"....the strife of Iraqi workers and support of International organizations to us,
such as the Solidarity Center, ITUC and the USLAW has given us the biggest
motivation to continue our work in spite that the government of Iraq has
prohibited unions activities in the largest sector which is the Public or State
sector that forms 80% of Iraqi labor...."
[From Hassan Juma'a Awad in message to conference of Egyptian unions]
Tell Iraq: Drop the charges against oil union leader, respect worker rights!
URGENT ACTION REQUEST
In response to strikes in the oil sector, the Iraq government filed a criminal complaint against Federation of Oil Unions President Hassan Juma'a Awad, and has taken disciplinary actions against many others. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and stiff fines. Stand with Iraqi workers against a corrupt authoritarian government and greedy multinational oil companies. Demand the charges be dropped, repression of unions and labor activists cease, and that internationally recognized labor rights be respected, including the right to organize, bargain and strike in the union of choice without government interference.
Iraqi Oil Ministry Brings Criminal Charges Against Oil Union Leaders Following Strikes
URGENT ACTION REQUEST
Hassan Juma'a, President of the Federation of Oil Unions in Iraq, has been criminally charged by the Ministry of Oil for allegedly organizing strikes that have been taking place with increasingly regularity as workers in the oil sector seek to protect their rights and interests. If convicted, he could face stiff fines and up to five years imprisonment. His next court hearing is April 7th.
USLAW, working in collaboration with the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center and the Iraq Civil Society Solidarity Initiative in Europe, has drafted a letter to Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki demanding that charges and disciplinary actions be dropped against Brother Hassan and all other workers who have been disciplined for exercising their internationally recognized right to organize, bargain and act collectively to defend their interests.
THIS MATTER IS URGENT!
Unions and other organizations are urged to sign onto this letter.
Your IMMEDIATE ATTENTION andPROMPT ACTION is requested.
Ten years of war, ten years of struggle: A USLAW statement and appeal on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and founding of USLAW
TEN YEARS of war, protest and struggle
Today, March 19th, 2013,
marks ten years since the U.S. illegally attacked, invaded and occupied
Iraq - a nation that had not attacked us or posed any threat to our
has also been ten years since the world rose up to proclaim its
opposition to a threatened war in Iraq, as tens of millions of people
poured into the streets of dozens of cities across the globe in what was the largest political demonstration in recorded history.
and his co-conspirators did not heed the will of the people because
they were listening to other voices - of oil and other corporate
executives, generals, arms manufacturers, their lobbyists, and their
wealthy patrons, political cronies and privileged friends.
Greed, hubris, arrogance and empire spoke louder than millions of people in the streets.
Last Letter to George Bush and Dick Cheney from a Dying Veteran
may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war
crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of
thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.
"....(T)he only thing the progressive caucus and Mr. Ryan share is audacity. And it’s refreshing to see someone break with the usual Washington notion that political “courage” means proposing that we hurt the poor while sparing the rich...." [Paul Krugman]
"The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to
oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and
torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some
of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the
country's descent into full-scale civil war."*
We're starting to figure
out why the government pursued Bradley Manning so aggressively. Now, thanks to
an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows, we know our direct
connection to Iraqi Torture centers and death squads. What atrocities happened,
and how many innocents are dead? Cenk Uygur breaks it down.
in the top 1 percent of America’s top 1 percent all grabbed at least $7.97
million in 2011 income. In a nation of over 158 million households, analyst
David Cay Johnston points
out, these 15,837 uber-rich households took in 39 cents out of every $1 in
increased income Americans collected over the two years after 2009.
Catastrophic Pentagon cuts? Not really!
February 15, 2003 - A global day of protest remembered
Tens of millions worldwide took to the streets seeking to prevent the illegal invasion of Iraq - the largest demonstration in human history!
This is the trailer for the anti-war protest which took place globally on the 15th February 2003. Filmmaker Amir Amirani wants to document this truly incredible event but needs your donation to make it happen?
The U.S. Military: Afflicted by General Excess and Excess Generals
"....America’s military is astonishingly top heavy, with 945 generals and admirals on active duty as of March 2012. That’s one flag-rank officer for every 1,500 officers and enlisted personnel. With one general for every 1,000 airmen, the Air Force isthe worst offender, but the Navy and Army aren’t far behind. For example, the Army has 10 active-duty divisions -- and 109 major generals to command them.
Between September 2001 and April 2011, the military actually added another 93 generals and admirals to its ranks (including 37 of the three- or four-star variety). The glut extends to the ranks of full colonel (or, in the Navy, captain). The Air Force has roughly 100 active-duty combat wings -- and 3,712 colonels to command them. The Navy has 285 ships -- and 3,335 captains to command them. Indeed, today’s Navy has nearly as many admirals (245 as of March 2012) as ships...." Read the full exposé
USLAW Delegation In Basra, Iraq October 20-22, 2012 (Video)
The people of Iraq are facing many of the same issues we face in the United States - privatization, attacks on workers and their unions, environmental degradation, the oppression of women. But there are many threads of social activism in Iraq with which we in the United States can establish links of solidarity. To learn more about environmental and women's issues raised at the conference and discussed in the report-back, visit Nature Iraq at <http://www.natureiraq.org/site/en/> and the Al-Amal Familiy Support Center at http://www.iraqi-alamal.org/english/index.htm.
Use this link to access the video for download or sharing. Also available is Meeting Face to Face: The Iraq-U.S. Labor Solidarity Tour, a video that documented the 2005 visit to the United States of six Iraqi labor leaders, many of whom were also at the Basra conference, and other videos you may find interesting.
It's never too late to support labor's antiwar voice!
USLAW is grateful . . .
...for the support it receives from its affiliates, members and individual supporters. If you meant to make a contribution last year but never got around to it, this is a great time tomake a donation.
We are asking you to invest to enable the voice of labor's antiwar movement to continue - building the Jobs-Not-Wars Campaign, the New Priorities Network, solidarity with Iraqi unions, participation in United for Peace & Justice and working in coalition with Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Progressive Democrats of America, American Friends Service Committee, Peace-Action and so many other antiwar and social justice organizations.
End the war, bring all the troops home now and care for them when they return
Create good jobs at living wages: invest in our communities and our people to sustainably grow the economy and put people back to work
Assure communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy that reconstruction is performed in the public interest with full transparency under government direction and control - accountable to the people
Train and hire veterans, the unemployed and youth from historically disadvantaged communities to perform cleanup and reconstruction as part of a broader national jobs program to rehabilitate our cities, build affordable energy-efficient homes, repair/replace public infrastructure and develop sustainable manufacturing for the 21st Century
Redirect our nation's resources from war and uncontrolled Pentagon spending to fund social programs and public services, protect and improve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, repair the social safety net, meet the challenge of climate change, and reduce poverty and inequality
Require those at the top of the income ladder, giant corporations and financial speculators to pay their fair share of taxes.
War Costs is pleased to present a short video to accompany a new report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called Strategic Maneuvers on the revolving door between the government and war profiteering defense contractors.
(Join the dialogue on these war profiteers via the hashtag #4stars4profit on Twitter. Find us on Twitter at @warcosts.)
