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Iraq Withdrawal? Don’t Take it to the Bank August 17, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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// ]]>Roger’s note: If you believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, then feel free to go ahead and believe in Obama’s promise to bring all US troops home from Iraq by the end of the year.  After all the investment in the largest embassy in the history of the world, a slew of military bases, and all that OIL, there is no way that the Pentagon will allow their puppet Obama to keep that promise.  And for Obama, what is one more broken election promise? And don’t forget that a US pull out from Iraq will cause massive unemployment for all those poor Halliburton and other mercenary contractors.
opednews.com, August 16, 2011

Since coming to Washington, Barack Obama has won a Nobel Prize for Peace, but he hasn’t been much of a peacemaker. Instead, he has doubled down on his predecessor’s wars while launching blatantly illegal ones of his own. But, as his supporters would be quick to point out, at least he’s standing by his pledge to bring the troops home from Iraq.

Right?

That’s certainly what America’s latest war president has been saying. Speaking to supporters this month, he was unequivocal . “If somebody asks about the war [in Iraq] . . . you have a pretty simple answer, which is all our folks are going to be out of there by the end of the year.”

Obama’s statement was a welcome reaffirmation of what he promised on the campaign trail. “If we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the first thing I will do,” he thundered in the fall of 2007.  “I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.”

But don’t count on cashing that check. The Washington Post brings the unsurprising news that Iraqi leaders have agreed to begin talks with the U.S. on allowing the foreign military occupation of their country to continue beyond this year — re-branded, naturally, as a mission of “training” and “support.” The move comes after an increasingly public campaign by top White House and military officials to pressure Iraqi leaders into tearing up the Status of Forces Agreement they signed with the Bush administration, which mandates the removal of all foreign troops by the end of 2011.

As with any relationship, saying goodbye is always the hardest part for an empire. The U.S. political establishment has long desired a foothold in the Middle East from which it could exert influence over the trade of the region’s natural resources. Remember, Iraq has lots of oil, as those who launched the invasion of the country in 2003 were all too aware . They aren’t too keen on giving that up.

And as is to be expected when one maintains the most powerful — and expensive — military in world history, there are strong institutional pressures within the Pentagon for maintaining the status quo. Peace may be good for children and other living things, but it’s boring for generals — especially politically ambitious ones — and bad for bomb manufacturers.

The longer U.S. troops stay in Iraq and ensure that country’s fidelity to U.S. policy, the more weapons the Iraqi government will buy from American companies. Indeed, Prime Minister Maliki just announced that Iraq would buy 38 F-16 fighters, taking billions of dollars away from food and shelter for poor Iraqis while boosting Lockheed Martin’s war chest. Add in the fact that Iraq is situated right next to Iran, the one oil-rich country in the region opposed to U.S. hegemony, and you’ve got a good recipe for indefinite occupation.

Of course, if Obama was as committed to withdrawing “all troops from Iraq” as he claims, all he would need to do is stick by the Bush-era agreement for troops to leave by December 31. Doing so would not only provide him cover from claims he is surrendering to the terrorists — hey, a Republican negotiated the deal — but it would fulfill a key campaign pledge and help soothe liberal anger over his escalation of Afghanistan and his illegal war in Libya.

Obama has no plans for a full withdrawal, though, as his hand-picked appointees make clear. You can almost hear him thinking: What are liberals going to do, vote Republican?

Echoing the top military brass, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates first noted earlier this year supposed Iraqi “interest in having a continuing presence” in Iraq. His successor, Leon Panetta, then told senators during his June confirmation hearing that he had “every confidence” the Iraqi government would ask for such a U.S. presence beyond 2011.

Like clockwork, Iraqi leaders are set to ask for just that, with The Washington Post reporting that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his allies have decided any request to extend the U.S. occupation will “not require signing a new accord.” That means no messy parliamentary battles or referendums, where the popular anti-American sentiment would surface.

Ah, democracy.

The Obama administration is prepared to keep about 10,000 troops in Iraq, and their “non-combat” tasks could include training, air defense, intelligence, reconnaissance and joint counter-terrorism missions. These are the same sort of operations that have left at least 56 U.S. soldiers dead since Obama announced the end of U.S. combat operations last August.

