Archive for category Foreign Policy
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.
“60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan issued a terse 90-second “correction” Sunday night, semi-apologizing for her discredited October 27 report featuring a false “eyewitness” account of the Benghazi terrorist attack. Dylan Davies, a security officer employed by the State Department, lied to “60 Minutes” and in a book published by Threshold Editions, a right-wing branch of CBS subsidiary Simon and Schuster.
That’s not enough. Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and executive producer of “60 Minutes,” spent a week claiming that the fake Benghazi report was accurate – the result of a year’s worth of research, he asserted. Yet it only took a few days for The Washington Post to find proof that Davies wasn’t credible.
First of all, why do a story on the anniversary of the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack? There was nothing new to report, although CBS might have wanted to cater to right-wing conspiracy theorists and political figures.
Logan’s “60 Minutes” report perpetuated the right-wing myth that there are “lingering questions” about the U.S. reaction to the Benghazi attack that haven’t been addressed. This was a lie, and her “correction” last night did not set the record straight.
In both her original report and last night’s “correction,” Logan failed to explain the tie-in between “60 Minutes” and Threshold Editions, which released Davies’ book two days after he appeared on the show.
Logan failed to address why “60 Minutes” accepted Davies’ account of the Benghazi attack, after Fox News Channel rejected it. That might have been a red flag, don’t you think?
Will “60 Minutes” launch an independent investigation? Logan didn’t say last night if there will be an independent panel to investigate what went wrong, like the 2004 investigation that ended Dan Rather’s career with CBS News.
Will Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, keep their jobs or face any punishment over this mistake? We don’t know.
UPDATE: Let CBS know what you think of Lara Logan and the lies she put on the air.
UPDATE: Media Matters: The Benghazi Hoax Chapter 16: 60 Minutes
The right-wing Republicans could only play this game so long, manufacturing a series of crises by threatening government shutdowns and default on the National Debt, without eventually having to shoot a hostage.
Now, for the second time in nine days, the House of Representatives has voted to shut down the federal government. Even if the Senate agreed to the CR the House passed in the middle of the night, there is no way it could reach the President’s desk before spending authority runs out at 12:01 am Tuesday. And the Senate won’t agree.
This is on them. The issue isn’t the Affordable Care Act, that’s going forward even during a government shutdown. The issue is the shutdown itself. Republicans are dreaming if they think they can get away with blaming their actions on the Dems.
The downside: it may not be possible for public approval of Congress to go any lower than it already is.
Thanks to clever diplomacy by the Russians, the U.S. war against Syria has been averted or at least postponed. They called President Obama’s bluff. If the alleged nerve agent attack is really the issue, then obviously an agreement that insures the Syrians will not possess or use chemical weapons is the answer- the Russians are willing to guarantee that. If the real goal of the Obama administration is regime change, then chemical weapons have been taken off the table as a rallying cry to justify direct American intervention in the Syrian civil war.
There are a number of points in the President’s speech tonight that are controversial. Acknowledgement to Kevin Gosztola for much of the following.
1. President Obama claimed that “over a thousand” civilians were killed by nerve agent on August 21.
Doctors Without Borders has reported that 355 people died. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights “confirmed 502 dead, including about 100 children and ‘tens’ of rebel fighters,” according to McClatchy. That is still far less than a thousand.
2. “We know the Assad regime was responsible.”
As the Associated Press reported on September 8, the American public has “yet to see a single piece of concrete evidence—no satellite imagery, no transcripts of Syrian military communications—connecting the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people.”
Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaeda linked rebel group, and told a reporter that the release of nerve agent was accidental.
3. “It was a violation of international law.”
This is true only if civilians were intentionally targeted, which is one possible scenario. However, the nerve agent “attack,” if it was that, is no more a war crime than many other incidents that have already occurred on both sides of the Syrian civil war. Indeed, it is also comparable to well-documented war crimes committed by U.S. forces in neighboring Iraq. It should be noted that Syria is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention (interestingly enough, Israel also refused to sign the treaty).
BTW, a unilateral attack on Syria by the USA would also violate international law, which prohibits wars of aggression.
4. “I possess the authority to order military strikes… in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security…”
“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
– Barack Obama, when he was running for President in 2007
5. “I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.”
This is hard to believe, because how else can we be certain Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles are neutralized, peacefully or otherwise?
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has predicted, “During conflict, the intelligence community and Special Forces units would likely play a major role in locating and securing such weapons in a combat environment.”
By one estimate, 75,000 soldiers would be needed to handle the job. Where will they come from?
6. “Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.”
This is a response to Secretary of State Kerry’s characterization of the planned military strike as “unbelievably small.” Clearly, the administration has plans for a “shock and awe” bombardment that would be limited in duration but of high intensity. It’s very likely that more civilians would be killed than died in the August 21 nerve agent incident.
7. The Assad regime can’t retaliate against us or Israel.
You had better be really sure about that, Mr. President. Remember how many Americans were killed by a small group of 19 terrorists in 2001 that didn’t have much in the way of state sponsorship. Assad and his loyalists are literally fighting for their lives. If they get into a situation in which they have nothing to lose, what deters them from seeking revenge?
8. “Because of the threat of military action,” Russia and Syria are willing to pursue diplomacy.
That is one explanation, but history will likely record that it was the public debate in the United Kingdom and the USA, followed by President Obama’s decision to ask for congressional war authorization, that led to diplomacy.