The revolving door phenomenon is not new, yet it continues to play an integral part in the insane money flow from the taxpayer to the Pentagon and into defense contractors' pockets. Strategic Maneuvers (read the report here) finds that from 2009 to 2011, 70 percent of retiring three- and four-star generals and admirals left the Pentagon to cash in off jobs with contractors and consulting firms, using their knowledge of the Pentagon and Capitol Hill to reap their own immense profits from public coffers. The report includes much more on this age-old process that ultimately perverts public trust in officials holding important positions in the government.
The revolving door is a racket, and it's a crime that laws erected in a supposed effort to avoid these conflicts of interest are littered with loopholes. How can the American public be expected to trust any official who is likely looking to use his knowledge of our government -- and how it uses our money -- for their own financial windfall? This process needs more scrutiny, and that pressure must start with us. Demand loopholes in revolving door laws end immediately. Together, we can make a difference.
Now let's escalate the struggle to DEMILITARIZE U.S. FOREIGN POLICY and adopt NEW PRIORITIES!
End the war! Bring all the troops home and care for them when they return
Jobs, not wars! Invest in our people and rebuild our communities
Give long term unemployed, veterans and disadvantaged workers jobs in the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort and keep it under public control
Shift resources from wasteful military spending to restore and protect programs that reduce poverty and increase economic security and social welfare
Defend the planet against global warming by creating a sustainable economy
USLAW Delegation Attends Non-violence Forum in Basra, Iraq
Basrah, 20-22 October 2012
Second Iraqi Nonviolence Forum will address the political crises that
Iraq is currently experiencing, especially the lack of productive
dialogue and discussion about how to solve the Iraqi peoples’ and
society’s problems. Building upon our previous Forum held in Shaqlawa,
Erbil in 2010, the working sessions will provide strong support for
nonviolent strategies to address problems that prevent effective state
and community building in Iraq. We will join together to affirm the
important role that nonviolent tactics and strategies can play in
advancing security, providing vital services, and ending corruption.
Forum is also a concrete and vital step towards convening the Iraqi
Social Forum (ISF), in Baghdad, in 2013. The Iraqi organizing committee
of ISF, and an International advisory committee of ISF will be formed
during this Forum.
This streaming video ad had 100,000 screen views on the websites of the Oakland Tribune and six other suburban papers owned by the Bay Area News Group in the SF East Bay as a companion to a full page ad in the print editions of those paper published on October 11, 2012. The electronic ad was displayed throughout the following week. The ads were placed by the Bay Area New Priorities Campaign.
"Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq" now available in the U.S.
The role that oil played in the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the role of Iraqi oil workers in keeping Iraqi oil under Iraqi control
Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq by Greg Muttitt has been released in the U.S. (It was published in England last year.)
groundbreaking investigation confirming what many have long felt: oil interests
lay at the very heart of the Iraq War—a legacy that continues to haunt us
"Nothing short of a secret history of the war." Says NAOMI KLEIN, Bestselling author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine
Order a copy of Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied IraqHERE at a special discount price for USLAW supporters.
To receive a 20% discount off the retail price of $28.95, enter the following coupon code prior to charging your credit card[copy and paste]: 80OC50[eight-zero-O-C-5-zero]
USLAW Jobs Not War buttons available NOW!
Place orders of up to 25 HERE with a credit card orHERE with a check
Place orders of 25 or more HERE with a credit card orHERE with a check
If it's good enough for Afghans, why not for Americans????
In an article in the Financial Times reporting on the $16 billion in international aid pledged to Afghanistan, Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton said, that Afghanistan’s security“cannot only be measured by the absence of war” but also by “whether
people have jobs and economic opportunity, whether they believe their government
is serving their needs, whether political reconciliation proceeds and
succeeds”. July 8, 2012 "Donors pledge $16bn Afghan aid"
If that standard is good enough
for Afghans, why isn't it also good enough for Americans?
Victims of Obama's drone campaign of mass murder take US to court
An estimated 3000 Pakistanis have been killed since 2004
by US drone attacks. Obama's administration says no civilians are now being
killed, only "militants". So why are Pakistani villagers taking the United
States to court? WATCH THE VIDEO
U.S. Deluded by Its Own Drone-Warfare Propaganda
. . . . (T)he White House and the US security agencies believe more of their own
propaganda than is good for them. Ramshackle insurgent movements in Iraq,
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen are not like regular armies, in which the
elimination of officers or senior cadres might be a crippling blow to the
organisation. Just as important, in the long term, assassination campaigns
do not win wars, and they create as many enemies as they destroy.'. . . .
WASHINGTON (AP) — Support for the war in Afghanistan has reached a
new low, with only 27 percent of Americans saying they back the effort
and about half of those who oppose the war saying the continued presence of American troops in Afghanistan is doing more harm than good, according to an AP-GfK poll.
In results released Wednesday, 66 percent opposed the war, with 40 percent saying they were "strongly" opposed. A year ago, 37 percent favored the war, and in the spring of 2010, support was at 46
percent. Eight percent strongly supported the war in the new poll.
Join the global movement to invest in peace rather than in the instruments of war
See demilitarize.org for more details. Twitter #demilitarize.
On April 17, 2012, thousands from around the world will take part in the second annual Global Day of Action on Military Spending. With actions taking place in more than 30 countries, we will send a message to the 1% who profit off war and destruction, and the governments who do their bidding.
Global military spending reached over $1.6 trillion in 2010, and on April 17th, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) will release the data for 2011. Almost certainly, they'll announce that military spending went up.
As the people of the world face existential crises from climate change, conflict and underdevelopment, the resources we need to solve humanity's problems are being overwhelmingly devoted to death and destruction. In 2011 people spoke in one voice for a global priorities shift. This year, we'll raise our voice even louder.
Survivors, Afghan guards describe night of massacre
Report from first western journalist to visit the villages where a U.S. soldier allegedly killed 17 people
A Message of Peace and Friendship from Iran
. . . . Dear fellow American peace lovers, please deliver our message to your politicians. We are not just a piece of land. We are not oil. We are not
nuclear sites. We are not evil. We are women, men, children. We are people with dreams, jobs, families, with a baggage of 5000 years of experience. When we talk about war we know what we are talking about. . . .
Iraq Nine Years Later: Poverty and Violence Continue
Sahar Issa: In spite of growing oil revenues most Iraqis live without water, power and housing
Sahar Issa is a McClatchy Baghdad Bureau Correspondent. She does the Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq. In 2007, along with five other women from the McClatchy and Knight Ridder newspaper chain, she was honored with the Women of Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation.
According to a study, “. . . . nearly a third of Americans who were part of the middle class as teenagers in the 1970s have fallen out of it as adults. . . .”
“. . . . a record number of Americans are living in poverty... the median male is now worse on a gross, inflation adjusted basis, than he was in… 1968!"
". . . . We can estimate that at least 56 million Americans, roughly 18.5% of the population, lived in poverty in 2010. . . . The richest 400 Americans have as much wealth as 154 million Americans combined, that’s 50% of the entire country. . . ."
The increase of foreign troops in Afghanistan that has taken place during Obama's administration has been followed by a corresponding increase in Afghan insurgency. "The US needs to let go of the military strategy and instead get serious about negotiations with the Taliban," said Derrick Crowe. "Throwing hundreds of thousands of troops and $2 billion a week at that problem... is just going to escalate the problem."
Executive Council issues strong statement following meeting with the President
". . . .There is no way to fund what we must do as a nation without bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The militarization of our foreign policy has proven to be a costly mistake. It is time to invest at home. . . ."
