearly preparing to wage such a war in advance of the Marja operation. In remarks made just before the offensive began, McChrystal invoked the language of the counterinsurgency manual, saying, “This is all a war of perceptions.”

The Washington Post reported Feb. 22 that the decision to launch the offensive against Marja was intended largely to impress U.S. public opinion with the effectiveness of the U.S. military in Afghanistan by showing that it could achieve a “large and loud victory.”

The false impression that Marja was a significant city was an essential part of that message.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.

Exit Strategies for Afghanistan and Iraq

March 10, 2010

By Tom Hayden, ZNet, March 10, 2010

Source: The Nation

Tom Hayden’s ZSpace Page

It’s been a long winter for the peace movement. Waiting for Obama has proved fruitless. The Great Recession has strengthened Wall Street and diverted attention from the wars. The debate over healthcare still won’t go away and has demoralized progressive advocates. Given a chance to exit from Afghanistan when the Karzai election proved to be stolen, President Obama escalated anyway, but also promised to “begin” exiting almost before an opposition could mobilize at home.

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If you’re disillusioned with Obama, you don’t understand how he won

January 18, 2010

The distance between the aspirations he raised and his record a year on is the distinction between the electoral and the political

Gary Younge, The Guardian/UK, January 17, 2010

You’ve got to feel sorry for the Democratic ­Senate leader, Harry Reid. In 1995, when it seemed Colin Powell might run for president, Powell explained his ­appeal to white voters thus: “I speak reasonably well, like a white person”, and, visually, “I ain’t that black”.

More than a decade later, Reid said almost the same thing about Barack Obama, arguing that the presidential candidate owed his success in part to his “light-skinned” appearance and the fact that he spoke “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one”.

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Obama’s Afghan escalation and the decay of democracy

December 16, 2009

Bill Van Auken, wsws.org, Dec 16, 2009

With President Barack Obama approaching his first anniversary in office, his escalation of the Afghanistan war is writing a new chapter in the history of Washington’s shredding of democratic forms of rule in order to further militarist aggression abroad.

This has become increasingly clear since the announcement earlier this month of the plan to send an additional 30,000 US soldiers and Marines to Afghanistan. It was further spelled out in Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech in Oslo, where he enunciated what has been widely described as the “Obama doctrine.”

The Obama doctrine incorporates all of the essentials of the Bush doctrine—preemptive war and the assertion of the right of the United States, as the world’s “sole military superpower,” to launch military aggression unilaterally as it sees fit. Obama’s contribution is to argue openly for the junking of existing international rules of war and the recognition of what was previously defined as aggressive war as a legitimate instrument of foreign policy.

Key passages of this hypocritical address tacitly recognized that imperialist war in general, and the US war in Afghanistan in particular, remain deeply unpopular at home and abroad.

Obama acknowledged the existence of “deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter the cause,” adding that this “is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.” He lamented a “disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public.”

The US president dismissed popular antiwar sentiment in the US and around the world as naive. “Peace requires responsibility,” said Obama. “Peace requires sacrifice.” In short, peace requires war, whether those forced to die and to pay for it like it or not.

This theme has been further amplified since the Nobel speech, both by Obama and in the media.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on the CBS News program “60 Minutes,” Obama was asked why, under conditions where “most Americans…don’t believe this war is worth fighting,” he decided to escalate it anyway.

The president replied, “Because I think it’s the right thing to do. And that’s my job… If I was worried about what polled well there are a whole bunch of things we wouldn’t have done this year.”

Here Obama said more than he intended. This “bunch of things” includes his administration’s allocation of trillions of dollars to prop up Wall Street, while doing nothing to aid the millions who have lost their jobs, their incomes and their homes.

The “60 Minutes” segment was eerily reminiscent of interviews given by Vice President Dick Cheney in 2007 and 2008, as the Bush administration was carrying out its own “surge” in Iraq in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Appearing on Fox News in January 2007, Cheney dismissed the hostility of the American public to the war. “I don’t think any president worth his salt can afford to make decisions of this magnitude according to the polls,” he said.

Asked on ABC News in May 2008 if he didn’t “care what the American people think” about the war, Cheney replied, “No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.”

In Obama’s case, the indifference to the public’s hostility to war is all the more breathtaking since the Democratic president owes his 2008 election victory precisely to such sentiments.

The media, which universally hailed the Oslo address, has expanded on the theme that the will of the people must not be allowed to interfere with the waging of war. The New York Times published an editorial Monday admitting that in Europe “ambivalence has long been replaced by fierce demands for withdrawal” from Afghanistan. Indeed, polls in France and Germany have shown two-thirds of the public supporting an end to the US-NATO intervention.

