Posts Tagged ‘war in Afghanistan’

Three Things You Missed in Rolling Stone’s McChrystal Profile

June 24, 2010

by Tom Andrews, CommonDreams.org, June 23, 2010

Unfortunately, President Obama missed an opportunity today to not only replace an out-of-control general but an out-of-control and failing strategy in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, mainstream media continue to miss the most serious story contained in the now famous Rolling Stone profile.

Michael Hastings’ piece is about more than an adolescent general and his buddies’ school-yard shenanigans in Kabul and Paris. It was about a failing strategy in Afghanistan and the disconnect between how the administration portrays the war in public and the reality of how the war is actually being waged.

Here are three points in the Rolling Stone article that contradict what the White House has presented to Congress and the American people about the war in Afghanistan:

“Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further.” A senior military official stationed in Afghanistan told Hastings: “There’s a possibility we could ask for another surge of US forces next summer if we see success here.”

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America’s Covert Democracy

June 15, 2010

By Danny Schechter, Consortiumnews.com, June 11, 2010

Editor’s Note: A common denominator in the crises confronting the United States – from failing war policies abroad to the crumbling economy at home – is the ability of powerful interests to manage the debate by controlling the flow of information.

The American people are inundated with so much propaganda and misinformation that the idea of an informed electorate has become something of a lost cause, as the News Dissector Danny Schechter observes in this guest essay:

Defending America covertly has become an ongoing theme for one more TV series. Salute the flag and praise NBC (GE) for its latest effort to persuade the population to accept the kind of secret operations that now drive the war in Afghanistan.

The latest show is called “Covert Affairs” and airs on the patriotically named USA Network.

This fiction is based on glamorizing the work of our unaccountable CIA at home and at war abroad. Piper Perabo, a dancing barmaid in “Coyote Ugly,” has been promoted to a CIA trainee “who is suddenly thrust into the inner sanctum of the agency after being promoted to field operative.”

The dumbed-down formula is tried and true, showcasing what TV pros call  “the three S’s” — Sex, Spies, and Sensationalism.

It’s a “world of bureaucracy, excitement and intrigue,” the network tells us, on the frontlines of protecting our declining way of life. Doug Limon, who directed the first Bourne blockbuster, is exec producing this propaganda exercise.

And if that’s not bad enough, the series about covertly defending America is being overtly filmed in Canada. Toronto gets the jobs, one more reason, no doubt, why we have had a “jobless recovery” here at home.

So much of politics and economics today is a covert affair where public knowledge is blatantly manipulated.  For weeks, we were told that political incumbents were toast until they weren’t in the recent election, but few media outlets let the facts get in the way of their endless Tea Party narrative.

On another big story, 49 percent of the American public is said to have been convinced by one-sided pro-Israeli coverage of the Gaza Flotilla’s interception perhaps because it built on long embedded perceptions in which alternative information —make that factual information – is excluded.

Netanyahu’s publicity army got out its video version of the events first even as his military army screwed up, while keeping their victims from getting out theirs.

The U.S. media dutifully used it as a perception management exercise of demonizing Israel’s critics and boostering the heroism of  the IDF’s pirates at sea while keeping the humanitarian aid workers from the media and seizing/suppressing their videos – which are just getting out – a bit late, perhaps too late to change the media frame.

The outsourcing of jobs for actors on TV shows mirrors the wider outsourcing in the economy as a whole.  So many jobs are gone and not coming back.

There is a growing number of war jobs while civilian employment sinks. Pro-business propaganda has successfully convinced the Congress that deficit reductions must come before job creation. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) reports:

“The Department of Labor has reported that more than 300,000 workers will run out of benefits by June 12th, the end of the first week Congress returns from recess.”

Economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich attacks what he calls the “deficit hawks” by arguing that consumer spending is 70 percent of the American economy, so if consumers can’t or won’t spend we’re back in the soup.