"....Two lengthy and expensive wars should not force billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid, shifting costs to states and ultimately children, vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities...." Gerald McEntee, President, AFSCME
Some media herald the Obama plan to draw down troops in Afghanistan (33,000 between now and September, 2012) as "rapid withdrawal" or a "significant" reduction. But in fact, a reduction of 33,000 still leaves twice as many US. troops in Afghanistan as when Obama took office. MORE. . . .
Ever wonder how much you paid to fund the war?Use the Afghanistan War Tax Calculator to find out. We'll give you an I.O.U. for what you paid that you can forward to your Member of Congress.Ask for your money back!
Solidarity with Public Workers in Wisconsin is a Stand for Public Workers and Labor Rights Everywhere
What the US will spend on the Afghan War this year would plug the deficits for every state in the country that has one.
Following President Obama's latest State of the Union address, many politicians took to the airwaves to talk about proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare. But, when asked by pollsters what they'd cut if they had to choose, the overwhelming preference of the American people was to cut military spending first, not Social Security or Medicare. [Source:http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/20...]
We need to cut military spending on the Afghanistan War so we can fix problems here at home. This video effectively makes this point.
The Longest War in US History Enters Its 10th Year!
On October 7, 2010, the Afghanistan War will enter its 10th year.
For almost a decade, we've asked a very small slice of the population--military families--to shoulder the heaviest burdens for U.S. policies in that country. As we start Year Ten, an increasing number of veterans are telling us that the war isn't making us safer and it's not worth the cost. Here's just a few of their stories.
Help make sure the war's tenth year is also its final year.
Coming to DC for the One Nation Working Together March on Washington?
Fix that leak!
More documents have been released by Wikileaks exposing Iraqi civilian deaths, tortured prisoners, sectarian violence and other atrocities by Iraqi forces and police while under the watch of the U.S. military. This is on top of the civilians killed by the U.S. during the execution of the war in Iraq. U.S. officials say the leaks put our troops and local informants in danger but they don't seem too upset by the contents of the leaks. War is horrific and ugly, but most of the time we aren't forced to examine it this closely.
URGENT APPEAL On behalf of the working people of Pakistan
The labor movement of Pakistan has issued an urgent appeal to the labor movement in the U.S. and around the world for solidarity aid in response to the devastating floods that have impacted an estimated 20 million people.
Congress will vote soon on whether to pony up another $33 billion to pay for escalating the war in Afghanistan. Take 3 minutes to make a call to let your Congress member knowyou want them to vote against throwing any more money into the Afghan sinkhole. (Learn more)
Theres a bill that would require a timeline for the removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but Congress needs to hear that you want them to support it.
Sign a letter to your congressperson at http://rethinkafghanistan.com.
From the day the
dictatorship fell, Iraqi workers have demanded the right to organize their own
unions, free of government interference. They have demanded all of the rights
established by the International Labour Organization - foremost the rights to
freely organize, bargain and, when necessary, to strike. The new Iraqi
Constitution calls for the adoption of a basic labor law that recognizes and
codifies these rights.
The Maliki regime
has instead ordered labor elections in June in which workers are to designate
their unions and elect union leadership. However, workers in all public
enterprises (including the entire oil industry) are barred from voting, and the
government retains the right to disqualify union leaders chosen by the workers
in those elections. The elections will apparently result in only one
government-approved labor federation, rather than providing union pluralism
required by ILO standards (and already established in fact by the workers
themselves in the variety of labor organizations they created after the
overthrow of Saddam Hussein).
is in this context that John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, and Guy Rider,
General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), have
written strong protests to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki.
Show your support for the emerging labor movement in Iraq by donating to the Iraqi Labor Solidarity Fund. Funds will be used to support the labor movement in Iraq and to support USLAW's international solidarity activities.
Big Oil makes a grab for Iraq's black gold. Bush tries to ram new oil law down the throats of the Iraqi parliament. If adopted, foreign oil companies would be able to negotiate control over Iraqi's oil (and the lion's share of the profits) for more then 30 years.
WASHINGTON—House Republicans clashed with President Barack Obama's budget director over looming military spending cuts on Wednesday, in an unusually combative hearing that served as a showcase for a wider election-year debate over who is to blame for a fiscal impasse.
For more than two hours, the House Armed Services Committee hearing room became a political forum for a contentious debate over who should be held responsible if the government is forced to enact $110 billion in mandatory budget cuts in January.
Jeffrey Zients, the acting head of the Office of Management and Budget, repeatedly blamed Republican lawmakers for refusing to consider tax increases as part of a solution to avert the cuts, which were triggered by last year's failure by a legislative supercommittee to reach a broader deficit-cutting accord.
Republicans fired back by accusing Mr. Zients and the president of ducking their responsibility to develop emergency plans and alternative solutions to the standoff.
Later, the caustic exchanges elicited expressions of regret from the committee's Republican chairman and ranking Democrat.
"This isn't about legislating and this isn't even about budgeting: It's about politics," said Gordon Adams, a professor of international relations at American University who served as a senior White House budget official in the Clinton administration. "This is all election-year garment rending."
The hearing was meant to be a forum for a discussion of the impact of last year's Budget Control Act, which calls for across-the-board budget cuts—roughly half from military programs and half from domestic programs—if Congress doesn't rescind the plan by Jan. 2.
More than $50 billion of the immediate reductions would hit the defense budget, which military contractors say would force them to scale back programs and lay off workers.
Joining Mr. Zients at the hearing was Ashton Carter, the deputy defense secretary, who told lawmakers that the so-called sequestration plan would have "devastating effects" that could affect military training for personnel heading off to Afghanistan.
For example, Mr. Carter said in prepared testimony that the cuts could force the Defense Department to reduce by four the number of F-35 fighter jets it acquires fromLockheed Martin Corp. LMT -0.35%
Republicans focused most of their attention on Mr. Zients, who deflected repeated questions about what the administration is doing to prepare for the cuts.
"The right course is not to spend time moving around rocks at the bottom of the cliff to make for a less painful landing," Mr. Zients told the committee. "The right course is to avoid driving off the cliff altogether."
The sharpest exchanges came between Mr. Zients and Republican Reps. J. Randy Forbes of Virginia and Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio. Both lawmakers cut off Mr. Zients as they questioned the budget director about the lack of detail in administration preparations for the cuts.
"In addition to no plans from this administration, we also have no detailed understanding from the administration what the effects of sequestration would be," Mr. Turner said. "You can't provide us with one document that shows what's going to happen if sequestration hits."
Mr. Zients challenged Republicans to focus less on the impact of the cuts and to spend more time considering the president's proposals to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans as part of a compromise budget plan.
In a 2007 military photograph taken just before his first deployment to Iraq, 20-year-oldArmyinfantryman Derek Kirkland is staring solemnly at the camera from behind a desert camouflage hat, an American flag hanging behind him.
Derek's mother, Mary Kirkland, will bring this photograph to the May 20 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) protests in Chicago. She will join Afghanistan and Iraq veterans with the group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), who will march with thousands of protesters to the NATO summit, where veterans will return their global-war-on-terror medals to NATO's leaders. Mary, who has no medals from Derek's two deployments to Iraq, will return this military photograph of her son.
