Archive for category National Politics
Andrew Bacevich: On Building Armies (and Watching Them Fail)
First came Fallujah, then Mosul, and later Ramadi in Iraq. Now, there is Kunduz, a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan. In all four places, the same story has played out: in cities that newspaper reporters like to call “strategically important,” security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. military at great expense simply folded, abandoning their posts (and much of their U.S.-supplied weaponry) without even mounting serious resistance. Called upon to fight, they fled. In each case, the defending forces gave way before substantially outnumbered attackers, making the outcomes all the more ignominious.
“Vietnamization,” the U.S policy that ended in abject failure with the fall of Saigon in 1975, proved that training, weapons, and equipment can never make up for a deficit of will. Also, a weak state with dubious legitimacy can’t be propped up for very long by military force. Jump to the conclusion:
What are the policy implications of giving up the illusion that the Pentagon knows how to build foreign armies? The largest is this: subletting war no longer figures as a plausible alternative to waging it directly. So where U.S. interests require that fighting be done, like it or not, we’re going to have to do that fighting ourselves. By extension, in circumstances where U.S. forces are demonstrably incapable of winning or where Americans balk at any further expenditure of American blood — today in the Greater Middle East both of these conditions apply — then perhaps we shouldn’t be there.
Bacevich doesn’t address the fiasco of the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels, armed and trained by the U.S., who promptly surrendered and turned over all their equipment to al-Qaeda. The Pentagon recently announced the end of that misbegotten military aid effort (which was probably undertaken solely to make Senator John McCain happy, as if).
The post will replace my earlier one, Congress on Track for Another Government Shutdown.
The federal government made it past the end of the fiscal year with a continuing resolution (CR) that expires on December 11. Speaker John Boehner is stepping down, effective at the end of this month. President Obama has declared that that he will not sign another short-term CR.
As of today, the Tea-GOP House caucus is nominating a new Speaker, the inarticulate, gaffe-prone House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) [Apparently not – see updates]. Rep. McCarthy has already let the proverbial cat out of the bag by telling Faux News’ Sean Hannity that the purpose of the Benghazi Select Committee was to get Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers down.
Unless Boehner is able to push through legislation before retiring, the new Speaker will face a November 5th deadline to raise the debt limit, and then a December 11th budget deadline. At this point it does not look like the Tea-GOP has enough votes in the House to avoid missing those deadlines and precipitating a major governing crisis.
In short, it appears the only way to avoid a default on the National Debt and to prevent another federal government shutdown is with the support of House Democrats– who will surely demand an end to the sequester cuts and who knows what else.
Reps Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) were also running for Speaker. On Wednesday, the House’s conservative “Freedom Caucus” endorsed Webster.
Ian Millhiser on Think Progress:
It is possible that there is no one in America who can win an absolute majority of House members votes, the amount that is necessary to become the next speaker.
The U.S. government has been accused of bombing a large hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, early in the morning of October 3rd. After an initial statement that the aerial bombardment was “collateral damage” from a nearby strike, new information has emerged that suggests the hospital was the intended target. At least 23 people died, including 13 staff members and 10 patients, three of whom were children.
Hospitals are generally immune from attack under the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare. Doctors Without Borders, referred to internationally in French as Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF), stressed that it had “communicated the precise locations of its facilities to all parties on multiple occasions over the past months” and yet, despite this, the NATO bombing of the hospital continued for over 30 minutes, even after MSF “frantically phoned” Washington.
The MSF accusations appear to have been confirmed in a Washington Post article that quoted Hamdullah Danishi, the acting governor of Kunduz Province, and Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan member of parliament. Both men suggested that the hospital was deliberately targeted because of the alleged presence of Taliban fighters. MSF denies that the Taliban were ever on the hospital grounds.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, says that an AC-130 gunship fired on the hospital by mistake.
“To be clear, the decision to provide (airstrikes) was a U.S. decision, made within the U.S. chain of command,” Campbell said. “The hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Campbell said he could not provide more details about what happened, including who may have failed to follow procedures for avoiding attacks on hospitals. He said he must await the outcome of multiple investigations.
INSIDE THE MSF HOSPITAL IN KUNDUZ
An exclusive first look at the horrific aftermath of the U.S. attack in northern Afghanistan.
Robert Rubin, Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner yuck it about income inequality…
Thanks to Sam Seder and AlterNet.
Re-taking Kunduz, a former Taliban stronghold in northeastern Afghanistan, has been a strategic objective of the insurgents for a long time. The fall of the city counts as the biggest Taliban victory since 2001.
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Afghan security forces started retaking parts of Kunduz from the Taliban, officials said, one day after the key city had largely fallen in a major victory for the insurgents.
“A big military operation to clear all Kunduz city is about to start,” Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said Tuesday.
U.S. forces joined in the military action, launching an airstrike in Kunduz on Tuesday, said Brian Tribus, spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The Kunduz prison, a police compound and the neighborhood of Zir Dawra are among the areas Afghan forces have secured, Sediqqi said.
A day earlier, Sediqqi said Kunduz had largely fallen into “the hand of enemies.” Kunduz is the largest city to be overrun by the Taliban since 2001.
Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, a spokesman for the Kunduz police chief, said Taliban insurgents seized the main roundabout in the city and made it to the prison, where they freed more than 500 inmates.
