When Canada made Afghanistan worse October 14, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, Canada, canada afghanistan, canada military, graeme smith, jeffrey simpson, kabul, kandahar, Media, NATO, roger hollander, Taliban
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Roger’s note: I cannot agree with one of the author’s statements, to wit, that the West, including Canadians, “unintentionally” made things worse. I don’t believe that “the West, including Canadians” (meaning governments, not necessarily citizens) gives a damn about the welfare of the Afghan people; the sole intention for the illegal invasion, occupation and destruction of the country has to do entirely with the geopolitical (oil, military, industrial, arms sales, etc.) objectives of the United States and its lackeys. Nor do I agree with the conclusion that NATO involvement should continue, which in essence contradicts the rest of the article.
In those early, hopelessly naive years, when Canadian soldiers and their energetic general encamped in Kandahar to kill “scumbags” and set Afghanistan on the road to democracy, the accompanying media fell into line – in love with the general, the soldiers and their mission.
The early coverage was largely ahistorical, gung-ho, a big group hug for the Canadians – a travesty of journalism, really. What Canadians needed then was a clear-eyed analysis of the country and its history, an understanding of its regional antagonisms, an appreciation of the daunting, even impossible task Canada and its government – to say nothing of the entire North Atlantic Treaty Organization – had signed up for in that forbidding, post-medieval place.
Many years later, as the Americans prepare to withdraw their forces and the last Canadians (trainers for the Afghan army) can see the end of their time in Afghanistan, Westerners will have left behind graveyards of their fallen and a country still corrupt, tribally divided and closer to civil strife than civil peace.
After that first full flush of nonsense reporting that, in fairness, played well at home and was supplemented by the country’s biggest windbag on Hockey Night in Canada, along came another group of correspondents, sympathetic to the troops and their travails, of course, but willing to question the party line and explore beyond the perimeters of the Canadian base in Kandahar.
There were some very good journalists in this group, brave men and women in a place growing more violent every day. One lost her life. Another was held hostage. Another was seriously wounded.
The Globe and Mail’s Graeme Smith (now with the International Crisis Group in Kabul) was among them. He stayed longer than most, took extraordinary risks around Kandahar and in Quetta across the Pakistani border, interviewed the Taliban (despite criticism for giving a microphone to the enemy) and, more than anyone else, exposed the story of Afghan prisoner detainees turned over by Canadians and other NATO forces to local authorities, who tortured and abused them.
Canada’s government lied about many aspects of the detainee affair, insisting that Ottawa didn’t know what was happening or that Afghan authorities were examining all allegations of misconduct – despite memos from Canadian officials on the ground saying that wasn’t so.
Mr. Smith explains the detainee affair, from the prison where he visited and interviewed prisoners to the government’s mendacity in the House of Commons, in The Dogs Are Eating Them Now, a memoir of his correspondent days in Kandahar and Kabul. But the detainees represent but one small part of a wise, enthralling, detailed, realistic account of his time in Afghanistan.
Many are the lessons from Mr. Smith’s book, but one emerges above all: that the presence of foreigners did not necessarily turn the tide against the Taliban. Indeed, the foreigners’ military forays and strange (to the Pashtuns) ways may even have allowed the Taliban to survive and, ultimately, to grow.
Mr. Smith doesn’t say so, but he would be honest to admit that his portrait is of only one part of a sprawling, diverse country. There were and are much less violent parts of Afghanistan, where leaders fought against the Taliban before and might do so again after the Americans leave.
His is a picture of Kandahar and its surroundings, where the Pashtun code of tribal identity and revenge has for centuries proved difficult for foreigners to understand. In southern Afghanistan, at any rate, “we are leaving behind an ongoing war; at worst, it’s a looming disaster,” Mr. Smith says.
How the West, including Canadians, unintentionally made things worse is a textbook case of cross-cultural misunderstanding and hubris. The West will tell itself heroic stories, then forget about Afghanistan.
Perhaps unexpectedly, given his depressing account, Mr. Smith concludes that saying goodbye would be a mistake. The Afghan government Westerners leave behind will need support, and lots of it. Without foreign money and help, he argues, the chances of a moderately peaceful Afghanistan seem remote – as remote as that support continuing.
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, afghanistan withdrawal, bagram, human rights, roger hollander, sarah lazare, torture
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Roger’s note: there is a popular misconception that under the Obama administration torture has been discontinued. Read on.
Prisoners languishing in US-run Afghan prison will have no hope as officials admit there is no plan to shut it down
The US military has no plan to close the infamous Bagram prison in Afghanistan—often referred to as the “other Guantanamo“—despite claims it is winding down the US-led war in Afghanistan.
“Is there a plan [to close the prison]? No,” Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, told the Washington Post in a report published Monday.
Top officials admitted a few weeks ago that there is no end in sight to the prison. “Our impression is that Bagram will remain open even after U.S. combat operations cease in December 2014,” Pentagon spokesperson Todd Breasseale told Rolling Stone in late July.
In March, approximately 3,000 Afghan inmates were handed over to the Afghan authorities, who in exchange gave the US permission to continue running the prison for “third party nationals.”