One thing is certain: U.S. officials who once claimed to be bringing democracy to Iraq couldn’t be more thrilled at the subversion of it. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, alluded to that in a comment remarking on the Iraqis’ recent decision to open talks with the U.S. on an extended, rebranded occupation. “There are some very difficult political challenges, internal challenges associated with reaching this decision,” he noted, said “challenges” being the fact that the people the occupation is ostensibly being extended to protect don’t actually want the “protection” the U.S. government is offering.

Mullen added that a final agreement must include “guarantees of legal immunity for American forces.” Obviously, we wouldn’t want any ungrateful Iraqis to prosecute U.S. soldiers if they kill civilians while engaging in “non-combat” duties.

Here at home, opinion polls have for years shown that two-thirds of Americans oppose the war in Iraq. Opposition to a continued presence has also been building in Congress, always the most lagging indicator. On July 22, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and 94 other representatives sent a letter to President Obama urging him to bring all U.S. troops and military contractors home by the end of this year and she is introducing a bill that would cut off funding.

As for the Iraqi opinion, anti-U.S. cleric and politician Moqtada al-Sadr put out a statement on August 3 saying that any foreign solider remaining in his country after 2011 would “be treated as an unjust invader and should be opposed with military resistance.” We’ll mark him down as a “no thanks.” According to Al-Iraqiya TV, meanwhile, 2.5 million of al-Sadr’s compatriot s have signed a petition calling for U.S. troops to get out.

“We want them to leave, even before the end of this year,” Youseff Ahmad, a tribal sheik from the Iraqi town of Al Rufait, recently told one reporter . “They’ve destroyed us. They’ve only brought killing and disaster.” Ahmad spoke after having just witnessed U.S. troops’ “training” and “support” mission in action, the consequence of which was “a shootout involving bullets, grenades and American Apache helicopters that left the tribal Sheik and two others dead, and several wounded, including two young girls.”

Even top members of the Iraqi government are saying no thanks, even if their more powerful colleagues are toeing the U.S. line. On Sunday, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi said that a continued American military presence in Iraq would be “a problem, not a solution,” adding that training could be done by other countries at a cheaper price.

American officials acknowledge that al-Hashemi is speaking for the bulk of his fellow countrymen, with U.S. diplomats telling The New York Times that their own polling shows a “majority of Iraqis have a negative view of the American role in Iraq.”

No wonder Nouri al-Maliki and his thuggish cronies, fearful their power to torture and suppress political opponents will evaporate without U.S. support, aren’t willing to let average Iraqis have a say in their country’s future. The question is: will Americans, who support a complete withdrawal and want to bring the war dollars home , ever get a say in the future of their country? Tell President Obama to stick to his promises and bring the troops home.

Www.globalexchange.org

Obama on Libya: George W. Bush 2.0 March 31, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Barack Obama, Libya, War.
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Wed, Mar 30, 2011

Remind Obama, War Profiteers, War is SO over

by Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis

His lines may be better delivered, but Barack Obama is sounding – and acting – more like the heir to George W. Bush than the change-maker sold to the public in his award-winning ad campaign. Indeed, when not sending billions of dollars to repressive governments across the globe, the great liberal hope is authorizing deadly drone strikes and military campaigns in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and now, in his most morally righteous war yet, Libya.

Strutting out to a podium before an audience of uniformed military personnel – wonder where he got that idea from – a confident, some would say cocky, American president offered a fierce albeit belated speech justifying another preemptive war against a country that posed no threat to the United States. And if you closed your eyes, you could almost hear that faux-Texas drawl.

“As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping this country safe,” the president declared, adopting his predecessor’s favorite title for himself. “I’ve made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies and our core interests.”

Put another way, President Obama says he will only start a war – without consulting Congress, much less the public – when it is absolutely necessary for defending the “homeland” or for, you know, whatever he deems an “interest.”

