Archive for category Afghanistan
NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel has obtained a leaked draft of the “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” This agreement, as yet unsigned, provides for an endless war despite President Obama’s repeated assurances that U.S. forces are leaving Afghanistan next year.
Afghan officials tell NBC NEWS the agreement is critical to Afghanistan’s future stability. Without ongoing military assistance, training and funding, those officials say the government could collapse and Afghanistan would enter a civil war. If the agreement passes, the draft says Washington would commit to a long -term, indefinite military involvement in this land-locked Asian nation.
This morning on MSNBC, Chuck Todd asked Richard Engel (who is still in Kabul) if the Afghan officials he has spoken to have any idea how unpopular the Afghanistan War is in America. Engel responded that they do not. Probably they are talking to the wrong Americans. More than two-thirds of us say this war was not not worth fighting.
The average annual cost to keep one American soldier deployed in Afghanistan is now $2.1 million. Total cost to taxpayers for our country’s longest war in history is estimated at $1.6 trillion (not counting interest). The human toll (including US soldiers and contractors, allied soldiers, and Afghan security forces, insurgents and militants, and civilians) is estimated to be at least 145,000 deaths by direct war violence since 2001 in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Watching conservatives oppose military intervention in Syria has been entertaining to say the least. We all know that if the occupants of the White Hosue were a Republican, they’d be cheerleading for the most ruinous attack possible, telling us that Assad is the moral equal of Pol Pot, Hitler, Mussolini and Jeffrey Dahmer all rolled into one. Not so long ago, however, most of Washington DC would have joined in supporting an attack. A few years ago, an attack on Syria would have been a foregone conclusion, there would have been sporadic opposition but it would have happened, and at least inside the “establishment” would have been regarded as necessary and possibly even good. A great many Democrats supported action against Iraq in 2002 and 2003 (despite their doubts of its success) because the necessity of military action was accepted, common wisdom even if their instincts told them it was a disaster waiting to happen.
The disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan were/are simply to big to be ignored, even by hawkish political insiders. When someone as reliably dim and possessed of the conventional wisdom as George Will doesn’t favor a military strike, you know something has shifted. Read the rest of this entry »
Perhaps the most painful part of the wildly ill-conceived response to 9/11 was the way in which the US behaved like a blundering giant, lashing out at the world, smashing things like Iraq that had nothing to do with the attacks. The Bush administration’s policies – arrest, torture, secret prisons, drone attacks, two failed wars – were seductive and disastrous and arose from a worldview formed by the Cold War that saw the world in stark, dualistic ways.
The Obama administration had been stymied by Congress in its efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. They’ve managed to unwind our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and this week the President delivered the kind of speech that reminded me why I liked him in the first place – morally, ethically he seems to understand the issues, to speak them eloquently. Too rarely, he’s matched his rhetoric and his action. But at long last, it seems he wants to move our nation in the right direction, giving up the seductiveness of the imperial presidency and its vast powers.
In an article for the AP, from KSL, for example:
Some call it wishful thinking, but President Barack Obama has all but declared an end to the global war on terror.
Obama is not claiming final victory over extremists who still seek to kill Americans and other Westerners. Instead, he is refocusing the long struggle against terrorism that lies ahead, steering the United States away from what he calls an equally frightening threat – a country in a state of perpetual war. In doing so, Obama recasts the image of the terrorists themselves, from enemy warriors to cowardly thugs and resets the relationship between the U.S. and Islam.
The point is that the tools needed to successfully combat terrorists aren’t armies and drones.
Maureen Dowd, channeling her inner smart person, wrote about the President’s speech.
After four years of bending the Constitution, the constitutional law professor now in the White House is trying to unloose the Gordian knot of W.’s martial and moral overreaches after 9/11.
Safely re-elected, President Obama at long last spoke bluntly about the Faustian deals struck by his predecessor, some of them cravenly continued by his own administration.
The rest of her article describes her visit to Bush’s presidential library, with more than few choice phrases:
You could fill an entire other library with what’s not in W.’s.
Decision Points Theater — a whiny “Well, you try being the Decider” enterprise — lets you make the decisions after getting taped briefings on W.’s crises from actors playing experts. But it is rigged with so many false binary options that the visitors I voted with ended up agreeing with Bush’s patently wrong calls on Iraq and Katrina.