As the US-initiated global war on terror drags on and the "coalition of the willing" continues to shrink, NATO bears increasing responsibility for this war. The alliance provided significant military aid andtrainingfor the Iraq war and took over the war in Afghanistan in August 2003,continuing to the present. The US and NATO allies claim to be winding down the Afghanistan war, but recently decided to maintain international military troops in the country beyond 2014, far past President Obama's promised date for USmilitary withdrawal. The US and Afghanistan recently reached a "strategic agreement," the text of which has not been publicly disclosed, stipulating US military presenceover a decade past 2014.
This alliance of North American and European military superpowers is a cold war creation that outlived the fall of the Soviet Union and expanded into former Soviet bloc European countries, contributing to a global military buildup. Throughout the life of NATO, the US has sat at its helm and many argue that the organization serves as an instrument of US global strategy, intended in part to tie Europe to Washington. The United States foots 75 percent of NATO's military bill, with NATO allies overallaccountingfor a huge majority ofglobal military expenditures.NATO has 138,000 troopsengaged across the globe - including military missions in Somalia, Kosovo, the Mediterranean and off the Horn of Africa - and recently participated in the 2011air assault on Qadaffi's Libya.
"Now is an important time for us to finally talk about the fact that the US has a military empire: that we behave in an imperialist way," said Vincent Emanuele, a former marine and two-time Iraq veteran who plans to return his global-war-on-terror medals to NATO's leaders. "I don't think it's cliché to use those terms. We need to be honest about what the US does and talk about the effect on those we are occupying and the people who are serving."
For Mary, the cost of war is immeasurable. Before joining the Army, her son worked as a cook at I-Hop. When he found out his then-girlfriend was pregnant, he decided tosign upfor the service in 2007 in hopes of boosting his meager income. Mary, who is based in Indianapolis and cleans houses and office buildings for a living, said that Derek had always been a "jokester with a grin on his face, trying to make people laugh all the time."
This changed after Derek's first 15-month extended deployment to Iraq in 2007 and 2008. His mother said that, when he came home, he was withdrawn and on edge, haunted by his combat experience. One night, Derek tried to show his mother a photograph of an Iraqi man he had killed. "I told him that's enough. I'm your mother. I can't see things like that," Mary said. In another incident, when Derek and his mother were driving to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to visit Mary's youngest son, who was also in the military at the time, Derek confessed to his mother that he was a murderer. "I told him you are in a war. There is a difference between when you kill someone in war and when you just walk up and kill them on the street," said Mary. "He didn't give me an answer back."
Derek was placed on psychotropic medications and, in September 2009, sent back to Iraq. Five months into his second combat tour, Derek attempted to take his life, but was stopped by a fellow soldier. His deployment was cut short and he was escorted to the Combat Stress Clinic at Camp Liberty in Iraq. While there, Derek made another attempt on his life, prompting his evacuation to Landstuhl, Germany, then to the Madigan Army Medical Center (MAMC) at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) in Washington. Yet, when Derek arrived at MAMC, he was deemed to be at "low to moderate" risk for suicide and his health care providers concluded that "no one-to-one monitoring is needed at this time," according to a March 15 medical report. Derek, who was released back to his unit, attempted to take his life for a third time on March 18. Again, he was "not identified as being suspicious or suicidal," according to an Army investigation that does not specify who made this judgment.
Derek went back to his barracks, alone, on March 19, 2010. He was found hanging in his room the next morning.
"There is not a day I don't think about Derek. There is not a day I am not angry at the Army because they didn't help him," said his mother. "It is our poor people over there fighting their poor people. They ended up letting my son die for no reason. There is a big void."
Lt. Gary Dangerfield, First Corps Army spokesman at JBLM, refused to discuss Derek's case, but insisted, "We take suicides very seriously."
Yet, Kevin Baker, a former Army infantryman in Derek's unit and current organizer for March forward, which has organized around Kirkland's case, said he saw commanders bully and ridicule Derek for his attempted suicide. They called him a coward and a pussy and a piece of shit," said Baker. "There are huge hurdles to getting help. The suicide numbers speak for themselves." Baker said this behavior is woven into a military that dehumanizes service members, as well as the "enemy."
JBLM, where Derek took his life, has become a national example of the war traumas that permeate and infect military communities. This sprawling military base, with over 40,000 service members, has garnered widespread attention for the spate of high-profile crimes perpetrated by its soldiers, including Robert Bales, the soldier accused of massacring 16 Afghan civilians, one of whom was pregnant. JBLM was also the home base of the infamous "kill team," which was convicted of war crimes in 2010. In 2011, this troubled base reported arecord in suicides. MAMC, the institution that labeled Derek "low to moderate" risk for suicide, has been the subject of a military probe after disclosure that the medical centerreversed hundredsof post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnoses.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are marked by widespread mental health problems among US service members, with nearly one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans reporting symptoms ofPTSD or severe depression. The Army's own studies show an alarming spike in Army suicides which havesoared past civilian ratesThese grim statistics continue to climb: 2011 saw the highest number of Army suicides in military history, with 164 soldiers reported to havetaken their lives. This coincides with a 2011 spike inviolent sexual assaultsperpetrated by active duty soldiers, mostly targeting young active duty female soldiers. Mental health problems are exacerbated by multiple deployments in a military overextended by over a decade of war.
Comparable studies of trauma and suicide among Iraqi and Afghan populations do not exist, but some scholars have estimated trauma to be near universal in these societies. Over amillion Iraqis have diedas a result of the US-led invasion, and millions more have beendisplaced. Over 12,000 Afghan civilians have died since 2006, and 2011 marked a record high in Afghan civilian casualties, making it the fifth year in a row that civilian casualty rates increased.(1)More than 185,000 Afghan civilians were displaced in 2011 alone, according to a report from the 2011 United Nations Annual Report, a45 percent increasefrom 2010.
Mary said the experience of losing her son made her question the Army's respect for human life and, ultimately, turned her against the global war on terror. "My son was the victim of a needless war and we are still doing that to the Afghan people and we are doing it to our troops," said Mary. "We have no business being over there. It is the innocent dying."
Chicago organizers are planning massive national protests to highlight the human costs of these wars. Occupy Chicago is planning ten days of action to protest the NATO summit, which will launch with an alternative People's Summit on May 12 and include participation in an anti-austerity march May 18 with National Nurses United. On May 20, IVAW will join the Coalition Against NATO G8 (CANG8) as well as labor unions, social justice and community organizations to march to the NATO summit where veterans will return their medals. According to an IVAW statement about the march, veterans will "demand that NATO immediatelyend the occupation of Afghanistanand related economic and social injustices, bring US war dollars home to fund our communities and acknowledge the rights and humanity of all who are affected by these wars."
"For me, the decision to return my medals is a part of healing," said Zach Laporte, an Army veteran who deployed twice to Iraq and now organizes with IVAW. "We have been planning this action for months and holding these things in for years."
"As a veteran it is very symbolic to throw your medals back," said Emanuele. "I know many veterans who believe that those medals encompass something sacred to the military tradition. It is very powerfully symbolic to return them, to say no, I don't accept these awards; we don't want to accept them for what we participated in."
"The fact that my tax dollars go to kill people on the other side of the world for no reason is horrifying to me," said Rachael Perrotta, a participant of Occupy Chicago who is involved in organizing the NATO protests. "The fact that an entire generation of people in my country has been lied to by military recruiters, misused by the government and then come back with severe mental and physical problems is horrifying. Veterans are part of the 99% and Occupy Chicago stands with them. We hope to unleash a cry that will be heard around the world."
A meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) had also been scheduled for late May in Chicago in a joint summit, but in early March, the White House announced that the meeting would be moved to Camp David, likely a response to the mass mobilization of tens of thousands of protesters ready to hit Chicago's streets.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed through Chicago City Council a series of measures to restrict protesting rights, termed the"sit down and shut up" lawsby Occupy Chicago. These policies give the mayor the right to cover the city in surveillance cameras with little oversight, shut down public parks andhike fines for protestingwithout a permit. He has trained out-of-town police; purchased new police riot shields; and, starting May 1, sends federal agents to patrol the city's streets in full gear, to implement what he has termed "Operation Red Zone."(2)The Cook County sheriff recently suggested to the mayor that the Joliet Correction Center, which has been empty for over ten years, could be used towarehousethose who are arrested at the NATO summit. Meanwhile, the Illinois National Guard is training for the possibility that it will participate in so-calledsecurity measures against protesters.
After a legal battle, the City of Chicago recently granted a permit to the Coalition Against NATO/G8 march scheduled for the 20th, which will include the IVAW action.
"Militarism on the streets of Chicago is not making us safer," said Aaron Hughes, an Iraq veteran and Chicago-based organizer for IVAW. "We plan to ask the National Guard to stand down."
"There is a blatant attempt to hide the true costs of violent conflict and control the overall narrative of war," said Jacob George, an IVAW member who served three tours in Afghanistan. "We were lied to and taken advantage of, that's why we are giving our medals back."
For Mary, the lies did not stop after her son's death. The Army reported that Derek died in the line of duty and gave him a military funeral at the Marion National Cemetery in Indiana. A March 27, 2010, newspaper clipping shows an elaborate military funeral and said that Kirkland died in action. "They lied and said my son was killed in Action," said Mary. "But I must say it was a nice funeral. That's one thing the Army is good at - funerals."
Mary will march with IVAW wearing a T-shirt printed with the same military photograph of her son that she will return to NATO's leaders. "I feel that I have to march with the veterans to show my support," she said. "I am proud they were brave enough to go there in the first place and give their medals back. I very much feel that marching against NATO is a way for me to honor my son's memory."
Mary said that if she can help just one person by marching against NATO, it will be a personal success. "I don't want anyone else to have to go through what I've been through," she said. "It is hard on a mother. Let me tell you, it is hard on a mother."
Next week’s White House visit by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is already being billed as a make-or-break meeting. With good reason: the principal item on the agenda will be Iran’s nuclear programme and the prospects for war.
As numerous leaks and public comments attest, Israel appears closer than ever to taking military action against Iran. The drumbeats for war are coming from many directions – some of them eerily reminiscent of the build-up to the Iraq war.
As Iran steps up its uranium enrichment, theinspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose reports are filled with dry descriptions of nuclear centrifuges and cascades, are back at the centre of attention, just as they were in Iraq. Sanctions are being cranked up to squeeze the Iranian economy. There is also a growing feeling of impatience with diplomacy and the idea of negotiating with Tehran.
Yet if Mr Netanyahu really is coming to Washington to test support for a military assault, it is also increasingly clear what the answer is likely to be. While US president Barack Obama might still be sticking to the mantra that “all options are still on the table”, his senior national security officials have in recent weeks made it clear that they remain opposed to an attack by Israel or anyone else.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said last week that it was “premature” to think about a military strike against Iran.
James Clapper, director of national intelligence, told the Senate that Iran had not yet made the decision to build a nuclear bomb. “I think they’re keeping themselves in a position to make that decision but there are certain things they have not yet done and have not done for some time,” he said. Admittedly, this is not as decisive a point as it used to be, given that Iran’s other activities have reduced the “break-out” time needed to build a bomb, but it is still an important distinction.
These are the public words of current officials. The opinion of many former members of the national security establishment is even more categorical. “No one I am aware of thinks that there is a positive outcome from a military strike,” Admiral William Fallon, former commander of US Central Command, which covers the Middle East, said last week.
Such doubts extend to the Israelis. Michael Hayden, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told a meeting last month that Israel did not have the capacity to cause serious damage to Iran’s nuclear programme. “They only have the ability to make this worse,” he said.
Struggling farmers furious after Iraq stops buying US rice, opts for cheaper grain from India
Updated: Thursday, February 23,1:30 AM
DAYTON, Texas — The talk of the day among Ray Stoesser and other rice farmers is Iraq’s decision not to buy U.S. rice, a stinging move that adds to a stressful year punctuated by everything from drought to unusual heat.
Stoesser and other farmers know Iraqis struggled during the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation. They know most countries — and people — buy based on price.
( Pat Sullivan / Associated Press ) - Full rice bins sit under a cloudy sky on Ray Stoesser’s Dayton, Texas property Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. In the past month Iraq decided to no longer buy rice from U.S. farmers, dumping yet another problem on farmers already struggling with drought, excessive heat, rising production costs and dropping global prices.
But at the moment, with production costs rising, export markets shrinking and rice prices dropping, it’s difficult to be rational and suppress emotions so intimately intertwined with their land and livelihood.
“That’s just not right,” the 63-year-old Stoesser fumed. “If we’ve got some rice to sell, they ought to pay a premium for it just because this is the country that freed them.”
Iraq imports most of its rice, about 1 million metric tons per year, making it a significant player in the global market. In the past decade, about 10 percent to 15 percent of that total came from the United States. But Iraq hasn’t bought any U.S. rice since late 2010.
“You would think with all that we’ve done over there, there would be a way to get them to do business with us,” said Ronald Gertson, who grows rice in Lissie, Texas.
Iraq has been buying instead from Asia and South America, and it recently lowered its quality standards so it would be able to buy rice from India, something that was impossible under the Iraqi Grain Board’s old rules, said Andy Aaronson, chairman of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rice Interagency Commodity Estimate Committee. It also recently bought rice from Uruguay, which grows a variety similar to the American one but sold for less.
“Iraq seems to be buying on price, and the lowest offered price is coming now from India,” Aaronson said.
In Iraq, officials said the decision to forego American rice largely came down to a matter of taste. A Trade Ministry official said Iraq has decided to import only long-grain basmati rice from India due to its wide acceptance nationwide and cheap price.
“We have no problem with the U.S. rice specifically, which was widely acceptable by Iraqis, but we are seeing a demand for the Indian rice rather than others, which is also bought in good prices,” he added.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to make a statement on government policies. He would not comment on U.S. farmers’ anger or their argument that Iraq should buy U.S. rice because thousands of Americans died in the war there.
Iraq had accounted for about 2 percent to 5 percent of U.S. sales each year. It stopped buying American rice during the Gulf War in the early 1990s and in 2003, when the most recent war started, Aaronson said. Every other year, though, during the war, insurgency and U.S. occupation, the Iraqi Grain Board bought American rice.
Iraq’s abandonment of U.S. rice comes as Haiti, once an exclusively American market, and Central America, another major buyer, also seek cheaper options elsewhere.
The lost sales sting because the U.S., unlike China and other major rice-growing nations, exports nearly half of its crop. With less demand from overseas, prices have dropped while production costs, including for fuel, have risen. The combination is squeezing farmers, Aaronson said. Rice acres in the United States decreased last year and will likely drop again as farmers switch to crops that will make them more money.