Enter Muammar Gaddafi, a caricature of a tyrant who the Obama administration just a matter of weeks ago was looking to sell $77 million in weapons, including more than 50 armored troop carriers. Back then – mid-April – Gaddafi was a thuggish but reliable client in his old age. And he happened to rule over a country that has the largest oil reserves in Africa.

Funny how friendship works.

But a few short weeks ago, Gaddafi became unreliable – a public relations nightmare – when he started using the weapons he purchased from his erstwhile allies against his own people. Like Saddam Hussein before him, he became a liability.

So now Obama believes Gaddafi to be a “tyrant” who has lost his “legitimacy” – as if there was anything “legitimate” about his previous 42 years of dictatorial rule. On Monday, the president argued war was necessary to prevent Gaddafi from massacring rebel forces and their supporters in Benghazi. Such a massacre “would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world,” said the war president. “I refused to let that happen.”

I – me – the imperial president. Cue the commander-in-chief landing on an aircraft carrier.

But if the threat of a massacre is what spurs President Obama to action, what are we to make of his reaction to Israel’s massacre of more than 1,400 Palestinians during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, or what Amnesty International calls “22 days of death and destruction? Giving Israel an additional $30 billion in American weapons is a rather curious response, no?

And what about the hundreds of civilians killed by drone attacks in Pakistan since Obama took office – as many as 1,850 according to the New America Foundation? In early March, the very administration cloaking its new war in moralizing rhetoric carried out a massacre of 40 Pakistani civilians – a massacre the president who authorized the attack couldn’t even be bothered to comment on.

Right now, the Obama administration is actively supporting brutal regimes in Yemen, Iraq and Bahrain – to name a few – where protest movements are being violently suppressed on the American taxpayers’ dime. And the Obama administration is selling $60 billion in weapons to the Saudis, who not only oppress their own dissidents but recently occupied neighboring Bahrain and violently cracked down on peaceful protesters there with the U.S.’s stamp of approval.

So if one thing’s clear, it’s that the U.S. government is fine with tyranny – when it’s “pro-American” (business). Fancy rhetoric aside, there is no “freedom agenda.”

Speaking to reporters this week, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough conceded as much, saying that the White House doesn’t “make decisions about questions like intervention based on consistency or precedent.” Rather, “We make them based on how we can best advance our interests in the region.”

And as history professor and war supporter Juan Cole helpfully notes, the rebels control significant swaths of oil-rich territory and have taken “key oil towns” thanks to the U.S.-led bombing campaign – of 200 cruise missiles fired so far, 193 have been fired from American warships. They are also on the verge of taking 80 percent of the Buraiqa Basin, writes Cole, which “contains much of Libya’s oil wealth.”

Bingo: We just found “our interests.” And unsurprisingly, they don’t involve protecting innocent people from being killed so much as they do protecting the natural resource on top of which they’re dying – and then having the freshly liberated locals pick up the tab for American contractors to rebuild everything American missiles destroyed.

Major General Smedley Butler had it right: war is a racket.

But even assuming Obama has the best of intentions – with which the road to hell is paved, mind you – U.S. intervention in Libya is more likely to do harm than good. Besides the inevitable “collateral damage,” meaning widowed mothers and orphaned children, war sets off an unpredictable chain reaction of evil – evil that no side has a monopoly over.

Indeed, The Los Angeles Times reports that while the intervention is sold as in defense of human rights, the Libyan rebels on whose behalf the U.S. is intervening are actively rounding up hundreds of their perceived political opponents and imprisoning them without charge in Gaddafi’s former torture chambers. Those being rounded up are primarily black immigrants, with rebel spokesman Abdelhafed Ghoga telling the paper that suspected Gaddafi mercenaries who don’t voluntarily turn themselves in will be subjected to extra-judicial “justice” (read: murder) for being “enemies of the revolution.” If they seize the country, who will stop roundups – and massacres – in Tripoli and elsewhere of those deemed to be supporters of the Gaddafi regime, perhaps for no reason other than the color of their skin?

U.S. official have publicly acknowledged an al-Qaeda presence among the rebels, bringing to mind U.S. support for the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s. And with the self-proclaimed leadership consisting of former top-level Gaddafi cronies who had no problem with the regime’s human rights abuses four weeks ago, those lionizing the rebels – and suggesting the U.S. illegally arm them — should take a closer look at who the U.S. and its allies are preparing to put in power when Gaddafi’s gone.