I’m reminded that throughout his Presidency, Barack Obama has been a maddeningly cautious and centrist leader. The result has been a slow, but steady, progression in the right direction. No whiplash policy changes for this president, instead a constantly calibrating and recalibrating movement away from the disastrous policies of the Bush administration.
The War On Terror was always a misnamed, mishandled, misconceived thing, a disaster from beginning to end. It was a fatally misconceived adventure that did more damage than good. If at long last the Obama administration is turning away from it, rejecting its tactic and premises, I’ll suffice to say better late than never.
Last August, the Department of Justice ended a four-year criminal investigation by federal prosecutor John Durham into interrogation techniques used during the presidency of George W. Bush, including torture. At least two cases resulted in the deaths of detainees in CIA custody. This investigation began in 2008, after we learned about the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of interrogations of terror suspects. Attorney General Eric Holder decided not to initiate any prosecutions.
Late last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled German citizen Khaled el-Masri was tortured by CIA agents. He was seized in Macedonia in December 2003, tortured, and secretly flown to Afghanistan. Then he was released in April 2004. after the CIA admitted he was wrongly detained. El Masri’s lawsuit in U.S. court for illegal detention was dismissed in 2006 when the court accepted the government’s position that it could invoke the so-called “state secrets privilege” in order to avoid having to admit what the CIA did.
The US Senate’s select committee on intelligence conducted a three-year review of CIA treatment of detainees, producing a 6,000-page classified report that is believed to conclude that the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” adopted by the CIA during the Bush years did not produce any major breakthroughs in intelligence, contrary to previous claims. This report is likely to remain secret. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the intelligence committee chair, says the report contains “startling details” about waterboarding, stress positions, forced nudity, beatings and sleep and sensory deprivation.
Torture and conspiracy to commit torture is a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in a federal penitentiary, or by the death penalty if it results in the victim’s death. So who is going to prison now that the CIA torture program has been thoroughly investigated?
1. Someone who conducted “enhanced interrogation” torture sessions.
2. Someone who destroyed evidence of torture.
3. Someone who wrote a legal memo justifying the use of torture.
4. Someone high up in the Bush administration who authorized torture.
5. Someone who opposed torture within the CIA and later blew the whistle on the terrible crimes committed in our name.
If you guessed #5, you’re correct.
Last Friday, ex-CIA officer John C. Kiriakou became the first person to be sentenced to prison for issues related to CIA torture. Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act for revealing the name of a former operative involved the Bush era’s brutal interrogation of detainees at Guantanamo to a reporter.
Kiriakou worked as a CIA operative for more than two decades and led a March 2002 raid that captured high-ranking Al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah. He was also a vocal torture opponent who revealed his knowledge of U.S. enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, in an ABC interview in 2007.
UPDATE: From Roots Action: Free John Kiriakou
On June 18, 2009, President Obama declared that no one in the CIA would be prosecuted for torture. But now a CIA officer is finally going to prison in connection with torture. However, this CIA officer didn’t torture anyone — he blew the whistle on torture.
In 2007, John Kiriakou was the first person to publicly acknowledge that the CIA was waterboarding people. The retribution for that act of whistleblowing began immediately.
The CIA began filing crime reports with the Department of Justice against Kiriakou. The IRS audited him in 2007 and has done so every year since. His wife was forced out of her job at the CIA. In 2010 an FBI agent pretending to be a foreign spy tried to entrap Kiriakou, who reported the incidents to the FBI. The same FBI follows him everywhere, including into his children’s school.
The DOJ tried unsuccessfully to prosecute Kiriakou under the Espionage Act as a supposed enemy of the state. He became unemployable and racked up a million dollars in lawyers’ bills.
Now Kiriakou is finally going to prison for 30 months for the act of telling an author the name of someone to interview, even though the name was already known and Kiriakou’s prosecution has made it better known.
Question for the Obama campaign: Why is this a close election?
America is divided between the 99 Percent of people who work for a living, and the 1 Percent who control the political process in Washington. So how come the polls are tied between Romney and the President?
Could it be that both major political parties are fundamentally the same? They both want tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts for everybody else. Their foreign policy is the same, war with no end in sight even though 2/3 of Americans are against it.
Make your voice heard. Vote third-party in 2012.
UPDATE: In an off-the-record interview with the Des Moines Register, President Obama said that his goal in a second term would be to pursue a “grand bargain” with Republicans to “meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the out-years.” Of course, Obama can’t get re-elected without the votes of Americans who hate the Catfood Commission– which by the way never established anything because it never produced a final recommendation.