Despite widely publicized claims that the US handed over control of the prison to Afghan authorities, the US in fact maintains a powerful role at the prison and complete control over the 67 non-Afghan prisoners, two thirds of them Pakistani, with many captured in other countries and transported to the prison.
Now, US officials are saying that the “best solution” is to maintain US oversight of the prison for decades, even though the green light has not been given by the Afghan government. As the Washington Post reports:
The best solution, [officials] say, is to keep the facility open under U.S. oversight, possibly for decades. It is not at all clear, though, that the Afghans will permit that.
As at Guantanamo, U.S. officials have deemed a portion of the Bagram prisoners too much of a threat to send home to countries that can’t or won’t keep them locked up. Officials worry that it might not be possible to convict the men in U.S. courts, because evidence could be classified or seen as weak.
And like those held at Guantanamo, Bagram prison inmates are held in hellish limbo due to that fact that no admissible evidence exists to convict them, including confessions obtained through torture or details of their alleged crimes lost in the fog of war.
The few who have been cleared for release by a review board are still behind bars, and many have languished for over a decade in a prison notorious for torture and abuse, including sleep deprivation, beatings, sexual assault, rape, and humiliation.
“Like Guantanamo, Bagram keeps people out of the reach of the law,” Shayana Kadidal—senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights—told Common Dreams. People are held at Bagram so that they can be hidden from the courts by arguing that they are in a war zone and law does not apply.
The US refusal to shut down the prison comes as the Obama administration balks on the supposed 2014 date of withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Yet critics charge that, even if that pullout date is honored, the human rights abuses against Bagram prisoners—whose numbers continue to increase—will continue.
“For the past decade, the U.S. has been able to hide Bagram behind the shield of ongoing military conflict in Afghanistan,” Tina M. Foster, director of the International Justice Network, told the Washington Post. “What’s happening now is that the shield is disappearing and what’s left is the legacy of the second Guantanamo, which is going to last beyond the Afghan war.”
277 Million Boston Bombings April 24, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in armaments, Arms, Asia, History, Iraq and Afghanistan, Laols, Vietnam, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, armaments, arms, boston bombings, cluster bombs, history, Iraq, land mines, laos, Robert Scheer, roger hollander, terrorism, Vietnam War, weapons
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Posted on Apr 23, 2013, http://www.truthdig.com
Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton looks at a memorial about cluster bombing during a tour of the Cooperative Orthotic Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) Center in Vientiane, Laos, in 2012.
The horror of Boston should be a reminder that the choice of weaponry can be in itself an act of evil. “Boston Bombs Were Loaded to Maim” is the way The New York Times defined the hideousness of the weapons used, and President Obama made clear that “anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.” But are we as a society prepared to be judged by that standard?
The president’s deployment of drones that all too often treat innocent civilians as collateral damage comes quickly to mind. It should also be pointed out that the U.S. still maintains a nuclear arsenal and, as our killing and wounding hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese demonstrated, those weapons are inherently, by the president’s definition, weapons of terror. But it is America’s role in the deployment of antipersonnel land mines, and our country’s refusal to sign off on a ban on cluster munitions agreed to by most of the world’s nations, that offers the most glaring analogy with the carnage of Boston.
To this day, antipersonnel weapons—the technologically refined version of the primitive pressure cooker fragmentation bombs exploded in Boston—maim and kill farmers and their children in the Southeast Asian killing fields left over from our country’s past experiment in genocide. An experiment that as a sideshow to our obsession with replacing French colonialism in Vietnam involved dropping 277 million cluster bomblets on Laos between 1964 and 1973.
The whole point of a cluster weapon is to target an area the size of several football fields with the same bits of maiming steel that did so much damage in Boston. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been active in attempting to clear land of remaining bomblets, estimates 10,000 Lao civilian casualties to date from such weapons. As many as twenty-seven million unexploded bomblets remain in the country, according to the committee.
Back in 1964 at the start of that bombing campaign, I reported from Laos, an economically primitive land where a pencil was a prize gift to students. It is staggering to me that the death we visited upon a people, then largely ignorant of life in America, still should be ongoing.and the deadly bomblets they contain has since expanded to most of the world, and they have been used by at least 15 nations. As a recent Congressional Research Service report noted:
“Cluster munitions were used by the Soviets in Afghanistan, by the British in the Falklands, by the Coalition in the Gulf War, and by the warring factions in Yugoslavia. In Kosovo and Yugoslavia in 1999, NATO forces dropped 1,765 cluster bombs containing approximately 295,000 submunitions. From 2001 through 2002, the United States dropped 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 submunitions in Afghanistan, and U.S. and British forces used almost 13,000 cluster munitions containing an estimated 1.8 million to 2 million submunitions during the first three weeks of combat in Iraq in 2003.”
Israel is said to have dropped almost 1 million unexploded bomblets in Lebanon in the 2006 war against Hezbollah, which fired 113 cluster bombs filled with thousands of bomblets at targets in northern Israel.
I list all those dreary statistics to drive home the point that the horror of two pressure cooker bombs in Boston that has so traumatized us should help us grasp the significance of the 1.8 million bomblets dropped in Iraq over a three-week period.