The Obama administration and supporters of the war — who a month ago couldn’t tell the difference between Benghazi and Baghdad — portray the intervention in Libya as a simple morality tale, with evil on one side and good on the other. But the reality is more nuanced than the applause lines the president laid out in his speech. In the real world, peace is rarely achieved by dropping bombs and installing the most avowedly “pro-American” locals you can find in power. Just look at Afghanistan and Iraq, where George Bush started wars that Barack Obama has only continued – and in the case of the former, escalated.

“Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries,” Obama said this week. “The United States of America is different.” And credit where credit’s due, he’s right: From Gaza to the Arabian peninsula, Obama doesn’t stand idly by while others carry out atrocities – he funds and arms those carrying them out.

And just like Bush, he doesn’t let his hypocrisy get in the way of a good war.

Medea Benjamin (medea@globalexchange.org) is cofounder of Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace (www.codepinkalert.org).

Charles Davis (http://charliedavis.blogspot.com) is an independent journalist who has covered Congress for NPR and Pacifica stations across the country, and freelanced for the international news wire Inter Press Service.

FBI Expands ‘Witch Hunt’ Against Antiwar Activists December 22, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Peace, War, War on Terror.
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Published on Wednesday, December 22, 2010 by Change.orgby Charles Davis

The FBI on Tuesday added four more names to the list of antiwar activists subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury as part of an investigation into whether members of the peace movement provided “material support” for terrorism.

[Photo Credit: Committee to Stop FBI Repression]Photo Credit: Committee to Stop FBI Repression

In all, 23 people have been subpoenaed since September 24, when the FBI raided the offices and homes of prominent activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. None has been charged with a crime. Several have also refused to testify in what they say is a witch hunt aimed more at intimidating those who dare speak out against U.S. foreign policy than uncovering actual ties to terrorists. 

And they’re probably right.

Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling this past June, the definition of “material support” for terrorism is now so broad as to include any sort of “advice” to a State Department-designated terrorist group, even if that advice is “stop engaging in terrorism and embrace nonviolence.” Former President Jimmy Carter and groups such as the ACLU and Human Rights Watch have spoken out against the ruling.

Because the definition is so broad, though, it provides the perfect legal basis for the government to go after those opposed to its policies abroad. And as the Bush administration ably demonstrated, there are plenty of people in government who would be all too happy to equate opposition to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen – just to name a few – as de facto support for terrorism.

“We are being targeted for the work we do to end U.S. fundig of the Israeli occupation, ending the war in Afghanistan and ending the occupation of Iraq,” says Maureen Murphy, editor of the news outlet The Electronic Intifada and one of those subpoenaed on Tuesday. “What is at stake for all of us is our right to dissent and organize to change harmful US foreign policy.”

Meredith Aby, another prominent antiwar activist who had her home raided by the FBI, likewise believes she is being targeted for exercising her right to free speech, not because the government actually believes she and other committed pacifists would actually support terrorist violence. She says that the questions U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wants activists to answer – like which activists they met with abroad and what ideas did they express – proves as much. And like other activists, she said she wasn’t interested in answering.

“I’ve never killed anyone,” Aby says in an interview. “I have no blood on my hands. The blood is on the hands of the U.S. government, on the Israeli government, on the Colombian government. I’m not interested in helping kill people, and so there’s no way that I can testify at a grand jury about what people’s political ideas in places as dangerous as Colombia and Palestine.”

“We need to send a message that this has gone far enough,” she said. “We need to send a message to politicians that they will understand.”

Her advice? Tell Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald that you oppose using the law to intimidate committed, nonviolent peace activists whose only crime is exercising their right to dissent. Fitzgerald’s office can be reached at (312) 353-5300, while Obama and Holder can be contacted by signing this petition.

“At the end of the day, these men are politicians,” Aby says, “and they will make their decision in a political fashion about … how wide this investigation will go.”

© 2010 Change

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