Bleeding Afghanistan

With the rapidly approaching 7th anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan and the continued advocacy of an escalation of the war in Afghanistan by the two major party presidential candidates, Bleeding Afghanistan provides an important look into the reality of what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan.

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We are quickly approaching the 7th anniversary of the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. The presidential race has given some attention to Afghanistan, mostly because both McCain and Obama have pledged to send more US troops and “win the war on terrorism.” But, how much do we really know about what is going on in this country and what are the real motives for the ongoing US role in occupying this somewhat forgotten country?

These questions and many others are answered in an excellent book titled Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence. Co-authored by James Ingalls and Sonali Kolhatkar, Bleeding Afghanistan can be a useful tool for those not only wanting to understand the country that got the US into the current war on terror, but it can provide important talking points for the anti-war movement which desperately needs to mature its criticism of US foreign policy.

The book begins by providing a detailed account of US involvement in Afghanistan since the early 1970s, when Afghanistan was seen by the State Department as a strategic country during the Cold War. When the Iranian revolution of 1979 occurred, the US had even bigger concerns with Afghanistan which shares a border with Iran. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan later that year, but not without provocation from US backed factions. After the Reagan administration took office in 1981 the US began funneling billions of dollars through the CIA to the Afghan resistance also known as the Mujahideen. The US support lasted until the Soviet withdrawal in 1990 and then the US abandoned Afghanistan to factional infighting. The authors note that this was a source of much anti-American sentiment, since Afghanistan endured years of fighting and brutality after both global superpowers decided to leave the country.

Eventually, the Taliban came to power in the mid-1990s with diplomatic support from the US early on. The Taliban were an outgrowth of the Mujahideen and embraced a strict Islamic code that was particularly harsh on women. Despite this, the Clinton administration supported the Taliban, in part, because of resource interests from companies like Unocal. What changed the administration’s position was the fact that Osama bin Laden was now using Afghanistan as a base for his operations. The Taliban then became somewhat of a target by the US and aid was discontinued during the end of the Clinton years.

Then 9/11 happens and the US decides that since bin Laden is using Afghanistan as a base of operation that the US would begin a military campaign against that country. The Bush administration used the Taliban’s treatment of women as a PR tool to gain public support for the aerial bombing of remote areas in Afghanistan to “fight the war on terror.” The authors devote an entire chapter on how Afghani women were used as a political tool by the US government, even though the condition of women did not significantly improve with the removal of the Taliban from power.

Another section of the book is devoted to the role that US news media played in the past 30 years in regards to Afghanistan. The authors demonstrate that when Afghanistan served a particular purpose in US foreign policy the news coverage was significant, like in the years of Soviet occupation or right after 9/11. However, once the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in 1990, very little coverage was to be found in US media, even though the country was no better off. The same has been the case in more recent years with news coverage of Afghanistan declining rapidly after the Taliban were removed from power in early 2002. Despite new leadership in the country the human rights situation has not improved, opium production is at an all time high and the US/NATO forces continue to commit significant human rights abuses that mirror the detentions, torture and murder in Iraq.

Bleeding Afghanistan concludes with an appeal for Americans to not only support real Afghan democracy movements like RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan) but to call for an end to the US occupation. An important and timely book since Afghanistan is being touted in an election year as the “true focus for winning the war on terror.”

Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls, Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence, (Seven Stories Press, 2006).

Antiwar Group Raises Questions about Afghanistan War

United for Peace and Justice–while falling short of stating its opposition outright to military intervention in Afghanistan–has issued a series of questions for the antiwar movement to debate regarding the US occupation of Afghanistan. Currently, Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama is advocating a further escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

Much of the antiwar movement–which often overlaps with what could be described as the “progressive” or “left” in the United States–has embraced the Democratic Party candidacy of Senator Barack Obama. While Obama’s position on Iraq is somewhat ambiguously worded and ultimately does not intend to end the occupation of Iraq, his policy on Afghanistan is more clear: he wants to add more troops to the country.