Obama was right to blast the use of weapons that targeted civilians in Boston as inherent acts of terrorism, but by what standard do such weapons change their nature when they are deployed by governments against civilians?
On Aug. 1, 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning such weapons, became a matter of international law for the 111 nations, including 18 NATO members, that signed the agreement. The U.S. was not one of them. Current American policy, according to the Congressional Research Service report, is that “cluster munitions are available for use by every combat aircraft in the U.S. inventory; they are integral to every Army or Marine maneuver element and in some cases constitute up to 50 percent of tactical indirect fire support.”
However, there is new legislation pending in Congress that would require the president to certify that cluster munitions would “only be used against clearly defined military targets” and not deployed “where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians.” Lots of luck with that.
Afghanistan’s Karzai Says U.S. Special Forces Must Leave Wardak Province Over Torture Allegations February 25, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: Afghanistan, afghanistan occupation, civilian casualties, hamid karzai, Karzai Expel u.s. Troops, roger hollander, torture, U.s. Afghanistan Torture Allegations, U.s. Troops Torture Wardak Province, Us Troops u.s. Military, Wardak Province, World News
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Roger’s note: Imagine Afghan soldiers in New York City accused of “harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent” American civilians. Imagine an Afghan drone missile landing in a suspected terrorist’s home in suburban Los Angeles killing a dozen women and children.” Do you think President Obama would simply give the Afghan soldiers two weeks to leave? Or would there be massive retaliation? Obama shed tears over the children massacred in Newtown. How, I ask, are the American atrocities any less infamous? Or are Christian American lives of more value than Asian Muslims? Let’s ask Billy Graham.
KABUL, Feb 24 (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai has given U.S. special forces two weeks to leave a key battleground province after some U.S. soldiers there were found to have tortured or even killed innocent people, the president’s spokesman said on Sunday.
The decision by Karzai could further complicate negotiations between the United States and Afghanistan over the presence of Americans troops in the country once most NATO forces leave by the end of 2014.
Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi said villagers in Wardak province had lodged a series of complaints about operations conducted by U.S. special forces and a group of Afghans working with them.
The decision was reached at a Sunday meeting of the Afghan National Security Council, chaired by Karzai, Faizi said.
“The Ministry of Defense was assigned to make sure all U.S. special forces are out of the province within two weeks,” he said.
“After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as U.S. special forces stationed in Wardak province were engaging in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people,” Faizi added.
Sunday’s announcement came days after Karzai issued a decree banning all Afghan security forces from using NATO air strikes in residential areas, in a bid to curb civilian casualties.
That was in response to an operation in Kunar targeting four Taliban members which resulted in the deaths of ten civilians, including five children, during an air strike.
Karzai has long warned his Western backers that the killing of civilians could sap support for the foreign troops in the country and fuel the insurgency.
(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Dylan Welch; Editing by Stephen Powell)
US Military Detains More Than 200 Afghan Teens as ‘Enemy Combatants’ December 9, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: afghan teenagers, Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, bagram, childrens rights, enemy combatant, International law, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: the United States invades a country on the other side of the world that poses no threat to its security, throwing down death and destruction. Cowardly unmanned missiles rain down on civilian targets, and here we learn that children are captured and thrown into the hell hole dungeon know as the Bagram prison. God Bless America. It knows how to treat its “enemies” regardless of age.
Published on Saturday, December 8, 2012 by Common Dreams
‘Children as young as 11 or 12′ detained at Bagram
More than 200 Afghan teenagers have been captured and detained by the US military, the United States told the United Nations in a very troubling report distributed this week.
(Photo: Cpl. Reece Lodder / Marine Corps)
In recent years, the US has received criticism from a number of human rights organizations for failing to meet commitments to protect children in war zones.
The report was written in response to questions raised earlier this year by the United Nations committee charged with implementing the international treaty on the rights of children in armed conflict, formally known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC).
According to the report, the State Department detained the children for up to a year at a time at a military prison next to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
Characterized as “enemy combatants,” the purpose of detention was “not punitive but preventative: to prevent a combatant from returning to the battlefield,” the report said.
Though the US military estimates that most of the juvenile Afghan detainees were about 16 years old, their age was not usually determined until after capture.
“I’ve represented children as young as 11 or 12 who have been at Bagram,” said Tina M Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network, which represents adult and juvenile detainees.
Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program, added that it was “highly likely that some children were as young as 14 or 13 years old when they were detained by US forces.”
In regards to the inexplicably long detention, Dakwar added, “This is an extraordinarily unacceptably long period of time that exposes children in detention to greater risk of physical and mental abuse, especially if they are denied access to the protections guaranteed to them under international law.”
Allison Frankel of the ACLU human rights program wrote Saturday that there were significant and troubling lapses in information in the report:
The U.S. still has not provided any specific information about where these children were transferred to, or what forms of rehabilitation and reintegration assistance has been made available to them. Although this support is mandated under OPAC, evidence suggests that the U.S. has thus far failed to provide such assistance, let alone remedies for wrongful detention and abuse in U.S. custody.