About half of the 3 million acres of rice typically planted in the U.S. each year are in Arkansas. The remainder comes from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and California.
When Iraq sought bids on rice a few months ago, word on the street was the U.S. would have a piece of the action, said Mike Wagner, who grew up on a rice farm in Sumner, Miss. When that didn’t happen, Wagner and other rice farmers say they were shocked.
“We invested so much in that country, and we feel like it’s something of a slap in the face,” said Wagner, who’s considering planting more soybeans or a new crop on his 4,000-acre Mississippi Delta farm.
John Alter, 64, also is considering alternatives. Usually, about one-third of his 1,500-acre farm in DeWitt, Ark., is devoted to rice. This year, it would be risky to dedicate too much land to the crop, he said. The loss of imports is disappointing, Alter said, noting the price difference between U.S. rice and Uruguayan grain was small.
“We spent billions and billions, if not trillions over there, and lots of people died,” Alter said. “There should be some reciprocation ... Last time I checked, there wasn’t any Uruguayan soldiers that lost their lives in Iraq.”
Associated Press Writer Sinan Salaheddin contributed from Baghdad.
At the general assembly of Occupy Oakland last night, a task
presented from the earlier facilitators' meeting was open discussion by the
assembly -- arranged in small groupings -- on the question: "How to Grow Occupy
Oakland into a Long-Term Sustainable Movement."
I was asked by a
contingent sitting to my right to join with their group. I was soon aware that
most of the people who constituted our small group were an interrelated faction.
One early idea of one of the members was to take OO to the "next level" by
"taking over vacant buildings." I injected my disagreement with the idea, that
the remarkable success of the entirety of Wednesday's general strike day had
already become subsumed in the media by the post-event "violence" of a small
dissident contingent in breaking into a nearby vacant building. (An act that led
to the day's first police appearance, a massive police descent in riot gear --
replicating the defamed Oct 26 assault -- complete with tear gas, flash-bang
grenades, and bean bag projectiles. A three-hour riot through surrounding blocks
ensued, with dissidents setting fires, breaking store windows, and widespread
spray-painting of graffiti, ending in some 100 arrests and the serious wounding
of yet another recently returned Iraq War veteran on the scene as an innocent
Others of the small group chimed in, stressing the need for
OO to set an example that other #Occupy organizations could duplicate by
appropriating indoor space for continuation of movement activities through the
oncoming rains and snows of Winter.
I suggested, in place of
'strike-day-like' events -- which can only be infrequently carried out -- that
OO implement a series of neighborhood assemblies and marches in various
neighborhood business districts throughout the city. This would have the effect
of educating and recruiting new adherents to the movement from throughout the
city. A recent transplant from a southern city told of the dispersed nature of
that city, not suited to a centralized general assembly, but rather regional
assemblies, and suggested that OO look into a regional-type structure.
During the report-back session, few small groups made what I considered
positive or doable suggestions ("take over city hall;" "make city pay for meals
and housing;" "displace the city council," etc). However, in what appeared an
orchestrated tactic, each time a small group recommended "taking over vacant
buildings," it drew the loudest applause. When there was any mention of
"non-violent" actions, the dissident members, and their compatriots dispersed
throughout, yelled out almost in unison, "diversity of tactics, diversity of
tactics." It is clear that the dissident anarchist group of some 150 or so is
deeply embedded within Occupy Oakland. (The morning's news shows gave the police
breakdown of Wednesday's arrestees as about 25% from out-of-state, the majority
from other cities and communities, and about 10 percent as Oakland residents.)
On returning home, I read an unidentified quarter-sized blurb that had
been handed out during GA. The neatly printed blurb rationalized Wednesday
night's illegal takeover as the "logical next step for the movement," separated
the question of "violence against property" (tactical) vs "violence against
persons (harmful), and proclaimed that "property violence" occurred only after
the cops arrived to dispel them from the appropriated building. The blurb
concluded with: "The point here is obvious: if the police don't want violence,
they should stay the hell[sic] away."
Meanwhile, Oakland's embattled
Mayor forcefully stated at Thursday night's special speak-back session of the
city council that "immediate control of its violent members" is a primary
condition for the Occupy Oakland encampment to remain in Frank Ogawa Plaza (nee
Oscar Grant Plaza).
Clearly, the present situation poses an extremely
serious problem for Occupy Oakland. Moreover, a wide disconnect exists between
#Occupy goals and anarchists' ideals. The anarchists see #Occupy as a
"resistance movement" requiring a vanguard to wage war against oppressive forces
(the police). Alternately, #Occupy's basic objective is to expose the greed and
attendant policies of Wall Street investors, bankers, and mega-corporations that
extract more and more the wealth of the country, while the 99% and the needs of
the many increasingly suffer with less and less -- and to cause policy and
program changes to restore equitable wealth and resource distribution.
During "General Strike Day" actions, non-violent OO members who
attempted to halt acts, being perpetrated by the anarchist group, of property
destruction had their own safety threatened with claw hammers. The dissident
anarchist faction is deeply embedded throughout and has strongly expressed its
integration and inclusion as a legitimate part of OO.
Given the open
nature of OO; its consensus decision structure; and the lack of endorsed
"leaders," it is unclear how OO will deal with an internal situation that is
structurally committed to an agenda of "resistance," inherently contradictory to
the aims of the #Occupy movement. Unaddressed, this dilemma threatens the
existence of at least Occupy Oakland itself. Clearly, #Occupy, and specifically
Occupy Oakland, is faced with a dilemma on incompatible paths that at present
seems only likely to continue diverging.
James E Vann, Oakland,
"Follow the Money"
Why the US Defense Budget Soars, Even as the Military Shrinks
Going, going, gone! You can almost hear the announcer’s voice throbbing with excitement, only we’re not talking about home runs here, but about the disappearing date on which, for the United States and its military, the Afghan War will officially end.
Practically speaking, the answer to when it will be over is: just this side of never. If you take the word of our Afghan War commander, the secretary of defense, and top officials of the Obama administration and NATO, we’re not leaving any time soon. As with any clever time traveler, every date that's set always contains a verbal escape hatch into the future.
In my 1950s childhood, there was a cheesy (if thrilling) sci-fi flick, The Incredible Shrinking Man, about a fellow who passed through a radioactive cloud in the Pacific Ocean and soon noticed that his suits were too big for him. Next thing you knew, he was living in a doll house, holding off his pet cat, and fighting an ordinary spider transformed into a monster. Finally, he disappeared entirely leaving behind only a sonorous voice to tell us that he had entered a universe where “the unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet, like the closing of a gigantic circle.”
In recent weeks, without a radioactive cloud in sight, the date for serious drawdowns of American troops in Afghanistan has followed a similar path toward the vanishing point and is now threatening to disappear “over the horizon” (a place where, we are regularly told, American troops will lurk once they have finally handed their duties over to the Afghan forces they are training).
If you remember, back in December 2009 President Obamaspokeof July 2011 as a firm date to “begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan,” the moment assumedly when the beginning of the end of the war would come into sight. In July of this year, Afghan President Hamid Karzaispoke of2014 as the date when Afghan security forces "will be responsible for all military and law enforcement operations throughout our country."