The antiwar movement–and much of the public–has largely ignored the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan. However, when it does receive attention, it is often portrayed as “the good war” where the United States’ invasion was “properly” and “humanely” waged to stop the spread of global terrorism. Of course, many authors have shattered the myth of “the good war” by pointing out the civilian casualties and the failures of the US to achieve its political goals.

Earlier this week, United for Peace and Justice–one of the largest antiwar groups–issued a series of questions that the antiwar movement began to think about as it formulates a collective position on the proposed escalation of the Iraq War. The questions range from the simple “what do the Afghan people want” to “how can the international community be involved” in the country. While it would be nice if the organization used its position at the forefront of the antiwar movement to take a stronger stand against US intervention in Afghanistan, at least it is raising the issue.

Green Party Warns Antiwar Voters that they will “Waste” their Vote if they Vote for Obama

Citing his positions on Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and Israel-Palestine, the Green Party is warning antiwar voters that they will “waste” their votes if they support Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama for president.

Citing his positions on Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and Israel-Palestine, the Green Party is warning antiwar voters that they will “waste” their votes if they vote for Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama in the upcoming presidential election. The Greens charge that Obama’s military policies are “McCain-lite” and that the Green Party ticket offers a true antiwar platform.

A breakdown of Obama’s position and that of the Green Party on several key war and peace issues was released by the Green Party:


Despite the popular impression that Sen. Obama intends to end the Iraq War, he plans only to reduce troops over a 16-month period. He would maintain an ‘under the radar’ occupation to protect US interests, which is code for the US and British corporate demand for control over Iraqi oil. (No-bid contracts have already been anounced for ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, and Total.) Sen. Obama promises to shift troops around the region, placing US forces in countries surrounding Iraq.

The Green Party and Green candidates support an immediate and full withdrawal of US troops and military contractors from Iraq, and control over Iraqi oil resources returned to the Iraqi people.


Sen. Obama intends to expand the disastrous US war on Afghanistan, which has already left the country in ruins and continues to destabilize the region.

Greens support full US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and an internationally cooperative investigation and prosecution of those behind the 9/11 attacks.


Sen. Obama has repeatedly promised unqualified and uncritical support for Israel, despite the Israeli government’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and massive abuses of human rights, including Israel’s recent violation of a pledge to the US not to construct new homes in a West Bank settlement.

Greens have called for the withholding of all US assistance, especially billions of dollars in military aid, until Israel reverses its current policies and adheres to international law, human rights protections, and UN directives, including withdrawal from occupied lands and recognition of the Palestinian right of return.


Despite promises of diplomacy, Sen. Obama has signed on to the Bush Administration’s threat of a US or US-backed Israeli assault on Iran, even though intelligence confirms that the Iranian government is not using its nuclear power to build weapons.

Greens have warned that an attack on Iran would bring untold consequences, including a greater regional or global conflict, and that the threat itself is an incentive for Iran and other nations to seek a nuclear arsenal. Greens call for an end to such threats, for diplomacy and friendship with Iran, and for an aggressive effort towards regional and global nuclear disarmament, noting the menace posed by Israel’s and Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons.

Local Democrats Respond to McCain Ad

Today, local Democrats responded to a recent McCain ad that charges that Obama does not support the troops. Two spokespeople for the Democrats argued that this was not the case and expressed support for Obama’s plan to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Some local Democrats gathered today at Veterans Park to respond to a recent paid political ad that the McCain campaign is running in Michigan. Five US military veterans and a few local Democratic candidates stood by the newly erected Iraq veterans memorial to say that the McCain ad falsely presents Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama as someone who doesn’t support the troops and doesn’t have the security of the country in mind.

The McCain ad in question has a series of images of Senator Obama with a map of Iraq in the background and the following narrative:

“Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan, he hasn’t been to Iraq in years, he voted against funding our troops, positions that helped him win his nomination, now Obama is changing to help himself become president. John McCain has always supported our troops and the surge that is working. McCain, country first!”

There were two spokespersons for the local Democrats, Kent County Commissioner Paul Mayhue and local labor leader Buck Geno. Mayhue began his comments by stating that:

“John McCain is a war hero and we acknowledge his commitment to serving this country as a veteran of war. However, McCain has voted against funding for equipment for the troops and is committed to staying in Iraq indefinitely.”