According to the Associated Press, the State Department filed a similar report in 2008, providing a “snapshot” of the “US military’s effort in the endgame of the Bush presidency”:
In 2008, the US said it held about 500 juveniles in Iraqi detention centers and then had only about 10 at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. A total of some 2,500 youths had been detained, almost all in Iraq, from 2002 through 2008 under the Bush administration.
Barack Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008 in part on winding down active US involvement in the Iraq war, and shifting the military focus to Afghanistan. The latest figures on under-18 detainees reflect the redeployment of US efforts to Afghanistan.
The report was issued within the same week as an objectionable article in Military Times entitled “Some Afghan Kids Aren’t Bystanders,” quoted a senior officer who said that the military isn’t just out to bomb “military age males,” anymore, but kids, too:
“It kind of opens our aperture,” said Army Lt. Col. Marion “Ced” Carrington, whose unit, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was assisting the Afghan police. “In addition to looking for military-age males, it’s looking for children with potential hostile intent.”
Amos Guiora, a law professor at the University of Utah specializing in counter-terrorism, said Carrington’s remarks reflected the shifting definitions of legitimate military targets within the Obama administration, the Guardian reports.
He is articulating a deeply troubling policy adopted by the Obama administration.
The decision about who you consider a legitimate target is less defined by your conduct than the conduct of the people or category of people which you are assigned to belong to … That is beyond troubling. It is also illegal and immoral.
The U.S. will undergo formal review by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in January 2013.
Mental Trauma of War to Haunt Generation of Afghanistan’s Children November 17, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: Afghanistan, afghanistan children, Afghanistan War, roger hollander, war
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Roger’s note: Why is the United States at war in Afghanistan? Does anyone remember? Something to do with the Afghani government not turning over Osama Bin Laden after 9/11, the Afghani’s wanted some proof, the Americans just wanted Osama. So they decided to destroy the country AND ITS CHILDREN. Osama is dead and buried (at sea we are told by the president who had him assassinated), but the killing and traumatizing still goes on. American tax payer: this is where your money goes.
Published on Friday, November 16, 2012 by Common Dreams
“Day by day the mental health problems caused by the war are increasing,” said psychiatrist Said Najib Jawed
The horrors of years of war in Afghanistan whose mental scars on children last long after combat ends are detailed in a report on Friday from Reuters.
(photo: Sgt. Roland Hale via flickr) For children 11 and younger, there’s only been life under the U.S.-led occupation, and its toll has manifested in widespread mental health problems.
“The generation born after 2001 when the international community entered Afghanistan might be 10, 11 year olds now, and I’ve been seeing 11 year olds and 10 year olds nowadays who are presenting with so many mental health problems: nightmares, depression, anxiety, incontinence,” Mohammad Zaman Rajabi, clinical psychology advisor at the Kabul Mental Health Hospital, the only facility in the country that treats mental illness, told Reuters.
The mental toll of years of war — regardless of any troop drawdown — are on the rise.
“The physical aspects of war (last) for a limited time, but the psychological aspects of the war extend for many years. Day by day the mental health problems caused by the war are increasing,” consultant psychiatrist Said Najib Jawed told Reuters.
Rajabi adds that the impacts of this traumatized younger generation, who’s known nothing but violence as the norm, will be widespread.
“All these things will lead to a generation of people who are not very healthy mentally, and this will affect everything in the country: education, relationships, families, generally the development of the country.”
To make matters worse, “the public health system, like much of the country’s infrastructure, has been wrecked by decades of war.”
Hillary Clinton’s Incendiary Global Tour July 20, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Foreign Policy, Imperialism.
Tags: Afghanistan, asean, bill van auken, china, foreign policy, hillary clinton, Karzai, mongolia, roger hollander, U.S. imperialism, u.s. military
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Crossposted at wsws.org
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary 13-day tour of Asia and the Middle East represented an incendiary mix of provocation and hypocrisy and signals a new eruption of American militarism on a global scale.
Clinton’s itinerary included stops in nine nations: France, Afghanistan, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel. It focused on two interrelated US foreign policy objectives. The first is the elaboration of Washington’s counterrevolutionary strategy for asserting hegemony over the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.
The second is to promote the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia, which is aimed at containing Chinese economic, political and military influence through a combination of US military encirclement and the inflaming of regional tensions.
In the course of her travels, the secretary of state proclaimed that “support for democracy and human rights” was the “heart” of American strategy.
Clinton began her trip on July 5 with a conference in France of the “Friends of Syria” and consultations with the French government on operations by the US and its allies to foment and arm a sectarian civil war in Syria and prepare for direct military intervention aimed at regime-change–all in the name of “democracy and human rights.” At the same time, she issued a dark threat that both Russia and China would be made to “pay a price” for failing to bow to American demands for intervention.
Officially, Clinton claimed that she was promoting a “democratic transition,” a phrase mouthed by the Obama administration since its failed attempts a year-and-a-half ago to prop up its long-time ally, the dictator Hosni Mubarak.
In Israel, she made new war threats against Iran, insisting that Washington and Tel Aviv are “on the same page” and that the US is prepared to employ “all elements of American power” against Iran’s nuclear program.
