afghanistan

Rethink Afghanistan: Civilian Casualties

The footage you are about to see is poignant, heart-wrenching, and often a direct result of U.S. foreign policy. In order to help the refugees whose lives have been shattered by U.S. foreign policy and military attacks, please provide aid through the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. For more on Afghan civilian casualties, watch Director Robert Greenwald on MSNBC’s The Ed Show:

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National Call-In Day to Demand an Exit Plan for Afghanistan

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Fresh off the disappointing passage of more money for the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the anti-war group United for Peace and Justice has declared today a national call-in day to Congress to demand an “exit plan” from Afghanistan.

The group writes:

This week, the House passed the war-funding Supplemental bill, providing $79.9 billion to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With this vote, the House has effectively ratified the escalation of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It has done this without any indication of an ‘exit plan’ from the Obama administration.

Tackling this problem is Congressman Jim McGovern’s bill HR 2404, which would require the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress outlining an ‘exit plan’ for U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan no later than December 31, 2009. Congressman McGovern’s bill is gaining support and now has 87 co-sponsors. And we’re urging your support now, too.

Today is National Call-In Day to Congress on the McGovern bill and UFPJ urges you to contact your members of Congress to sign-on as a co-sponsor, if they have not already done so. Once you make your calls, please report them back to us here:

http://www.unitedforpeace.org/form.php?modin=163

The Congressional Switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

United for Peace and Justice goes on to assert that while they were disappointed by the passage of the funding bill, peace activists made it extremely difficult for the White House to get the bill passed.

White House Pressures Anti-War Democrats to Support War Funding Bill

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Over the past few weeks–and really years–we’ve harped on the Democrats unwillingness to mount a serious challenge to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s critical that someone do that, because for all the talk of them being “Bush’s wars,” the simple fact is that they wouldn’t have been possible without the Democrats’ complicity. Most often, this has meant the Democrats’ willingness to come through with continued funding for the war.

Last week, we reported that the Democrats have drafted a “compromise” on the current war funding bill that they hope will get anti-war Democrats on board. Rather than add measures that would appeal to those anti-war legislators, the leadership has instead added unrelated measures such as cash incentives for consumers that purchase fuel efficient cars.

Over the weekend, it also came out that the White House is using Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to pressure progressive legislators to support the bill. According to media reports, the administration is targeting freshman members of Congress–many who were elected in part on their anti-war platform–to pressure them to change their votes. The White House is allegedly threatening to pull support from those legislators come reelection time. Emanuel has also reportedly offered to cut deals with Republicans who are willing to support the legislation, saying that the Democrats will go easy on them in the 2010 elections. Obama has also reportedly entered the fray and is calling members of the House to secure their vote.

I think it’s pretty telling that the so-called “attack dog” Rahm Emanuel–who many liberals defended as being necessary to push legislation through Congress against obstructionist Republicans–is being used by the Obama administration to target progressive lawmakers. It says a lot about where they are at on foreign policy, although it really isn’t much of a surprise. He has been consistently in support of the wars since 2007, but most of his supporters ignored it and hoped that he would somehow change his mind once in office. Clearly, that didn’t–and obviously wouldn’t–work, but now we’re seeing the results of that mistake with the continued support for the war in Iraq and the escalation of the Afghanistan War.

Afghans Discuss Civilian Casualties and the Ongoing Occupation of their Country

Over the past several months, we’ve regularly posted portions of Brave New Films’ documentary Rethink Afghanistan (see parts 1, 2, and 3). Now, the progressive filmmakers have released four new videos that offer a critical perspective on the Afghanistan War–the perspective of Afghan civilians who bear the brunt of the United States’ military force.

The videos offer a rare glimpse into the opposition to the war amongst Afghan civilians and what they endure on a daily basis. Unfortunately, their perspectives are all too often ignored by the media and in some cases, the anti-war movement.

I think what is said in these videos is striking and it really needs to be heard–and not just by those that support the war, but also its critics. All too often critics of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the Iraq War have often adopted a paternalistic attitude and have asserted that they can best decide what citizens of either country want. For example, when I was active in organizing against the Iraq War, it wasn’t uncommon to hear “well meaning” liberals go on about how if the U.S. wasn’t in Iraq the Iraqis would all kill each other or how a timeline for withdrawal “is better than nothing.” Aside from racism and privilege embedded in those statements, it wasn’t their choice to make. Sadly, after years of hearing quite clearly from Iraqis that they want the U.S. out of their country–which is what we are now hearing from Afghanistan–there hasn’t really been a concerted push for an immediate end to those wars. That’s something that really needs to change.