He writes, “Yet the government just reported that consumer spending stalled in April – the first month consumers didn’t up their spending since last September. Instead, consumers boosted their savings, probably because they’re worried about the slow pace of job growth ….

“So what’s Congress doing to stoke the economy as consumers pull back? In a word, nothing.”

Congress may not be passing new job creation bills, but there is something insidious underway as these deficit hawks are said to be beginning to target Medicare and Social Security.

As for financial reform, many media outlets are not sure where that is going either. Example, an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal:

“As Congress works to put the finishing touches on a massive bill to reform the nation’s financial system, it’s a fair question to ask whether the proposed legislation will do what its sponsors claim: reduce the odds of another crisis, protect consumers and ensure that taxpayers won’t be on the hook for a future bailout.”

At the same time, Heather Booth of Citizens for Financial Reform is mildly optimistic, and chides my pessimism, writing:

“Do think you are not recognizing what was accomplished — while it is important to say that the struggle goes on and the nature of the crisis demands more.

“We achieved so much more than anyone thought we could at the start of this  fight.

“First time there was real fight back against Wall Street. And the bill has gotten stronger, not weaker. We probably will win: consumer protection — still need no carve outs in the  future fight to greater enforcement. …

“There is MUCH more to do: ban naked credit default swaps (the weapons of mass financial destruction), foreclosure (!!!) and community reinvestment, executive compensation, and more. But quite a start and should not be discounted.”

I hope she’s right but, even as no changes have yet been made, there has been a wave of unjustified media optimism as satirized by the Onion which asks, “Could the economy be on the rebound? Here are some other favorable indicators:

“Sufficient supplies of toilet paper in all rest stops between Tomah, WI and Gary, IN.

“Jim Cramer no longer wildly waving a gun around during his telecast.

“Phrase ‘Fucking Goldman Sachs’ has been dropped almost completely in favor of ‘Fucking BP’.”

Alas, this is nothing to joke about as an article on the Naked Capitalism Web site makes clear:

“It is not a sign of intelligence to repeat a course of action and expect different results. Yet our officialdom is doing pretty much just that on the economic front. Treasury and the Fed in particular seem quite pleased with their success in patching up the financial system with duct tape and baling wire and prodding it into a semblance of operation via massive support, most notably via super low interest rates…

“The failure to change the structure, operation, or leadership of major financial firms means they are just about certain to repeat the same behavior that led to mind-numbing bonuses in 2007 and 2009.”

In the meantime, even as an investigation of Goldman Sachs is being broadened, there is still no clamor in Congress or big media to go after financial crime, the story I tell in my film “Plunder: The Crime of Our Time.” (www.Plunderthecrimeofourtime.com)

The sad truth is that the banksters who have gotten away with the massive theft of the U.S. economy are still getting away with it – and profiting while so many of us continue to sink.

News Dissector Danny Schechter directed PLUNDER The Crime Of Our Time and wrote a companion book, The Crime Of Our Time. Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org.

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US “surge” in Afghanistan in disarray

June 15, 2010

By Barry Grey, wsws.org, June 14, 2010

In the midst of one of the bloodiest weeks for US and NATO forces in the nearly nine-year war in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the overall commander, announced Thursday that major military operations around Kandahar would be delayed until September.

The offensive had been slated to begin this month, but, as McChrystal admitted, the US has been unable to win the support either of tribal leaders and power brokers or of the populace in and around Afghanistan’s second largest city. The town of 450,000 in the heart of the Pashtun-dominated south is the birthplace of the Taliban and remains a key stronghold of the anti-occupation insurgency.