“Senator Obama’s focus is getting out of Iraq and putting the attention on winning the War on Terror in Afghanistan. The Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have regrouped along the Pakistani border. Therefore, we must strengthen our alliances and secure loose nuclear weapons if we are to win the War on Terror.”

Buck Geno, a Vietnam veteran, was the next person to address the media. Geno asked the question “where was McCain when Veterans needed you? What about the lack of benefits for Veterans and where were you during the Walter Reed scandal?” When Mr. Geno finished his comments, the two took questions. posed the following question:

“There is plenty of evidence that thousands of civilians have died in the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan and that torture and detention has been documented that is similar to Abu Ghraib. How does the increase of US troops to Afghanistan that Senator Obama is proposing going to help the people of Afghanistan?”

Paul Mayhue responded by saying that increasing US troop presence in Afghanistan will help the US win the “War on Terror” and will take the money that we are putting into Iraq back into domestic programs.” Buck Geno added, “Senator Obama’s plan puts the focus back on Afghanistan, which we have forgotten about since 9/11.”

With Senator Obama in the midst of his trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, one should expect that there will be more attention given to both the Republican and Democratic positions on the US occupation of both of those countries. While the Republicans question the Democrats commitment to the security of the country and the Democrats claim their commitment to winning “the War on Terror” it is extremely important that the media seeks independent and non-partisan perspectives, such as those of the Afghanistan people. According to a report today on Democracy Now!, many residents of Kabul oppose Obama’s plan to send more troops to Afghanistan and criticize Western officials for not doing more to help Afghanistan.

Arlington Midwest Coming to Grand Rapids

The West Michigan Justice and Peace Coalition is bringing a memorial to the human costs of the Iraq War to Grand Rapids this fall. The memorial, titled “Arlington Midwest,” is designed to highlight the human costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars by featuring a cemetary with tombstones for US soldiers as well as a display highlighting the deaths of 650,000 Iraqis during the Iraq War.


Arlington Midwest, a traveling exhibit honoring the human lives lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars created by the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, will be in Grand Rapids this fall. The memorial is being brought to town by the West Michigan Justice and Peace Coalition:

Mark your calendar for Arlington Midwest: September 18 through 22!

Assembled by the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, the Arlington Midwest (AMW) display includes over 4,000 homemade “tombstones,” one for each U.S. soldier killed in the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. The display, which resembles the U.S. national cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, also includes a section of 36 planks to represent the large number of civilians killed in those wars, as well as a separate “cemetery” for U.S. soldiers who have committed suicide since returning from the war.

The AMW, which is a powerful, symbolic way to enable people to confront the human cost of war, is being brought to Grand Rapids by member groups of the West Michigan Justice & Peace Coalition (WMJPC). The Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids have graciously agreed to host the display in the southeast corner of their property at Marywood. As Joyce Ann Hertzig, O.P. puts it, “This is an opportunity to heighten awareness of our need and the need of our nation to seek peace. The human cost of the war and the poverty caused by the devastation of Earth will be highlighted” (InWord, May 2008).

At the time of his death in May, Joe Carmody (a member of Pax Christi – Grand Rapids and the WMJPC) was passionately leading the effort to bring Arlington Midwest here. Although he did not live to see this become a reality, the WMJPC Arlington Midwest Committee considers this a tribute to his peacemaking and commitment to justice.

Here’s where each of us comes in. We need to raise $1,000 to cover the expenses of transporting the display and at least 25 volunteers to help set it up and take it down, as well as volunteers to greet and guide visitors throughout the weekend. Please contact Nancy Peters at if you will be able to help. The setup will begin on Thursday, September 18, at 10:00 a.m. With 25 volunteers it will take six hours to set up, so the more volunteers the better. The takedown will begin on Monday, September 22, at 1:00 p.m. With 25 volunteers it will take three hours to take down.

The display will be open to the public on Thursday from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The WMJPC Arlington Midwest Committee is recommending four volunteers for each three hour shift to greet and guide visitors.