At any rate, I’d strongly encourage you to watch all four videos:

U.S. Admits Responsibility for Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

For years (ex: this post from 2005), we have been talking about how the U.S. war in Afghanistan has been taking a toll on civilians in the country–a prediction that was first made by the anti-war movement back in 2001.

In recent years, air strikes have continued to devastate the country and target its civilian population. Civilian casualties increased last year and this year there are continued reports of casualties along with an expansion of the use of unmanned drones to carry out attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The killings have become frequent enough that even the Afghani government–which has been fairly uncritical of the U.S.–has been forced to make the attacks an issue.

Last month, there was a U.S. air strike that killed “dozens” (Red Cross estimates put the casualties at 120). At the time, the U.S. blamed the Taliban for the civilian casualties, but it is now admitting that it was responsible:

A military investigation has concluded that American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a senior American military official.

The official said the civilian death toll would probably have been reduced if American air crews and forces on the ground had followed strict rules devised to prevent civilian casualties. Had the rules been followed, at least some of the strikes by American warplanes against half a dozen targets over seven hours would have been aborted.

In many cases, it has been suggested that these continued attacks are motivating Afghanis to oppose the U.S. presence–and in some cases–to join insurgent groups. Can you really blame them?

Obama’s Choice to Lead Afghanistan War Linked to Detainee Abuse

Over the past few weeks, news that the Obama administration had picked Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal to was met by opposition from anti-war and liberal voices who have criticized McChrystal for his ties to both the abuse of detainees and targeted assassinations.

Last week, McChrystal appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was mainly subjected to softball questions that largely side-stepped the issue of detainee abuse and torture. Among those questioning McChrystal was Michigan Senator Carl Levin. Unfortunately, there was much more discussion about the death of former football player Pat Tillman than detainee abuse.

For those who want to learn a bit more about McChrystal and what his selection means for the continued war in Afghanistan, Democracy Now! put together an excellent segment with Marc Garlasco of Human Rights Watch and author Tom Engelhardt. The video is available below:

In addition, readers wanting to learn more about the war in Afghanistan would do well to read Engelhardt’s piece, “The Pressure of an Expanding War,” that looks at where the war in Afghanistan is headed.

5,000 U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Last week, the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan reached 5,000. Despite this grim milestone, few media outlets took note–including progressive/left media outlets. At this point, there really isn’t much to say about the two occupations that hasn’t been said on this website and others countless times before. There needs to a policy shift towards an immediate withdrawal–Obama’s timeline simply won’t cut it.

Below is a graphic produced by the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) Countdown to Withdrawal website that really says all that needs to be said about the wars:

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Headlines: Afghan Peace Talks Call For U.S. Withdrawal; 17 Arrested At Anti-Coal Protests in West Virginia

Democracy Now Headlines: Afghan Peace Talks Call For U.S. Withdrawal; 17 Arrested At Anti-Coal Protests in West Virginia

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

UN Security Council Condemns North Korean Nuclear Test

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously condemned North Korea for carrying out an underground nuclear test Monday. It was North Korea’s second nuclear test in three years. Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said it is too early to tell if the Security Council will approve a new round of sanctions against North Korea.

Susan Rice: “What we heard today was swift, clear, unequivocal condemnation in opposition to what occurred. The meeting was brief and everybody spoke and everybody essentially took the same view. We are now resolved to work on a resolution. We believe it ought to be a strong resolution with appropriately strong contents, but obviously unless and until we have completed the process of negotiating that resolution, it would be premature to suggest what its contents would be.”

In a statement Monday, North Korea said the nuclear test was intended to “bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defense in every way.” Hours after the Security Council vote, North Korea fired two more short-range missiles. In response to the nuclear test, South Korea announced it would immediately join a US-led initiative to intercept ships suspected of carrying nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, component parts or missiles to deliver them. Pyongyang has warned it would consider South Korea’s membership in the Proliferation Security Initiative to be an act of war. At the White House, President Barack Obama denounced North Korea’s actions.

President Obama: “North Korea’s actions endanger the people of Northeast Asia, they are a blatant violation of international law, and they contradict North Korea’s own prior commitments. Now, the United States and the international community must take action in response.”

Afghan Peace Talks Call For U.S. Withdrawal

In Afghanistan, leaders of the Taliban and other armed groups are reportedly talking to intermediaries about a potential peace agreement, with initial demands focused on a timetable for a withdrawal of American troops. This according to the New York Times. The discussions have so far produced no agreements, since the militants appear to be insisting that any deal include an American promise to withdraw.

Three U.S. Soldiers Killed in Suicide Bombing

Meanwhile a suicide car bomber plowed into a NATO convoy earlier today, killing three American soldiers and a civilian passer-by on a main road north of Kabul.