The second leg of Clinton’s tour took her to Afghanistan, where, together with the US-backed puppet president, Hamid Karzai, she announced Washington’s designation of the country as a “major non-NATO ally,” placing it on a diplomatic par with South Korea and laying the foundations for its indefinite occupation by tens of thousands of US troops.
Clinton also played the hypocritical human rights card in Asia, using a speech in Mongolia to promote the oligarchical regime there as a beacon of democracy and prosperity, in supposed contrast to one-party rule in China. That the masses of Mongolia live in poverty, while a thin layer at the top has enriched itself off of a mining boom, is of no more concern to Clinton than the endemic social inequality in the US itself.
The New York Times pointed to the real conditions of the Mongolian people in an article Monday, referring to masses living on the outskirts of the capital “in crowded Yurt slums some locals refer to as Mongolia’s favelas. Unemployment is rampant there; electricity and drinkable water are not. The less fortunate take shelter in the sewers, where they huddle beside hot-water pipes when the temperature plunges to 40 below.”
The secretary of state’s claim that Washington’s alliances are determined by “universal principles” of democracy are belied by its close ties to the torture regime in Uzbekistan, a key link in its supply route for the Afghanistan war, and the dictatorial government in Kazakhstan, the world’s largest producer of uranium, not to mention the long historical record of US backing for military dictatorships from Indonesia to South Korea.
Clinton’s tour also included a visit to Laos, the first by a US secretary of state in 57 years. Over the course of a decade, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, American imperialism turned Laos into the most bombed country per capita on the face of the earth, dropping 0.84 tons of explosives for every inhabitant of a nation with which the US was not at war. In addition to the 30,000 Laotians killed in this firestorm, another 20,000 have died since from unexploded munitions.
Clinton told embassy staffers in Vientiane that with her visit, “The United States is deepening our engagement in the Asia Pacific. We’re practicing what I call forward-deployed diplomacy.” In other words, through its “back to Asia” strategy, US imperialism is seeking to turn the scene of its last criminal war in the region into a forward operating base for the next one.
In Cambodia, Clinton participated in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference, which Washington’s provocative interventions in the region helped bring to a stalemate. For the first time, the participants failed to agree on a final joint statement because of sharp divisions over maritime territorial disputes pitting China against the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan.
Since 2010, the US has invoked its status as a “Pacific power” to claim the South China Sea, with its strategic trading routes and vast potential energy reserves, as an American lake, asserting its “national interest” in the area.
Clinton’s visit to the region is being followed by that of two top Pentagon officials. Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear, the new chief of the US Pacific Command, flew to the Philippines, where he met with top political and military officials and reminisced about his days as a junior officer at the giant Subic Bay naval base, clearly implying that a new US military presence is in the offing to further an anti-Chinese alliance.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter began a 10-day Asian tour Tuesday for what a Pentagon spokesman described as “detailed discussions on what the US military’s approach to the Asia-Pacific will mean in practice.”
The Pentagon’s buildup in the region and the provocations staged by Secretary of State Clinton are both expressions of US imperialism’s strategy of offsetting its economic decline and containing the rise of a potential strategic rival in China through the threat and use of military might.
Driven by the intensifying crisis of US and world capitalism, this reckless strategy carries with it the danger of a new global conflagration, threatening the lives of hundreds of millions.
US attack kills 5 Afghan kids May 8, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, civilian casualties, collateral damage, corporate media, drone missiles, drones, glenn greenwald, muslim terrorists, roger hollander, yemen, yemen airstrikes
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The way in which the U.S. media ignores such events speaks volumes about how we perceive them
Yesterday, I noted several reports from Afghanistan that as many as 20 civilians were killed by two NATO airstrikes, including a mother and her five children. Today, the U.S. confirmed at least some of those claims, acknowledging and apologizing for its responsibility for the death of that family:
The American military claimed responsibility and expressed regret for an airstrike that mistakenly killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan, Afghan and American military officials confirmed Monday.
The attack, which took place Friday night, was first revealed by the governor of Helmand Province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, on Monday. His spokesman, Dawoud Ahmadi, said that after an investigation they had determined that a family home in the Sangin district had been attacked by mistake in the American airstrike, which was called in to respond to a Taliban attack. . . . The victims were the family’s mother and five of her children, three girls and two boys, according to Afghan officials.
(1) To the extent these type of incidents are discussed at all — and in American establishment media venues, they are most typically ignored — there are certain unbending rules that must be observed in order to retain Seriousness credentials. No matter how many times the U.S. kills innocent people in the world, it never reflects on our national character or that of our leaders. Indeed, none of these incidents convey any meaning at all. They are mere accidents, quasi-acts of nature which contain no moral information (in fact, the NYT article on these civilian deaths, out of nowhere, weirdly mentioned that “in northern Afghanistan, 23 members of a wedding celebration drowned in severe flash flooding” — as though that’s comparable to the U.S.’s dropping bombs on innocent people). We’ve all been trained, like good little soldiers, that the phrase “collateral damage” cleanses and justifies this and washes it all way: yes, it’s quite terrible, but innocent people die in wars; that’s just how it is. It’s all grounded in America’s central religious belief that the country has the right to commit violence anywhere in the world, at any time, for any cause.