At the request of the AMW Committee, Mary Pat Beatty, O.P. will be the media contact person. The Dominicans are pleased that IGE will sponsor an Interfaith Prayer Service in Dominican Chapel/Marywood at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 21, the U.N. International Day of Peace.

Donations to help cover the costs of the display may be mailed to the Institute for Global Education, P.O. Box 68039, Grand Rapids, MI 49516. Please write “Arlington Midwest” in the memo line. Any help that you can provide, whether it be your time, your financial support, or both, are very much appreciated!

Arlington Midwest – September 18-22, 2008

Grand Rapids Dominicans Marywood Campus

2025 E Fulton

Volunteer Sign Up Information

Please call (231) 798-2915 or email the information to who will keep a master list. She will email updates as times fill up… suggesting other times most needed. All volunteers will be contacted to confirm their scheduled times.

Report: The Invasion and Occupation of Afghanistan has Failed

The Senlis Council, an international policy think-tank, recently released a report titled “Afghanistan Five Years Later: The Return of the Taliban” in which they provide evidence that nearly five years after their removal from power, the Taliban “has strong psychological and de facto military control over half of Afghanistan” and that the military invasion and occupation has failed to achieve its major objectives. The report also states that the United States’ occupation of Afghanistan has failed to achieve “stability and security” in the country with violent attacks—including suicide bombings, murders, and ambushes—being perpetrated on a daily basis. In addition to the security situation and the return of the Taliban, the report makes four additional conclusions:

Failure to address Afghanistan’s extreme poverty fuelling support for Taliban

After five years of international donor pledges to provide resources and assistance to Afghanistan, Afghans are starving to death, and there is evidence that poverty is driving support for the Taliban. Prioritising military-based security, the United States’ and United Kingdom’s focus on counter-terrorism initiatives and militaristic responses to Afghanistan’s opium crisis has undermined the local and international development community’s abilities to respond to Afghanistan’s many poverty-related challenges.

US and UK counter-narcotics strategies have accelerated and compounded all of Afghanistan’s problems

By focusing aid funds away from development and poverty relief, failed counter-narcotics policies have hijacked the international community’s nation-building efforts in the country and undermined Afghanistan’s democratically elected government. Poppy cultivation is a food survival strategy for millions of Afghans, and the United States’ and United Kingdom-led poppy eradication policies are fuelling violence and insecurity.

Afghan central government legitimacy and effectiveness undermined by US-led international community’s approaches in Afghanistan

Five years of internationally lauded democracy-building achievements in Afghanistan mask the growing scepticism with which Afghans view their central government. Increasingly, Afghans perceive that their government is accountable to international donors, and not to the Afghans themselves. In establishing democratic institutions, the international community raised expectations high, yet stood back as the United States and United Kingdom undercut the Afghan government’s ability to deliver on these expectations by forcing the adoption and implementation of militaristic counter-narcotics policies. Failed counter-narcotics policies have undermined the legitimacy of the Afghan government.

Nation-building sequencing in wrong order

Massive international expenditure on security illustrates that right from 2001, the international community’s priorities for Afghanistan were not in line with those of the Afghan population. Rather, for the past five years, the US-led international community has prioritised military-focused security over the relief of Afghans’ extreme poverty and economic instability. Military expenditure outpaces development and reconstruction spending by 900%. An intensive and extended focus on relieving the poverty of Afghans could have created a solid foundation on which to re-build Afghanistan. Instead, because the fight against poverty has not been prioritised, the international community’s democracy-building efforts are collapsing as Afghans starve.

Report: Nearly 100 Detainees have Died in US “War on Terror”

According to report released yesterday by Human Rights First, a human rights advocacy organization based in the United States, nearly 100 detainees have died since August of 2002 in the United States “war on terror.” The report analyzes 98 deaths of which 34 are suspected or confirmed homicides according to the military’s own standards, 11 that are believed to have been caused by physical abuse or harsh detention conditions, and 8 that were caused due to torture. Moreover, for nearly half of the 98 deaths surveyed the cause of death remains officially undetermined or unannounced. Twenty deaths are profiled, including that of Manadel al-Jamadi whose death became known during the media attention on Abu Ghraib when pictures showing US soldiers giving a “thumbs-up” over his dead body were released.