Pakistani Civilians Stuck in Swat Valley Facing Humanitarian Catastrophe

In Pakistan, Human Rights Watch is calling on the military to lift its curfew in the Swat Valley where the Pakistani military is battling the Taliban. Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch said: “The government cannot allow the local population to remain trapped without food, clean water, and medicine as a tactic to defeat the Taliban.” More than 2.4 million people have fled the region this month but up to 200,000 civilians remain trapped inside the conflict zone.

U.S. Relies on Foreign Nations To Hold Prisoners

The New York Times is reporting the United States is now relying heavily on foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain prisoners seized outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. The current approach began two years ago and has gained momentum under President Obama. Detainees who once would have been taken to secret CIA prisons or Guantanamo are now being handed over to other governments. At least four Middle Eastern countries as well as Pakistan are currently holding men captured based on information provided by the United States.

Sen. Feingold Warns Obama About Preventive Detention Plan

Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin has criticized President Obama’s plan to hold some prisoners indefinitely inside the United States without trial. In a letter to the president, Feingold said any system that permits the government to indefinitely detain individuals without charge violates basic American values and is likely unconstitutional. Feingold said, “Indeed, such detention is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world.”

Proposed Israel Laws Call for Loyalty Oath and Ban on Nabka Protests

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party plans to propose a law requiring residents to swear loyalty to the Jewish state. The party has also proposed legislation to ban the commemoration of the “Nakba” or “disaster,” which many Arab Israelis and Palestinians mark while the Jewish state marks its Independence Day. Under the proposed legislation, those publicly commemorating the Nakba could be jailed. The proposed laws have been denounced by Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship.

Khalaili, Arab Israeli Resident: “First, we as Arabs, and as the remaining Palestinians, refuse this discourse. We consider the Nakba a part of the Palestinian history and culture. Just like we don’t ask the Jews to cancel the Holocaust. Using the same measurements, and the same meanings, it is impossible to cancel the Nakba day because it is an element that can’t be excluded from the Palestinians existence.”

Netanyahu: Israel Will Continue Building Settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel will continue to build homes in existing West Bank settlements, defying U.S. calls to halt settlement growth.

400 LA Students Walk Out of Classes to Protest Teacher Cuts

In Los Angeles, about 400 students walked out of classes on Friday to protest possible teacher layoffs. The Los Angeles Unified School District faces up to $131 million in new cuts this year and could lay off up to 2,500 teachers.

17 Arrested At Anti-Coal Protests in West Virginia

In West Virginia, 17 people were arrested Saturday during a series of protests against the coal industry. The protesters marked a new phase of Operation Appalachian Spring, a campaign to end mountaintop removal mining. The first two arrests occurred when two activists wearing hazmat suits and respirators boated onto an 8-billion-gallon toxic coal slurry lake to unfurl a 60-foot floating banner reading, “No more toxic sludge!” They were charged with trespass and littering. Later in the day eight more protesters were arrested on trespassing and conspiracy charges after they walked onto the Kayford Mountain mine and locked themselves to a giant dump truck. Seven others were arrested at Massey Energy’s Marfork Coal facility. Former West Virginia Congressman Ken Hechler took part in the protest but police refused to arrest the 94-year-old former lawmaker.

Six of the anti-coal protesters remain in jail.

Medical Group Calls For Ban on Genetically Modified Foods

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has called for a moratorium on genetically modified foods. The medical organization warned that genetically modified foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health. Dr. Amy Dean said “Multiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body. With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to have a moratorium on GM foods for the safety of our patients’ and the public’s health.”

Indian Human Rights Activist Dr. Binayak Sen Released on Bail

In India, human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen has been released on bail after being held for two years. Sen is the National Vice President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. He was arrested in May 2007, for allegedly helping the Maoist insurgency in the state of Chhattisgarh.

California Supreme Court To Rule on Gay Marriage Law Today

In California the state Supreme Court will issue its ruling today on whether the state’s gay-marriage ban will stand. In addition the court is expected to address the legal status of some 18,000 same-sex couples who were married in California before voters approved Proposition 8, banning same sex marriage.

State Department To Extend Benefits to Partners of Gay Diplomats

Meanwhile Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to soon announce that the partners of gay and lesbian U.S. diplomats will be eligible for many benefits currently denied them and allowed to spouses of heterosexual diplomats.

Liberty University Bans College Democrats Club

And in education news, Liberty University has banned the College Democrats Club from campus. In a letter to the group, a school administrator wrote: “We are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by Liberty University.” Liberty University is a Christian College founded by the late Jerry Falwell.

National Media Day of Action on Afghanistan

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United for Peace and Justice has announced a new action that they are hoping will increase opposition to the Afghanistan War and raise awareness about the realities of the war. The group is facilitating a “National Media Day of Action on Afghanistan” on Thursday, May 21. The goal of the action is simple: change public opinion about the war by getting anti-war editorials, articles, and opinion pieces published in news outlets across the United States.