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US Foreign Policy: Sixty Years of Disaster

April 16, 2010

by: Michael Gass, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis, April 15, 2010

photo
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: GrungeTextures, Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock / U.S. Army)

On August 19, 1953, pro-Shah supporters in Iran staged a coup on the Iranian government that was planned, organized and supported by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and British Intelligence. Iranians lived under the brutal rule of Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi for the next 25 years until the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Though the CIA-led coup in Iran was the first time the agency overthrew a democratically elected government, it wasn’t to be the last. In 1954, the CIA orchestrated a coup against the democratically elected president of Guatemala. In 1963, the CIA orchestrated the coup in Iraq that eventually brought Saddam Hussein and the Ba’athist Party to power. In 1973, the CIA orchestrated a coup against the democratically elected leader of Chile. In every case, those who were helped into power instituted regimes of terror and violence. These regimes prompted bloody revolutions, or worse, US-led invasions. Either way, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed due to US foreign policy.

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Contractor Deaths Accelerating in Afghanistan as They Outnumber Soldiers

April 15, 2010
by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica – April 14, 2010

In this photograph taken  Jan. 31, 2007, Afghan men are trained by U.S. military contractors  during a exercise in the southern town of Qalat, the capital of Zabul  province. A new government report shows the number of contractor deaths  in Afghanistan has increased in recent months. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty  Images)
In this photograph taken Jan. 31, 2007, Afghan men are trained by U.S. military contractors during a exercise in the southern town of Qalat, the capital of Zabul province. A new government report shows the number of contractor deaths in Afghanistan has increased in recent months. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images)

A recent Congressional Research Service analysis [1] obtained by ProPublica looked at the number of civilian contractors killed in Afghanistan in recent months. It’s not pretty.

Of the 289 civilians killed since the war began more than eight years ago, 100 have died in just the last six months. That’s a reflection of both growing violence and the importance of the civilians flooding into the country along with troops in response to President Obama’s decision to boost the American presence in Afghanistan.

The latest U.S. Department of Defense numbers show there are actually more civilian contractors on the ground in Afghanistan than there are soldiers. The Pentagon reported [2] 107,292 U.S.-hired civilian workers in Afghanistan as of February 2010, when there were about 78,000 soldiers. This is apparently the first time that contractors have exceeded soldiers by such a large margin.

Using civilian contractors to haul food, prepare meals and act as bodyguards has kept the Pentagon’s official casualty figures lower than they would have been in past conflicts, where contractors were not as heavily used.

Contractor casualties are, by and large, invisible to the public, disguising the full human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are not reported in totals given by the government. If they were, the death toll in Afghanistan would have surpassed 1,000 — 848 soldiers, 289 civilian contractors — from 2001 to 2009, a milestone that has gone entirely unmarked.

The number of contractor dead are released only through the Labor Department, which keeps count as part of an insurance program for contractors known as the Defense Base Act. And these numbers, agency officials have admitted and our reporting has shown, undercount fatalities. As David Isenberg [3] pointed out in the Huffington Post recently, a new database designed, in part, to track contractor deaths is still not being used to do so.

Staff researcher Lisa Schwartz contributed to this report.

Seven Years of War in Iraq: Still Based on Cheney’s Torture and Lies

March 22, 2010

Andy Worthington, The Huffington Post, March 21, 2010

Friday marked the seventh anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq, but by now, it seems, the American people have become used to living in a state of perpetual war, even though that war was based on torture and lies. Protestors rallied across the country on Saturday, but the anti-war impetus of the Bush years has not been regained, as I discovered to my sorrow during a brief U.S. tour in November, when I showed the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by Polly Nash and myself) in New York, Washington D.C., and the Bay Area.

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Congressional Democrats back expanded war in Afghanistan

March 11, 2010

By Patrick Martin, wsws.com, March 11, 2010

The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Wednesday evening against a resolution to end the war in Afghanistan and begin a withdrawal of US troops within 30 days. The roll call vote, with only 65 in favor and 356 against, showed top-heavy majorities of both Democrats and Republicans opposing an early end to the war.

House Democrats voted against the resolution by 189 to 60, House Republicans voted against by 167 to 5. The leaders of both parties lined up in unanimous opposition to the resolution, which would have invoked the 1973 War Powers Act. This provides that the president can send US armed forces into war abroad only with the authorization of Congress or if the US is already under attack.