Administration officials, anxious about the effect that 2011 date was having on an American public grown weary of an unpopular war and on an enemy waiting for us to depart, grabbed Karzai's date and ran with it (leaving many of hiscaveatsabout the war the Americans were fighting, particularly his desire to reduce the American presence, in the dust). Now, 2014 is hyped as thenew 2011.
It has, in fact, been widely reported that Obama officials have been working in concert to“play down”the president’s 2011 date, while refocusing attention on 2014. In recent weeks, top administration officials have been little short of voluble on the subject. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (“We're not getting out.We're talking about probably a years-long process."), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, attending a security conference in Australia, all “cited 2014... as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves.” TheNew York Timesheadlined its reporton the suddenly prominent change in timing this way: “U.S. Tweaks Message on Troops in Afghanistan.”
Quite a tweak. AddedTimesreporter Elisabeth Bumiller: “The message shift is effectively a victory for the military, which has long said the July 2011 deadline undermined its mission by making Afghans reluctant to work with troops perceived to be leaving shortly.”
Inflection Points and Aspirational Goals
Barely had 2014 risen into the headlines, however, before that date, too, began to be chipped away. As a start, it turned out that American planners weren’t talking about just any old day in 2014, but its last one. As Lieutenant General William Caldwell, head of the NATO training program for Afghan security forces,put itwhile holding a Q&A with a group of bloggers, “They’re talking about December 31st, 2014. It’s the end of December in 2014... that [Afghan] President Karzai has said they want Afghan security forces in the lead.”
Nor, officials rushed to say, was anyone talking about 2014 as a date forallAmerican troops to head for the exits, just “combat troops” -- and maybe not even all of them. Possibly tens of thousands of trainers and other so-called non-combat forces would stay on to help with the “transition process.” This follows the Iraq pattern where 50,000 American troops remain after the departure of U.S. “combat” forces to great media fanfare. Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was typical incalling for“the substantial combat forces [to] be phased out at the end of 2014, four years from now.” (Note the usual verbal escape hatch, in this case “substantial,” lurking in his statement.)
Last Saturday, behind“closed doors”at a NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, Afghan War commander General David Petraeus presented European leaders with a “phased four-year plan” to “wind down American and allied fighting in Afghanistan.” Not surprisingly, it had the end of 2014 in its sights and the presidentquickly confirmedthat “transition” date, even while opening plenty of post-2014 wiggle room. By then, as he described it,“our footprint" would only be "significantly reduced.”(He also claimed that, post-2014, the U.S. would be maintaining a “counterterrorism capability” in Afghanistan --andIraq -- for which “platforms to... execute... counterterrorism operations,” assumedly bases, would be needed.)
Meanwhile, unnamed “senior U.S. officials” in Lisbon were clearly buttonholing reporters to “cast doubton whether the United States, the dominant power in the 28-nation alliance, would end its own combat mission before 2015.” As always, the usual qualifying phrases were profusely in evidence.
Throughout these weeks, the “tweaking” -- that is, the further chipping away at 2014 as a hard and fast date for anything -- only continued. Mark Sedwill, NATO’s civilian counterpart to U.S. commander General David Petraeus, insisted that 2014 was nothing more than“an inflection point”in an ever more drawn-out drawdown process. That process, he insisted, would likely extend to “2015 and beyond,” which, of course, put 2016 officially into play. And keep in mind that this is only for combat troops, not those assigned to “train and support” or keep “a strategic over watch” on Afghan forces.
On the eve of NATO’s Lisbon meeting, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, waxing near poetic, declared 2014 nothing more than an “aspirational goal,” rather than an actual deadline. As the conference began, NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmusseninsistedthat the alliance would be committed in Afghanistan “as long as it takes.” And new British Chief of the Defense Staff General Sir David Richards suggested that, given the difficulty of ever defeating the Taliban (or al-Qaeda) militarily, NATO should be preparing plans to maintain a role for its troops for thenext 30 to 40 years.
Here, then, is a brief history of American time in Afghanistan. After all, this isn’t our first Afghan War, but our second. The first, the CIA’santi-Sovietjihad(in which the Agency funded a number of the fundamentalist extremistswe’re now fightingin the second), lasted a decade, from 1980 until 1989 when the Soviets withdrew in defeat.
In October 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration launched America’s second Afghan War, taking Kabul that November as the Taliban dissolved. The power of the American military to achieve quick and total victory seemed undeniable, even after Osama bin Laden slipped out ofTora Borathat December and escaped into Pakistan’s tribal borderlands.
However, it evidently never crossed the minds of President Bush’s top officials to simply declare victory and get out. Instead, as the U.S. would do in Iraq after the invasion of 2003, the Pentagon started building a new infrastructure of military bases (in this case, on theruinsof theold Sovietbase infrastructure). At the same time, the former Cold Warriors in Washington let their dreams about pushing the former commies of the former Soviet Union out of the former soviet socialist republics of Central Asia, places where, everyone knew, you could just about swim in black gold and run geopolitically wild.
Then, when the invasion of Iraq was launched in March 2003, Afghanistan, still a “war" (if barely) was forgotten, while the Taliban returned to the field, built up their strength, and launched an insurgency that has only gained momentum to this moment. In 2008, before leaving office, George W. Bush bumped his favorite general, Iraq surge commander Petraeus, upstairs to become the head of the Central Command which oversees America’s war zones in the Greater Middle East, including Afghanistan.
Already theguruof counterinsurgency (known familiarly as COIN), Petraeus had, in 2006, overseen the production of the military’s new war-fighting bible, a how-tomanualdusted off from the Vietnam era’s failed version of COIN and made new and magical again. In June 2010, eight and a half years into our Second Afghan War, at President Obama’s request, Petraeus took over as Afghan War commander. It was clear then that time was short -- with an administration review of Afghan war strategy coming up at year’s end and results needed quickly. The American war was also in terrible shape.
In the new COIN-ish U.S. Army, however, it is a dogma of almost biblical faith that counterinsurgencies don’t produce quick results; that, to be successful, they must be pursued for years on end. As Petraeusput itback in 2007 when talking about Iraq, “[T]ypically, I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or 10 years.” Recently, in an interview with Martha Raddatz of ABC News, hemade a nodtoward exactly the same timeframe for Afghanistan, one accepted asbedrock knowledgein the world of the COINistas.
What this meant was that, whether as CENTCOM commander or Afghan War commander, Petraeus was looking for two potentially contradictory results at the same time. Somehow, he needed to wrest those nine to 10 years of war-fighting from a president looking for a tighter schedule and, in a war going terribly sour, he needed almost instant evidence of “progress” that would fit the president’s coming December “review” of the war and might pacify unhappy publics in the U.S. and Europe.
Now let’s do the math. At the moment, depending on how you care to count, we are in the 10th year of our second Afghan War or the 20th year ofwarinterruptus. Since June 2009, Petraeus and various helpers have stretched the schedule to 2014 for (most) American combat troops and at least 2015 or 2016 for the rest. If you were to start counting from the president’s December surge address, that’s potentially seven more years. In other words, we’re now talking about either a 15-year war or an on-and-off again quarter-century one. All evidence shows that the Pentagon’s war planners would like to extend those already vague dates even further into the future.
On Ticking Clocks in Washington and Kabul
Up to now, only one of General Petraeus’s two campaigns has been under discussion here: the other one, fought out these last years not in Afghanistan, but in Washington and NATO capitals, over how to schedule a war. Think of it as the war for a free hand in determining how long the Afghan War is to be fought.