The reports key findings include:

  • Commanders have failed to report deaths of detainees in the custody of their command, reported the deaths only after a period of days and sometimes weeks, or actively interfered in efforts to pursue investigations.

  • Investigators have failed to interview key witnesses, collect useable evidence, or maintain evidence that could be used for any subsequent prosecution.
  • Record keeping has been inadequate, further undermining chances for effective investigation or appropriate prosecution.
  • Overlapping criminal and administrative investigations have compromised chances for accountability.
  • Overbroad classification of information and other investigation restrictions have left CIA and Special Forces essentially immune from accountability.
  • Agencies have failed to disclose critical information, including the cause or circumstance of death, in close to half the cases examined;
  • Effective punishment has been too little and too late.

While the report offers a series of recommendations to prevent detain deaths and improve the manner in which the military deals with such deaths, according to Human Rights First only 12 of the detainee deaths have resulted in punishment for US officials. In the 34 homicide cases, criminal charges were recommended by investigators in only two-thirds of cases and charges were brought in less than half of the cases. Moreover, no CIA agents have faced charges despite their implication in several detainee deaths and among deaths caused by torture, only half have resulted in punishment with the longest sentence received being five months in jail.

Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights

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Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights is a product of a January 2004 article by David Rose for Vanity Fair. Following the completion of his initial article and realizing the ramifications of what was happening at the United States detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Rose decided to continue his investigation and expand it into a book length treatment of the subject. The book is based primarily on interviews with British detainees who were captured in Afghanistan and handed over to American soldiers by Afghani warlords as well as interviews with both United States government officials presiding over Camp X-Ray and non-governmental organizations that have sought to improve the treatment of detainees held at Guantanamo.

Throughout his book, Rose argues that the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has irreparably harmed the United States so-called “war on terror” by abandoning many of the principles of human rights that the United States purports to honor and that Camp X-Ray is an absolute failure. On February 7, 2002 President Bush declared that prisoners held at Camp X-Ray had no legal status under the Geneva Conventions and that they were not prisoners of war but rather were “enemy combatants.” While many may be tempted to see this as the origin of the human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Rose’s book makes it clear that this was merely the date at which official violations of the Geneva Convention became policy — the decision to hold detainees at Guantanamo Bay was made because of the base’s ambiguous legal status. For Rose, this is a logical consequence of a policy of detention that was seriously flawed to begin with as few of the detainees were involved with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Instead, Rose describes detainees that were rounded up in mass arrests and those who were sold to the United States in exchange for $5,000 bounties paid by the United States for “terrorists” in Afghanistan.

With a flawed detention process, Rose reveals that the intelligence coming out of Guantanamo has been of little use to the United States government in its “war on terror.” What little detention that has come out of the base has been of the most general nature, describing possible attacks such as those on shopping malls, although as Rose points out, anyone with even the most minimal knowledge of consumerism in the United States would know that malls would be good targets. Rather than acknowledge that most of the 600 detainees held at Guantanamo were not guilty of any crimes, the United States has responded by stepping up interrogations and conducting them using beatings, sleep deprivation, denial of food, and other harsh techniques that violate the Geneva Conventions in order to force detainees into confessing. Rose’s interviews with detainees reveal many abuses during the interrogation process while interviews with US officials reveal the limited value of the “intelligence” gained at Guantanamo Bay.

While making few new revelations, Rose’s book is a useful work that consolidates much of the information available on Guantanamo and directs attention towards the topic, as detentions in Guantanamo have been largely forgotten amidst the almost weekly reports of new abuses relating to the detentions of individuals held by the United States in Iraq. Since the publication of the Guantanamo in late 2004, there have been several new documents released showing that the government authorized treatment techniques that violate the Geneva Conventions as well as the government’s attempts to create a legal framework for said treatment.

David Rose, Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights, (The New Press, 2004).