The measure, introduced by a handful of liberal Democrats led by Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, would have had no effect even if it had passed, since the bill would still require Senate passage and then face a certain presidential veto.

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Joe Glenton sent to prison but war criminals walk free

March 6, 2010

Morning Star Online, March 5,  2010

by Lizzie Cocker
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton has been  sentenced to nine months in prison

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton has been sentenced to nine months in prison

A hero of the anti-war movement has been jailed for refusing to fight in Afghanistan – while his boss boasted of writing a blank cheque for the illegal Iraq invasion.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton was sentenced to nine months in prison and had his rank reduced after admitting going absent without leave (awol) from the army.

But even as he was being handed his jail time an unrepentant Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the Chilcott inquiry that the war in Iraq “was the right decision and for the right reasons.”

A Stop the War Coalition spokesman hit out at the sentence saying: “Joe Glenton is not the person who should be facing a jail sentence – it should be the politicians who have led us into disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The fact that they are not brings shame to justice in this country.”

L/Cpl Glenton was detained in November after he led a Stop the War demonstration in London where he went against orders and publicly denounced the war.

He originally believed that the troops would bring democracy to Afghanistan and improve women’s rights.

But after serving there his views changed quickly. His lawyer Nick Wrack said: “He began to see that the conflict in Afghanistan was wrong. He spoke out about it, perhaps in a bold fashion.”

Serving in Afghanistan in 2006, L/Cpl Glenton had begun to voice concerns to his superiors about the devastation being caused by Nato forces.

Back in England, he was soon ordered back to the war zone for nine months – despite guidelines saying soldiers should not be redeployed within 18 months.

The court heard that his reluctance to return led to him being bullied by his commanding officer.

L/Cpl Glenton fled for Australia and Asia and did not return until July 2009 when he was accused of desertion – a charge reduced following immense pressure from the anti-war movement.

In Australia he met his wife Clare, who cried yesterday as Mr Wrack read aloud her letter begging the court not to jail her husband.

She was comforted by L/Cpl Glenton’s mother Sue, who said later: “The court barely paid lip service to justice.

“The judge clearly didn’t listen to the arguments or if she did she ignored them. The lawyers are considering an appeal. The Ministry of Defence will be hearing a lot more from me.”

Mr Wrack told the court: “Instead of being dealt with in a sensible way it resulted in the sergeant at the time bullying and intimidating Lance Corporal Glenton.”

Psychiatrist Lars Davidsson told the military court that L/Cpl Glenton may have gone awol because he had post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He told me of how he supplied coffins for the dead servicemen. He had dreams of coffins being lined up.

“He was drinking heavily and having sleeping problems. Sometimes he would have bad dreams and wake up screaming,” Dr Davidsson said.

The MoD refused to comment.

Kucinich asks Congress to end Afghan conflict

March 2, 2010
Morning Star Online, March 1,  2010

Progressive US congressman Dennis Kucinich will bring a resolution before Congress this week to give legislators a chance to end the bloody war in Afghanistan.

The Ohio Democratic representative announced at the weekend that he would “bring a privileged resolution to this House so that Congress can claim our constitutional right to end this war and to bring our troops home.”

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Five Questions For The Afghan Surge

February 25, 2010

By Juan Cole, ZNet, Feb 24, 2010

Source: Juancole.com

Juan Cole’s ZSpace Page

Gen. David Petraeus, a straight shooter, admitted on Meet the Press Sunday that the Afghanistan War will take years and incur high casualties. His implicit defense of President Obama from Dick Cheney on the issues of torture and closing Guantanamo will make bigger headlines, but sooner or later the American public will notice the admission. The country is now evenly divided between those who think the US can and should restore a modicum of stability before getting out, and those who want a quick withdrawal. The Marjah Campaign, the centerpiece of the new counter-insurgency strategy, is over a week old, and some assessment of this new, visible push by the US military in violent Helmand Province is in order.

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