Coalition Forces Engage Insurgents In Combat Near Kunduz
U.S. Airstrikes Back Afghan Security Forces’ Efforts To Retake City From Taliban
Taliban emir seeks to reassure residents of Kunduz
Taliban Withdraws From Kunduz As Clashes Intensify
Seriously? As a senator, Hillary Clinton voted to authorize George W. Bush’s war of aggression against Iraq, an ill-fated invasion and occupation halfway around the word that led to enormous loss of life and ongoing chaos in the Middle East, and mind-boggling deficits at home.
Now she says: “I will not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon.”
In other words, Hillary has learned nothing about what constitutes an illegal war of aggression. Fortunately for all concerned, Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and their theocratic government regards nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons as un-Islamic. It’s an empty threat.
We can’t help wondering if Hillary thinks that the first woman president needs to take America to war again just to prove she’s a tough commander-in-chief – and never mind the consequences.
Amanda Marcotte suggests the loud Tea-GOP freakout over peace with Iran is mostly if not entirely about political calculation for 2016.
[P]ainting Hillary Clinton as some kind of weak-willed surrender monkey, mostly by dropping the word “Benghazi” a lot, is clearly going to be the centerpiece of the anti-Clinton strategy.
This may explain, but certainly doesn’t excuse, Hillary doubling down on her hawkish foreign policy views.
Watched this on TV live yesterday. I know President Obama has been a disappointment for Americans who work for a living. He definitely never walked a picket line as President, like he promised in 2007. But he sure gave a great speech on the one day a year when Dems come out to defend labor unions.
This is part of the Clinton administration’s legacy. In a new book, Kathryn J. Edin concludes the number of Americans living on $2 a day or less has “more than doubled since 1996, placing 1.5 million households and 3 million children in this desperate economic situation.”
$2 per person per day, or $2,920 per year for a family of four. is an income category that the World Bank refers to as “extreme poverty.”
1996 is an important marker, because that’s the year the Clinton administration, working alongside Republicans in Congress, eliminated the Aid for Families with Dependent Children program, which provided a guaranteed safety net for the poor. In its place they created Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), a much more meager and temporary safety net.
…In 2012, only one-quarter of poor families received TANF benefits, down from more than two-thirds in 1996, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. According to $2.00 a Day, the welfare program reached more than 14.2 million Americans in 1994, but by 2014 only 3.8 million Americans were aided by TANF.
The failure of TANF, like the decline of the American middle class, is barely mentioned in the media. Nobody is asking presidential candidates about this. Instead we get Donald Trump’s daily insult-fest and the great gefilte fish e-mail flap.
Could You Survive on $2 a Day?
Last night Rachel Maddow looked at Public Policy Polling’s August 28-30 poll of Tea-GOP primary voters. Aside from the “horse race” findings of who’s ahead and who’s behind (Trump is ahead, followed by Ben Carson, and the other candidates are all in the single digits) the poll revealed just how low-information the Tea-GOPers really are.
President Obama is a self-declared Christian born in the State of Hawaii. Rafael (“Ted”) Cruz was of course born in Canada, and held Canadian citizenship until last year.
The number is even more stark among those who indicated that they support 2016 GOP front-runner Donald Trump. Among those voters, 61 percent said Obama was not born in the U.S., while a mere 21 percent concede that he was American born.
Robert Reich describes how more businesses are skirting labor laws by employing so-called “independent contractors” working irregular hours for unpredictable pay.
It’s the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century, and it’s happening at lightning speed. It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will have uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.
…Whether we’re software programmers, journalists, Uber drivers, stenographers, child care workers, TaskRabbits, beauticians, plumbers, Airbnb’rs, adjunct professors, or contract nurses – increasingly, we’re on our own.
And what we’re paid, here and now, depends on what we’re worth here and now – in a spot-auction market that’s rapidly substituting for the old labor market where people held jobs that paid regular salaries and wages.
Bottom line: the 1 Percent want to rake in nearly all the profits from this economy while shifting a much bigger proportion of the risk onto workers. They have combined 21st Century information systems with 19th Century labor practices. So far, they are getting away with it.
So-called “anchor babies” are now an issue in the Tea-GOP presidential primaries, with most candidates saying they would like to cancel the constitutional right of citizenship.
If the Tea-GOP prevails, the children of a disfavored class will be disqualified from citizenship – rejected by the land of their birth. Despite the fact that birthright citizenship has been part of our Constitution for nearly 150 years, no precedent is sacred to the Tea-GOP. For them, there is no such thing as settled law.
Of course, the anchor baby myth is pure fear mongering without basis in fact. Assuming anyone cares about facts. Children born to undocumented immigrants get deported all the time, along with their families – precisely what Trump proposes. Even though they are U.S. citizens, most are not entitled to come back to this country until they are 21 years of age.
What’s more, there would be a significant cost to “solving” the nonexistent anchor baby problem. The parents of every child born in this country would have to go through a lengthy and expensive individualized assessment of their child’s citizenship. The Center for American Progress points out that such assessments currently cost an average of $600, essentially a birth tax. The alternative would be legal limbo, without U.S. citizenship — or possibly having no citizenship in any nation.
To be fair, some Tea-GOP candidates don’t advocate taking away the right of citizenship to everyone born in the USA.
John Kasich has reversed his position, telling CNN earlier this month, “I think we need to get over that. I’m not for it anymore. Let these people who are born here be citizens and that’s the end of it. I don’t want to dwell on it.” Mike Huckabee also opposes changing the 14th Amendment.