The problem with tonight’s presidential foreign policy debate is that both major political parties are committed to the almost the exact same foreign policy. Despite the fact most Americans are against it.
E-mail from RootsAction:
Even the New York Times has reversed its position of over 11 years and editorialized for withdrawal from Afghanistan now.
The crowd at the Republican National Convention cheered for immediate withdrawal when Clint Eastwood and Senator Rand Paul proposed it.
The U.K. and other allies are speeding up their withdrawal plans.
A strong majority of Americans has favored withdrawal in polls for years now.
And who’s left favoring two more years of war, followed by 10 more years of lower-level war?
These guys: Obama, Romney, Biden, and Ryan.
The military-industrial complex shouldn’t get to have two candidates for president.
UPDATE: What Jill Stein would say if she were allowed to debate tonight:
“We support a Green New Deal, which will put everyone back to work, at the same time that it puts a halt to climate change and it makes wars for oil obsolete.”
I’d be surprised if we hear the term “climate change” tonight from either Romney or Obama.
NYT: “Mr. Romney’s problem is that he does not actually have any real ideas on foreign policy beyond what President Obama has already done, or plans to do.”
Obama boasts of the massive amount of military spending under his presidency. Romney then says he wants to spend more. It is inconceivable that anyone would suggest that spending almost more than all other countries on the planet combined is excessive. That is the election in a nutshell.
…A primary reason this debate is so awful is because DC media people like Bob Scheiffer have zero interest in challenging any policy that is embraced by both parties, and since most foreign policies are embraced by both parties, he has no interest in challenging most of the issues that are relevant: drones, sanctions, Israel, etc.
The U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan ended last week. Conditions in Afghanistan are mostly worse than before it began.
That conclusion doesn’t come from anti-war advocates. It relies on data recently released by the NATO command in Afghanistan, known as ISAF, and acquired by Danger Room. According to most of the yardsticks chosen by the military — but not all — the surge in Afghanistan fell short of its stated goal: stopping the Taliban’s momentum.
…[The] suppressive force provided by the surge did not tamp down insurgent activity to levels seen in 2009, when Afghanistan looked sufficiently dire that a bipartisan consensus of Washington policymakers came to believe that a surge was necessary.
Here is what the Afghanistan “surge” accomplished. It provided the Taliban with more opportunities to attack U.S. and NATO forces.
President Obama gave a great speech at the United Nations General Assembly this morning. The rest of the world wants to believe that America has not abandoned its founding principles, and our President says we have not. If only his actions conformed to the Constitution, I’d be happy to support him.
We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspirations of men and women who took to the streets.
We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy put us on the side of the people.
We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.
We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the U.N. Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.
And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.
We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values.
American foreign policy ought to be on the side of the 99 Percent. Similarly, our government ought to stand up for the 99 Percent of Americans.
Citing Nelson Mandela, President Obama received loud applause.
And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said: “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.
In other words, true democracy – real freedom – is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.
And he offered this comment on the limits of American power:
Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue.
He implicitly rejected the neocon view of a world divided, but failed to address the violence against innocent civilians that is perpetrated by the USA:
A politics based only on anger –one based on dividing the world between us and them – not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces. Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than ten Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; and several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.
…We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights.
President Obama concluded (as he began) by citing the example of Chris Stevens, our murdered ambassador to Libya.
And today I promise you this – long after these killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’ legacy will live on in the lives he touched. In the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the sign that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.
They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it justice will be done; that history is on our side; and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed. Thank you.
The study’s purpose was to conduct an “independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians”.
In his first major foreign policy address, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today laid out a vision for international development steeped in Tea Party ideology… Romney …threw some red meat at his base by ticking off unfavorable developments currently faced by the U.S. in the Muslim world, listing among them the fact that “the president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim brotherhood.”
…A foreign policy expert texted me a single word: “Thud.”
The Romney-Ryan campaign achieved a new low on September 11. Willard (“Mitt”) Romney attempted to suggest that President Obama is in league with Arab terrorists, and implied that “American values” include bigotry and hatred based on religious differences. He left the press conference with a self-satisfied smirk reminiscent of the last Republican president. Indeed, Romney’s irresponsible reaction to violence in Libya and Egypt is the surest indication that he plans to repeat the mistakes of George W. Bush.