9. American exceptionalism means it’s our job to enforce international agreements.
No, it’s the job of the United Nations Security Council. If America is to be exceptional, let’s set an example as a law-abiding nation by not violating the U.N. Charter again.
More info: Obama’s Confusing Speech On Syria
Source: Calculated Risk Blog
The excruciatingly slow and anemic recovery from Bush’s Great Recession continues, according to the August jobs report.
Employers added 169,000 jobs in August but many fewer in June and July than previously thought, the Labor Department said Friday. Combined, June, July and August amounted to the weakest three-month stretch of job growth in a year.
The unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent, the lowest in nearly five years. But it fell because more Americans stopped looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed. The proportion of Americans working or looking for work reached its lowest point in 35 years.
Americans are not impressed with a so-called “economic recovery” that has produced mainly low-wage jobs.
Low-wage jobs, defined as those that pay no more than $13.83 an hour, accounted for 21 percent of recession job losses but have accounted for 58 percent of the recovery growth.
Meanwhile, Congress is debating a potential $12 billion war against Syria. If the past is any guide, that will prove to be a gross underestimate of the cost.
Helen Thomas has passed on.
This is a great relief to people in power.
She was purged from the media and the press corpse when she dared to say something against Israel after being a staple of American journalism for decades.
We will miss you.
The picture in this post was made possible because a local activist sent Helen those flowers. Sometimes, I’m proud of Utah!
Watch an unelected president become uncomfortable:
While engaged in making his own mavericky foreign policy over in Syria, Senator John McCain met with some Syrian rebels allied with al-Qaeda– including Mohammad Nour, an infamous terrorist who has been involved in the abduction of a group of Lebanese pilgrims. Nour is the man in the center of the photo above.
Does anyone else remember what Senator McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin said during the 2008 presidential election? She accused Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” I think the irony meter has been pegged.
Here’s the take-away from President Obama’s speech today at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, in Washington DC.
The drone surge may finally be over. By some estimates, 98% of drone strike casualties were civilian noncombatants (50 for every one “suspected terrorist”). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report detailing how the CIA deliberately targeted rescuers who show up after an attack, and mourners at funerals as a part of a “double-tap” strategy eerily reminiscent of methods used by terrorist groups like Hamas.
In the months and years ahead, drone strikes once conducted by the CIA will become more of a U.S. military responsibility. The rules for launching the strikes will become stricter — there must be a “near certainty” that no civilians will be killed, for instance — and they’ll become less frequent. “To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective,” Obama said… “is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.”
Yet neither Obama nor senior administration officials ruled out the most controversial aspect of Obama’s counterterrorism measures: so-called signature strikes, in which the CIA does not know the identities of the people it targets, but infers terrorist affiliation based on their observed patterns of behavior.
President Obama says he’s sorry.
Of the civilians who have died in the strikes, Obama said: “For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Of course, the other guys kill civilians too.
“Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes,” he added.
PFC Bradley Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Alfred Nobel’s will left funding for a prize to be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
The intent of the prize was to fund this work. As a result of enormous legal expenses, Bradley Manning is in need of that funding (currently $1.2 million).
A record 259 nominations have been received for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, with candidates including PFC Manning and 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an education activist who was shot in the head by Taliban militants while on her way home from school in Pakistan. Around 50 of the nominations are for organizations. Last year, the prize went to the European Union for promoting peace and human rights in Europe following the devastation of World War II. Nobel Prize winners are usually announced in October.
UPDATE: It’s a fake.
‘How Americans Live Today’: Fake North Korean Propaganda Video Punks The Internet
This North Korean news report, titled “How Americans Live Today,” may be in need of a little bit of fact-checking.
“This is how Americans live today- drinking coffee made from snow and living in tents, and buying guns to kill each other, especially children. Some people complain about the guns…”
Kim Jong-un has a serious problem – how to keep his people convinced that their country is a relatively nice place to live, despite starvation, prison camps, power shortages, and a leader who clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing. Possession of foreign-made video CDs is a serious crime in North Korea.
Despite the propaganda, some people have a clue.
Defectors have told U.S. officials that the North Korean people—probably not a majority, but still a growing number—are aware of the glaring contrast between their own lives and the rest of the world.
Of course, if Paul Ryan gets his way maybe we can reduce the contrast between us and North Korea…
Another horrifying round of attacks on the besieged people of Gaza, just ahead of the Israeli elections. Pam Bailey on AlterNet:
The right to self-defense (most often through “retaliation”) is enshrined in international law and was America’s own first response after it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. Why was it ethical for the U.S., but not for Palestinians?
As one young Gazan wrote on Facebook: “When you see your family killed by Israeli soldiers in front of your eyes and you see your house demolished in front of you, you feel so angry that you want to fight back. But once you fight back, you are called a terrorist and the aggressor becomes the victim who has the right of defense.”
Israel started it, again. And the blockade of Gaza continues.
Israel does not accept Palestine’s right to exist, even though it is constantly demanding that everyone, including the displaced and occupied Palestinians, recognize Israel’s right to exist.
UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald: The ‘both-sides-are-awful’ dismissal of Gaza ignores the key role of the US government. “The temptation to wash one’s hands of the whole conflict is understandable, but US support of Israel is a central force driving it all.”