At some point — and more than a decade would certainly qualify — the act of continuously killing innocent people, countless children, in the Muslim world most certainly does reflect upon, and even alters, the moral character of a country, especially its leaders. You can’t just spend year after year piling up the corpses of children and credibly insist that it has no bearing on who you are. That’s particularly true when, as is the case in Afghanistan, the cause of the war is so vague as to be virtually unknowable. It’s woefully inadequate to reflexively dismiss every one of these incidents as the regrettable but meaningless by-product of our national prerogative. But to maintain mainstream credibility, that is exactly how one must speak of our national actions even in these most egregious cases. To suggest any moral culpability, or to argue that continuously killing children in a country we’re occupying is morally indefensible, is a self-marginalizing act, whereby one reveals oneself to be a shrill and unSerious critic, probably even a pacifist. Serious commentators, by definition, recognize and accept that this is merely the inevitable outcome of America’s supreme imperial right, note (at most) some passing regret, and then move on.
(2) Yesterday — a week after it leaked that it was escalating its drone strikes in Yemen — the Obama administration claimed that the CIA last month disrupted a scary plot originating in Yemen to explode an American civilian jet “using a more sophisticated version of the underwear bomb deployed unsuccessfully in 2009.” American media outlets — especially its cable news networks — erupted with their predictable mix of obsessive hysteria, excitement and moral outrage. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last night devoted the bulk of his show to this plot, parading the standard cast of characters — former Bush Homeland Security adviser (and terrorist advocate) Fran Townsend and its “national security analyst” Peter Bergen — to put on their Serious and Concerned faces, recite from the U.S. Government script, and analyze all the profound implications. CNN even hauled out Rep. Peter King to warn that this shows a “new level” of Terror threats from Yemen. CNN’s fixation on this plot continued into this morning.
Needless to say, the fact that the U.S. has spent years and years killing innocent adults and children in that part of the world — including repeatedly in Yemen — was never once mentioned, even though it obviously is a major factor for why at least some people in that country support these kinds of plots. Those facts are not permitted to be heard. Discussions of causation — why would someone want to attack a U.S. airliner? – is an absolute taboo, beyond noting that the people responsible are primitive and hateful religious fanatics. Instead, it is a simple morality play reinforced over and over: Americans are innocently minding their own business — trying to enjoy our Freedoms — and are being disgustingly targeted with horrific violence by these heinous Muslim Terrorists whom we must crush (naturally, the solution to the problem that there is significant anti-American animosity in Yemen is to drop even more bombs on them, which will certainly fix this problem).
Indeed, on the very same day that CNN and the other cable news networks devoted so much coverage to a failed, un-serious attempt to bring violence to the U.S. — one that never moved beyond the early planning stages and “never posed a threat to public safety” — it was revealed that the U.S. just killed multiple civilians, including a family of 5 children, in Afghanistan. But that got no mention. That event simply does not exist in the world of CNN and its viewers (I’d be shocked if it has been mentioned on MSNBC or Fox either). Nascent, failed non-threats directed at the U.S. merit all-hands-on-deck, five-alarm media coverage, but the actual extinguishing of the lives of children by the U.S. is steadfastly ignored (even though the latter is so causally related to the former).
This is the message sent over and over by the U.S. media: we are the victims of heinous, frightening violence; our government must do more, must bomb more, but surveil more, to Keep Us Safe; we do nothing similar to this kind of violence because we are Good and Civilized. This is how our Objective, Viewpoint-Free journalistic outlets continuously propagandize: by fixating on the violence done by others while justifying — or, more often, ignoring — the more far-reaching and substantial violence perpetrated by the U.S.
(3) If one of the relatives of the children just killed in Afghanistan decided to attack the U.S. — or if one of the people involved in this Yemen-originating plot were a relative of one of the dozens of civilians killed by Obama’s 2009 cluster bomb strike — what would they be called by the U.S. media? Terrorists. Primitive, irrational, religious fanatics beyond human decency.
* * * * *
This point cannot be emphasized enough.
In Midnight Signing Ceremony, Obama Promises at Least Ten More Years of War in Afghanistan May 2, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, afghanistan government, afghanistan occupation, Afghanistan War, al-Qaeda, bin Laden, Karzai, roger hollander, Taliban
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One thing crystal clear in secretive US-Afghan ‘strategic partnership agreement’: War not even close to ending
President Obama’s secret trip to Afghanistan, shrouded in secrecy for security reasons, culminated in a midnight meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the signing of a ‘strategic partnership agreement’, the full details of which have not been made available to either the American or Afghan public.
US President Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan late Tuesday on a surprise visit and signed a ‘strategic partnership agreement’ with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a midnight ceremony. (AFP)
”If ever there was an image to convey the limits of the UK-US success in Afghanistan, it was the way that Barack Obama, the Commander-in-Chief of the liberating, Taliban-scattering forces was forced to skulk into Kabul last night under the cover of darkness,” writes the Telegraph‘s Peter Foster. “After landing at Bagram Airbase just after 10pm local time, there was a low-level, cover-of-darkness of helicopter insertion to the Presidential Palace where the ten-page deal (which contains no specifics on funding or troop levels) was signed around midnight.”