Because Romney has had almost nothing to say about foreign policy, not enough attention has been focused on who he would appoint to key positions in the White House, Pentagon, and State Department. Of Romney’s forty identified foreign policy advisers, more than 70 percent worked for Bush. John Bolton and other rabid neocons head the list.
Bolton is one of eight Romney advisers who signed letters drafted by the Project for a New American Century, an influential neoconservative advocacy group founded in the 1990s, urging the Clinton and Bush administrations to attack Iraq. PNAC founding member Paula Dobriansky, leading advocate of Bush’s ill-fated “freedom agenda” as an official in the State Department, recently joined the Romney campaign full time. Another PNAC founder, Eliot Cohen, counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2007 to 2009, wrote the foreword to the Romney campaign’s foreign policy white paper, which was titled, perhaps not coincidentally, “An American Century.” Cohen was a tutor to Bush administration neocons. Following 9/11, he dubbed the war on terror “World War IV,” arguing that Iraq, being an “obvious candidate, having not only helped Al Qaeda, but…developed weapons of mass destruction,” should be its center. In 2009 Cohen urged the Obama administration to “actively seek the overthrow” of Iran’s government.
…Romney’s team is notable for including Bush aides tarnished by the Iraq fiasco: Robert Joseph, the National Security Council official who inserted the infamous “sixteen words” in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union message claiming that Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium from Niger; Dan Senor, former spokesman for the hapless Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer in Iraq; and Eric Edelman, a top official at the Pentagon under Bush.
There is plenty to criticize in President Obama’s foreign policy, including his conduct of the war in Afghanistan, the failure to close Guantanamo and end preventive detention, the out-of-control drone war in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, the Libya intervention without congressional authorization, and his attempt to retain military bases in Iraq. However, short of starting a war with Iran, it would be hard to imagine how Obama could do as badly as Bush. America’s allies around the world (with the possible exception of Netanyahu’s Israel) see the Obama administration as an improvement. Our relations with Russia and China have gotten better, too.
Far from creating his own crisis as Bush did, Obama was hit with one, the Arab Spring. We can’t know how all that will turn out, and things certainly look bleak at this moment in Egypt and Libya. But Obama did the only things that could be done at the time. Can you imagine the United States siding with Hosni Mubarak against those people in Tahrir Square, or permitting the pre-advertised massacre of thousands in Benghazi?
The world is the world. Obama can’t wave a wand at it. But he can do what he has done, which is to run a sober and responsible foreign policy, not one based on theories developed in think-tank seminars underwritten by some hawkish Israeli billionaire. Obama’s approach to foreign policy is the one that has guided this country at its best moments (which have not, alas, been as frequent as we’d like), and it’s the foreign policy most Americans want.
UPDATE: Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) says President Obama “is apologizing because he didn’t like America.” With friends like Akin, Romney doesn’t need enemies.
UPDATE: Bob Cesca: Mitt Romney Kneejerks Into Another Colossal Blunder (Given an opportunity to look presidential, Romney decided to channel Rush Limbaugh instead)
From Roots Action:
President Obama told CNN this week that he can kill Americans or non-Americans, the difference being that with Americans their killing amounts to their Constitutionally guaranteed due process.
CNN asked Obama how he chooses names for his kill list, but he declined to say. Obama claimed that there are checks on his power, pointing only to checks by his own subordinates, not by courts, not by Congress, and not by the public — which he reassures with vague statements that amount to “trust me.”
Obama claimed that his preference is to capture people rather than to kill them. This does not fit with cases like that of Tariq Khan, a 16-year-old killed by drone strike following his participation in a conference at which he could have easily been captured. It does not fit with the lack of criminal charges against virtually any of the people killed.
Obama claimed that he avoids killing civilians, yet careful research has documented large numbers of civilians killed, including this week in Yemen.
President Obama claims to have the power to kill anyone anywhere in the world, including Americans, based on a secret memo written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the Department of Justice. This is the same process used by the Bush administration to claim that torture was all of a sudden legal. Unlike the Bush torture memos, Obama’s “kill list” memo remains classified.
Some drone war terms that have become public.
“Personality strike” – An attack aimed at named, so-called “high-value terrorists” (and their families).
“Signature strike” – An attack that targets allegedly suspicious compounds in areas controlled by “militants.”