In the face of such mass opposition, the Times counseled: “Democratically elected leaders cannot ignore public skepticism, but they should not surrender to it when they know better. Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy must educate their voters to the harsh reality that Europe will also pay a high price if the Taliban and Al Qaeda get to retake Afghanistan and further destabilize Pakistan.”

Presumably, Washington has set the standard on how best to “educate the voters”: by frightening them with manufactured terrorist threats and deceiving them with phony pretexts for war.

The real motives driving US militarism are to remain hidden from the public. This was illustrated by Time magazine’s Joe Klein, a journalistic conduit for the political and national security establishment, in an article posted Sunday. Klein put forward the thesis that the US military had to remain in Afghanistan to forestall an Islamist-backed military coup in Pakistan and diminish the threat of war between Pakistan and India.

“Some of the best arguments about why this war is necessary must go unspoken by the president,” he wrote.

That is, there are the real reasons for the US war in Afghanistan and the fraudulent ones palmed off on the American people.

The most fundamental of these “unspoken” motives is the drive by US imperialism to assert its hegemony in a region containing some of the world’s largest energy reserves together with the pipelines to siphon them off to the West. It was this aim that led to US plans for war in Afghanistan being hatched long before September 11, 2001.

Obama is continuing and escalating a dirty colonial war to suppress popular resistance to foreign occupation and to secure the interests of the corporate and financial oligarchy that rules the US.

Despite systematic disinformation from the government and the mass media, millions of American working people have drawn their own conclusions from more than eight years of war in Afghanistan and more than six years in Iraq. The mass opposition to war, however, can find no means of expression within the existing political establishment. After going to the polls in both 2006 and 2008 to vote against war, the American people are confronted with the continuation and escalation of military aggression.

Neither the pursuit of imperialist wars in the face of public opposition, nor the execution of economic policies that defend the profits and wealth of the ruling elite at the expense of the rest of the population, can be carried out by democratic means. Both ultimately require methods of repression and intimidation. This is the fundamental reason that the Obama administration has kept intact all of the essential police state policies and institutions created under George W. Bush.

The fight against war, like the defense of democratic rights, can be waged successfully only through the independent mobilization of the working class against capitalism, which is creating intolerable conditions for billions of people around the world together with the threat of ever bloodier conflagrations.

Pilger: Normalising the Crime of the Century

December 10, 2009

By John Pilger, Information Clearing House, Dec 9, 2009

I tried to contact Mark Higson the other day only to learn he had died nine years ago. He was just 40, an honourable man. We met soon after he had resigned from the Foreign Office in 1991 and I asked him if the government knew that Hawk fighter-bombers sold to Indonesia were being used against civilians in East Timor.

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Obama expands war into Pakistan

December 9, 2009

Barry Grey, wsws.org, Dec 9, 2009

One week ago, President Obama in a speech at West Point sought to portray his escalation of the war in Afghanistan as the prelude to an early withdrawal of US troops. It has since become increasingly apparent that the speech was nothing more than a calculated exercise in public deception.

The speech was crafted to chloroform the public, the better to defy and disorient mass popular opposition to the war.

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Leading article: Why we must leave Afghanistan

November 10, 2009

The Independent/UK, Nov. 8, 2009

One by one over the past eight years, the arguments for the continued presence of Nato troops in Afghanistan have fallen away. The last one, which held us back until now from calling for withdrawal, was the need to police the Afghan election in August. That election process is now over: last week the president’s main opponent pulled out, and Hamid Karzai was formally re-elected. That is not a happy outcome. For British soldiers to be deployed in support of a president whose position is bolstered by ballot-rigging tips the balance of our view from reluctant backing for the mission in Afghanistan to regretful opposition.

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Pilger: Breaking The Great Australian Silence

November 8, 2009

By Pilger, John | ZNet, Nov. 7, 2009
John Pilger’s ZSpace Page


Thank you all for coming tonight, and my thanks to the City of Sydney and especially to the Sydney Peace Foundation for awarding me the Peace Prize. It’s an honour I cherish, because it comes from where I come from.

I am a seventh generation Australian. My great-great grandfather landed not far from here, on November 8th, 1821. He wore leg irons, each weighing four pounds. His name was Francis McCarty. He was an Irishman, convicted of the crime of insurrection and “uttering unlawful oaths”. In October of the same year, an 18 year old girl called Mary Palmer stood in the dock at Middlesex Gaol and was sentenced to be transported to New South Wales for the term of her natural life. Her crime was stealing in order to live. Only the fact that she was pregnant saved her from the gallows. She was my great-great grandmother. She was sent from the ship to the Female Factory at Parramatta, a notorious prison where every third Monday, male convicts were brought for a “courting day” – a rather desperate measure of social engineering. Mary and Francis met that way and were married on October 21st, 1823.

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