The agreement, broadly understood, codifies the ongoing conditions under which the US government agrees to operate in Afghanistan and will guide policies on the management of military bases, authority over detainees, the execution of night raids and other security operations, and will set conditions for troop levels and residual US forces that will remain in Afghanistan even after a ‘withdrawal’ commences in 2014. The agreement also deals with ongoing financial support for the Afghan government and military into the future.
Though Obama spoke optimistically of ‘light of a new day’ in Afghanistan and many media reports heralded the agreement as a ‘signal to the end of war’, more sober analysts arrived at more troubling conclusions.
“Interestingly,” writes Jason Ditz at Anti-war.com, “with the ink now drying on the document and the US officially committed to the occupation of Afghanistan for another decade, officials are continuing to tout 2014 as the “end” of the war. This speaks to how the 2024 date, though openly discussed by the Karzai government in Afghanistan and privately acknowledged as part of the secret pact, has not been publicly presented to the American public. When they will officially spring it on us remains unclear.”
“While the world may accept that the US and Afghan governments have some ‘state’ or ‘noble’ considerations for not revealing the contents of the US/Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement, how about the democratic consideration of involving Afghans in their own future?” asked Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who is currently on a peace walk from Madison, Wisc. to Chicago, where she will arrive in time for the upcoming NATO Summit.
“The SPA is likely to prolong fighting in the region,” Kelly added, “because the Taliban and neighboring countries have clearly stated that they won’t accept US foreign troop presence. Also, many Afghans wonder if the US and NATO want to protect construction of the TAPI [Trans-Afghanistan] pipeline, which the 2010 NATO summit approved of and the New Silk Road which Hilary Clinton has promised the US will construct.”President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai sign a strategic partnership agreement at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday. (Charles Dharapak/AP)
US veteran Sgt. Jacob George, who served in Afghanistan but now speaks out against the war, argued the agreement speaks to the futility of US military efforts in Afghanistan that began with the US invasion in 2001. “The agreement actually allows for sustaining a ‘post-conflict’ force of 20,000 to 30,000 troops for a continued training of indigenous forces. They are pretending this is something new, but it’s not. That’s what I was doing in 2001 — and 2002, 2003 and 2004. This is just disastrous, for ten years, with the greatest military the world has ever seen, we’ve been unable to defeat people with RPGs. And a year after Bin Laden was killed, we’re still planning to keep tens of thousands of troops there.”
Andrey Avetisyan, Russian ambassador to Kabul, speaking to the Telegraph newspaper ahead of the agreement, revealed concern for the long-term impacts of a sustained US military presence. “Afghanistan needs many other things apart from the permanent military presence of some countries. It needs economic help and it needs peace. Military bases are not a tool for peace.”
“Does anyone think our staying until 2024 is going to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan?” ask Kevin Martin and Michael Eisenscher in an op-ed today on Common Dreams. “We’ve already been there for eleven years – the longest war in our country’s history. What do we really have to show for it? We’ve spent almost $523 billion. Almost 2000 Americans have been killed and another 15,300 wounded. 1000 NATO troops have lost their lives.” Eisenscher is National Coordinator of U.S. Labor Against the War and Martin is the executive director of Peace Action.Dec. 19, 2001 — Marine Lt. Ronald Reed of Virginia waits inside his fighting position on the perimeter of the bombed-out airport in Kandahar. More than eleven years later, an end to the disaster that is the US war in Afghanistan is nowhere in sight. (Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times)
They continue: “Staying through 2024 will be a hard sell to the majority of Americans. According to last week’s Pew Research public opinion poll, only about a third of those polled think U.S. troops should stay in Afghanistan ‘until the situation there is stabilized’ (whatever that means). About two-thirds of Obama supporters, and almost as many swing voters (who make up nearly a quarter of the electorate), want a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops, while Mitt Romney supporters are split just about evenly.”
Today also marks the one year anniversary of the US killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Martin and Eisensche conclude: “It’s not clear what the year since the killing of Bin Laden has done to improve U.S. or Afghan security. It’s even less clear what staying for another dozen years will do for either country. The time to bring U.S. forces home is now, not 2014, and certainly not 2024.”
And Robert Naiman, Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy, asks in his analysis at Common Dreams, ‘What Did We Get for 381 US Dead Since the Death of bin Laden?‘ and writes:
In his speech, President Obama said, “As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm timeline.” I’m delighted that President Obama supports the principle of a firm timeline. But it’s far from obvious that we actually have a “firm timeline,” and if we do, exactly what it is. Certainly there is no timeline for when all U.S. troops will be withdrawn. President Obama did seem to imply that we can be sure that there will be no U.S. troops involved in “combat” in Afghanistan after December 31, 2014. But they may be involved in “counterterrorism,” which presumably is combat, and “training,” and if you ask the military what “training” is, they will say it includes embedding with Afghanistan troops who are engaged in combat. So “training” is also combat. And therefore it is far from obvious that we actually have a “firm timeline” for anything. [...]