“Double tap” – Following a drone strike with a second attack on first responders and rescuers, or later on the funeral for victims of the original attack.
“Combatant” – The Obama administration considers any military-age male in the vicinity of a bombing to be a combatant unless proven otherwise.
Michael V. Hayden, former head of the CIA (referring to the Bush administration’s program of torture):
“I have lived the life of someone taking action on the basis of secret O.L.C. memos, and it ain’t a good life. Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. safe.”
Dennis Blair, the former Director of National Intelligence, explains the attraction of waging war by drone:
“It is the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness,” he said. “It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.”
On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it might be a good time to debate the tactics and strategy of drone warfare. Unfortunately, both major political parties seem to be in agreement, so there is no debate.
UPDATE: Yemen Claims Death Of Al-Qaeda Regional Head (possibly a drone attack, though not reported as such).
We sought justice because equal pay for equal work is an American value. That fight took me ten years. It took me all the way to the Supreme Court. And, in a 5–4 decision, they stood on the side of those who shortchanged my pay, my overtime, and my retirement just because I am a woman…
…The first bill that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. I think it says something about his priorities that the first bill he put his name on has my name on it too….
That was the first step but it can’t be the last. Because women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar men make. Those pennies add up to real money. It’s real money for the little things like being able to take your kids to the movies and for the big things like sending them to college. It’s paying your rent this month and paying the mortgage in the future. It’s having savings for the bill you didn’t expect and savings for the dignified retirement you’ve earned.
Maybe 23 cents doesn’t sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account, Cayman Island Investments and an IRA worth tens of millions of dollars. But Governor Romney, when we lose 23 cents every hour, every day, every paycheck, every job, over our entire lives, what we lose can’t just be measured in dollars.
Three years ago, the house passed the paycheck Fairness Act to level the playing field for America’s women. Senate Republicans blocked it. Mitt Romney won’t even say if he supports it. President Obama does….
On that first day, I said, “Mr. President, which crisis do you want to tackle first?” He looked at me, with that look he usually reserved for his chief of staff, “Rahm, we were sent here to tackle all of them, not choose between them.” There was no blueprint or how-to manual for fixing a global financial meltdown, an auto crisis, two wars and a great recession, all at the same time. Believe me, if it existed, I would have found it. Each crisis was so deep and so dangerous; any one of them would have defined another presidency. We faced a once-in-a-generation moment in American history.
Governor Romney says people like me were the most excited about President Obama the day we voted for him.
But that’s not true. Not even close.
For me, there was the day the Affordable Care Act passed and I no longer had to worry about Zoe getting the care she needed.
There was the day the letter arrived from the insurance company, saying that our daughter’s lifetime cap had been lifted.
There was the day the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare.
Like so many moms with sick children, I shed tears and I could breathe easier knowing we have that net below us to catch us if we fall, or if, God forbid, Zoe needs a heart transplant…
When it comes to our men and women in harm’s way, we have a clear choice on November 6th. Last week, Mitt Romney had a chance to show his support for the brave men and women he is seeking to command. But he chose to criticize President Obama instead of even uttering the word “Afghanistan.”
…On November 12th, 2004, I was co-piloting my Blackhawk north of Baghdad when we started taking enemy fire. A rocket-propelled grenade hit our helicopter, exploding in my lap, ripping off one leg, crushing the other and tearing my right arm apart. But I kept trying to fly until I passed out. In that moment, my survival and the survival of my entire crew depended on all of us pulling together. And even though they were wounded themselves and insurgents were nearby, they refused to leave a fallen comrade behind. Their heroism is why I’m alive today.
Ultimately, that’s what this election is about. Yes, it’s about the issues that matter to us: building an economy that will create jobs here at home and out-compete countries around the world. But it’s also about something else. It’s about whether we will do for our fellow Americans what my crew did for me; whether we’ll look out for the hardest hit and the disabled; whether we’ll pull together in a time of need; whether we’ll refuse to give up until the job is done….
USA! USA! USA!
My name is Maria Ciano. I grew up in a conservative Republican family in Aurora, Colorado. Many of my relatives can’t believe I’m doing this. I guess I can’t either. I still believe in small government, but I no longer believe in the Republican Party.
…The America I love respects the dignity of women. The America I love is a place where, when we say “freedom,” we mean my freedom to make decisions about my life, not someone else’s freedom to make them for me. And that’s the America President Obama is fighting for…