The group has put together a helpful series of guides to using the media. These include tips on how make the most of newspapers, radio, and online media as well as factsheets and other resources (including pre-written letters) that can help activists work with the media. The group is placing a special focus on online media, with ideas on how to use Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace–all of which are simple and effective ways for spreading your message.

This is certainly something that readers of MediaMouse.org should consider participating in. The local media outlets in Grand Rapids–The Grand Rapids Press, WOOD TV, WZZM 13, and WXMI 17–run relatively little coverage of the Afghanistan War. Almost completely absent from what coverage they do run is opposition to the war. It doesn’t take that long to write a letter to the editor or to email the media outlets asking them to improve their coverage–and it’s a necessary step if we’re going to build opposition to the war.

United for Peace and Justice would like to know what people do on the 21st, so if you contact a media outlet, be sure to let them know.

Afghanistan and Pakistan: Myths and Facts

Peace Action

The national anti-war group Peace Action has released a new briefing paper titled “Afghanistan and Pakistan: Myths and Facts” that looks at some of the commonly cited arguments in support of the Afghanistan War.

Unfortunately, after seven years of war, we’re still at the stage where a lot of educational work is needed on Afghanistan before there will likely be a successful push to curtail the war and end the U.S. occupation (after all, we’re still in Iraq and there was much more significant opposition to that war), to that end, we are reprinting Peace Action’s factsheet below:

1. MYTH: Expanded US military activity furthers national security and upholds our national values.

FACT: Widening the war will be counterproductive both to our national security objectives and to our national values. As is already evident, it will de-stabilize the region, including Pakistan. Americans will also be increasingly causing the deaths of many women, children, elderly and other innocent civilians and disrupting the efforts of thousands of Afghan villagers to flee their villages in order to escape the spreading violence.

2. MYTH: Winning the war in Afghanistan requires a military victory for US forces.

FACT: Secretary of Defense Gates, Secretary of State Clinton, National Security Advisor Jones, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mullen, and even President Obama, himself, each have acknowledged that the internal conflict in Afghanistan cannot finally be won by military means. They have publicly agreed that it will have to be won, if it can, by dramatic improvements in the economy, the political system, government services, and the courts.

3. MYTH: The additional US troops will primarily be training the Pakistani Army and police, and are not being sent for combat operations.

FACT: Thousands of additional troops are being sent to Afghanistan, largely from the 82 Airborne Division, the premier regular combat unit of the Army. Such soldiers are not being sent as “trainers,” to lecture in classrooms. Instead, they will accompany Afghan soldiers on patrols and attempted ambushes to monitor and instruct their Afghan counterparts They will inevitably engage in combat alongside their “students” and suffer casualties — just as GI’s did while on “training missions” in Iraq and Vietnam. More Americans will die and, at the same time, their fighting role will alienate the Afghan people.

4. MYTH: The U.S. military will help defeat the Taliban and prevent them from providing a refuge and base to Al Qaeda.

FACT: US military activity in Afghanistan strengthens the Taliban. It inflames Afghans’ hostility to the U.S. and wins new supporters for the Taliban. Even now, Coalition forces are having difficulty distinguishing Afghan Taliban forces, from tribal militants against the national government and ordinary Afghans. That problem will only worsen as our military involvement expands.

5. MYTH: The U.S. military in Afghanistan is not targeting civilians. Any civilian deaths are purely accidental.

FACT: The killing of Afghan civilians is the inevitable and foreseeable result of American missile attacks, bombing, and night ground patrols. This euphemistically termed “collateral damage” not only take civilian lives, but inevitably turns the population against us.

6. MYTH: The Administration strategy is that US military commitment will be limited in size and duration.

FACT: As US soldiers suffer more casualties, there will be growing political pressure to avoid an “American defeat” by increasing our commitment. Now is the time to reverse direction in Afghanistan, before we become mired in another protracted guerilla war like Vietnam

7. MYTH: Defeating the Afghan Taliban will help stabilize the situation in Pakistan.

FACT: Afghan Taliban are not a significant factor in violent or political activity against the Pakistan Government. Indigenous radicals, including Pakistan Taliban, as well as deep discontent from a much broader spectrum of citizens, pose the threat to stability in Pakistan. As shown in a recent poll, a large majority of Pakistanis were angered by the US activity in the region and our perceived effort to control it. That rebounds against our efforts to help stabilize Pakistan, which is seen as our close ally.

Please pass this along to your friends, send it to your legislators, or put it up on telephone poles and in coffee shops–we need to do keep working to get the word out about the devastating reality of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.