In his speech, President Obama said: “we are pursuing a negotiated peace. In coordination with the Afghan government, my Administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban. We have made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and abide by Afghan laws. “
Isn’t this essentially the same policy that Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was proposing in October 2006 when he said that the Afghan Taliban couldn’t be defeated militarily and that the U.S. should bring “people who call themselves Taliban” into the Afghan government? Why have we waited almost six years to adopt this policy? Are we really going to get a much better deal now than we could have had six years ago? If so, will the difference be sufficient to justify the additional sacrifice of the last six years?
If we stopped the killing now, how sure are we that the political deal that would result would be much worse for us than the deal that will result if we keep killing? Shouldn’t someone have to answer that? What if we tried having an offensive cease-fire for 30 days, just as an experiment, to see if it facilitated peace talks? What exactly would be the downside of giving that experiment a try?
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The ‘mother lode’ of Afghan lithium is so thinly dispersed it will take moving hundreds of tons of rock to obtain a pound of lithium, and cost more money than it will be worth.
This idea of Afghan lithium was shot down by the market more than a year ago.
“Obama Promises Ten More Years of War in Afghanistan.”
A political campaign promise everybody knows Obama will keep.
After Afghan Massacre, War Gets Victim Status March 12, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, War.
Tags: afghan massacre, Afghanistan, afghanistan occupation, Afghanistan War, chuck schumer, civilian casualties, Karzai, lindsey graham, Media, robert mcdonnell, roger hollander, war, war reporting
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|Roger’s note: it is tragic, it is surreal; it is Kafkesque; it is an Alice
in Wonderland world; it is the mentality of mass media reporters
and politicians in an imperial nation completely divorced from
reality and from the death and terror it creates.
All in the name of freedom and democracy. Orwellian, yes.
There is one thing, however, that the the media and political
pundits are getting right: their anticipation that the chickens
will come home to roost.
After Afghan Massacre, War Gets Victim Status Media treat killings as PR problem for occupation 3/12/12
“Afghanistan, once the must-fight war for America, is becoming a public relations headache for the nation’s leaders, especially for President Barack Obama,” explained an Associated Press analysis piece (3/12/12). Reuters (3/12/12) called it “the latest American public relations disaster in Afghanistan.”
On the NBC Today show (3/11/12) the question was posed this way: “Could this reignite a new anti-American backlash in the unstable region?” The answer: “This is not going to bode well for the U.S. and NATO here in Afghanistan,” explained reporter Atia Abawi. “Obviously people here very fearful as to what’s going to happen next, what protests will come about throughout different parts of Afghanistan, and how the Taliban are going to use this to their advantage.” “People,” as used here, would not seem to include Afghans, who are presumably less frightened by protests against a massacre of children than they are by the massacre itself.
The front-page headline at USA Today (3/12/12) read, “Killings Threaten Afghan Mission.” The story warned that the allegations “threaten to test U.S. strategy to end the conflict.” In the New York Times (3/12/12), the massacre was seen as “igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility.” The paper went on to portray occupation forces as victims:
The possibility of a violent reaction to the killings added to a feeling of siege here among Western personnel. Officials described growing concern over a cascade of missteps and offenses that has cast doubt on the ability of NATO personnel to carry out their mission and has left troops and trainers increasingly vulnerable to violence by Afghans seeking revenge.
The fact that the massacres occurred two days after a NATO helicopter strike killed four civilians was “adding to the sense of concern.”
Another Times piece (3/12/12) began with this:
The outrage from the back-to-back episodes of the Koran burning and the killing on Sunday of at least 16 Afghan civilians imperils what the Obama administration once saw as an orderly plan for 2012.
That sounds as if “outrage” is the most serious problem–the reaction to the actions, not the actions themselves.
Covering the latest atrocity, the Washington Post (3/12/12) reported that “the killings Sunday threatened to spark a new crisis in the strained relationship between the United States and Afghanistan.” A separate piece quoted an anonymous U.S. official complaining that massacres “plays to the absolute worst fears and stereotypes” of the U.S. military, and that “it’s the type of boogeyman [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai has always raised, but we’ve never had an incident like this.”
But there have been similar single incidents, most notably a 2007 attack by Marines that killed 19 civilians. And night raids by NATO forces have killed Afghans throughout the war.
On the Sunday talkshows, Republicans and Democrats spoke about the massacre–often with little to distinguish their points of view. On ABC‘s This Week (3/11/12), Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told viewers that “unfortunately, these things happen in war…. You just have to push through these things.” He added that “the surge of forces has really put the Taliban on the defensive…. We can win this thing. We can get it right.” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) remarked:
I think the president has a good plan. Obviously, it’s a very difficult situation because we have real terrorism that emanated from Afghanistan. The president doesn’t get enough credit. He’s done an amazing job with the drones and Al-Qaeda.
On NBC‘s Meet the Press (3/11/12), Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, a Republican, said the news was “tragic because we have so many brave men and women, David, for now 10-plus years in the global war on terror, have done marvelous work for the cause freedom in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places…. It’s too bad and we’ll have to see the details. But I’m really proud of what our kids are doing there.”
Is it too much to expect that the dominant reaction after a grisly atrocity should involve sympathy for its victims rather than pride in the forces whom the perpetrator belonged to?