It has been run from General Petraeus’s headquarters in Kabul, the giant five-sided military headquarters on the Potomac presided over by Secretary of Defense Gates, and various think-tanks filled with America’smilitarized intelligentsiascattered around Washington -- and it has proven a classically successful“clear, hold, build”counterinsurgency operation. Pacification in Washington and a number of European capitals has occurred with remarkably few casualties. (Former Afghan war commander General Stanley McChrystal, axed by the president for insubordination, has been the exception, not the rule.)
Slowly but decisively, Petraeus and company constricted President Obama’s war-planning choices to two options: more and yet more. In late 2009, the president agreed to that second surge of troops (the first had been announced that March),not to speak ofCIA agents, drones, private contractors, and State Department and other civilian government employees. In his December “surge” address at West Point (for the nation but visibly to the military), Obama had the temerity as commander-in-chief to name a specific, soon-to-arrive date -- July 2011 -- for beginning a serious troop drawdown. It was then that the COIN campaign in Washington ramped up into high gear with the goal of driving the prospective end of the war back by years.
It took bare hours after the president’s address for administration officials to begin leaking to media sources that his drawdown would be “conditions based” -- a phrase guaranteed to suck the meaning out of any deadline. (The president had indeed acknowledged in his address that his administration would take into account “conditions on the ground.”) Soon, the Secretary of Defense and others took to the airwaves in a months-long campaign emphasizing that drawdown in Afghanistan didn’t really mean drawdown, that leaving by no means meant leaving, and that the future was endlessly open to interpretation.
With the ratification in Lisbon of that 2014 date “and beyond,” the political clocks -- an image General Petraeusloves-- in Washington, European capitals, and American Kabul are now ticking more or less in unison.
Two other “clocks” are, however, ticking more like bombs. If counterinsurgency is a hearts and minds campaign, then the other target of General Petraeus’s first COIN campaign has been the restive hearts and minds of the American and European publics. Last year a Dutch government fell over popular opposition to Afghanistan and, even as NATO met last weekend, thousands of antiwar protestors marched inLondonandLisbon. Europeans generally want out and their governments know it, but (as has been true since 1945) the continent’s leaders have no idea how to say “no” to Washington. In the U.S., too, the Afghan war growsever more unpopular, and while it was forgotten during the election season, no politician should count on that phenomenon lasting forever.
And then, of course, there’s the literal ticking bomb, the actual war in Afghanistan. In that campaign, despite a drumbeat of American/NATOpublicityabout“progress,”the news has beengrim indeed. American and NATO casualties have beenhigherthis year than at any other moment in the war; the Taliban seems if anythingmore entrenchedinmore parts of the country;the Afghan public, evermore puzzledand less happy with foreign troops and contractors traipsing across the land; and Hamid Karzai, the president of the country, sensing a situation gone truly sour, has beenregularly challengingthewayGeneral Petraeus is fighting the war in his country. (The nerve!)
No less unsettling, General Petraeus himself has seemed unnerved. He was declared“irked”by Karzai's comments and was said to have warned Afghan officials that their president’s criticism might bemakinghis “own position ‘untenable,’” which was taken as a resignation threat. Meanwhile, the COIN-meister was in the process of imposing a new battle plan on Afghanistan that leaves counterinsurgency (at least as usually described) in a roadside ditch. No more is the byword “protect the people,” or “clear, hold, build”; now, it’s smash, kill, destroy. The war commander hasloosed American firepowerin a major way in the Taliban strongholds of southern Afghanistan.
Early this year, then-commander McChrystal hadsignificantly cut backon U.S. air strikes as a COIN-ish measure meant to lessen civilian casualties. No longer. In a striking reversal, air power has been called in -- and in a big way. In October, U.S. planes launched missiles or bombs on1,000 separate Afghan missions, numbers seldom seen since the 2001 invasion. The Army has similarly loosed itsmassively powerfulHigh Mobility Artillery Rocket System in the area around the southern city of Kandahar. Civilian deaths are rising rapidly. DreadedSpecial Operations night raids on Afghan homes by“capture/kill”teams havetripledwith 1,572 such operations over the last three months. (These are the tactics on which Karzai recently challenged Petraeus.) With them, the body count has also arrived. American officials are eagerly boasting to reporters about their numerical efficiency in taking out mid-level Taliban leaders (“…368 insurgent leaders killed or captured, and 968 lower-level insurgents killed and 2,477 captured, according to NATO statistics”).
In the districts around Kandahar, anewly reportedAmerican tactic is simply to raze individual houses or even whole villages believed to be booby-trapped by the Taliban, as well as tree lines “where insurgents could hide.” American troops have also been “blow[ing] up outbuildings, flatten[ing] agricultural walls, and carv[ing] new ‘military roads,’ because existing ones are so heavily mined… right through farms and compounds.” And now,reportsRajiv Chandrasekaran of theWashington Post, the Marines are also sending the first contingent of M1 Abrams tanks (with a “main gun that can destroy a house more than a mile away”) into the south. Such tanks, previously held back for fear of reminding Afghans of their Russian occupiers, are, according to an unnamed U.S. officer he quotes, bringing “awe, shock, and firepower" to the south.
None of this, of course, has anything to do with winning hearts and minds, just obliterating them. Not surprisingly, such tactics also generatevillagers fleeingembattled farmlands often for "squalid" refugee camps in overcrowded cities.
Flip of the COIN
Suddenly, this war for which General Petraeus has won his counterinsurgency warriors at least a four- to-six-year reprieve isbeing foughtas if there were no tomorrow. Here, for instance, is abrief descriptionfrom a BritishGuardianreporter in Kandahar of what the night part of the war now feels like from a distance:
"After the sun sets, the air becomes noisy with US jets dropping bombs that bleach the dark out of the sky in their sudden eruptions; with the ripping sound of the mini-guns of the Kiowa helicopter gunships and A-10 Warthogs hunting in the nearby desert. The night is also lit up by brilliant flares that fall as slow as floating snowflakes, a visible sign of the commando raids into the villages beyond. It is a conflict heard, but not often witnessed."
None of this qualifies as “counterinsurgency,” at least as described by the general and his followers. It does, however, resemble where counterinsurgencies have usually headed -- directly into the charnel house of history.
Chandrasekaran quotes a civilian adviser to the NATO command in Kabul this way: "Because Petraeus is the author of the COIN [counterinsurgency] manual, he can do whatever he wants. He can manage the optics better than McChrystal could. If he wants to turn it up to 11, he feels he has the moral authority to do it."
We have no access to the mind of David Petraeus. We don’t know just why he is bringing in the big guns or suddenly fighting his war as if there were no tomorrow. We don’t know whether he fears the loss of the backing of an American president or the American people or even the U.S. military itself, whether he despairs of President Karzai or the Taliban, or the whole mission, or whether he has launched his version of a blitz in the most hopeful of moods. We don’t know whether he sees the contradiction in any of this, though no one, the general included, should be surprised when, for all the talk of rational planning and strategy, the irrationality of war -- the mass killing of other human beings -- grabs us by the throat and shakes us for all we’re worth.
Petraeus has flipped a COIN and taken a gamble. However it turns out for him, one thing is certain: Afghans will once again pay with their homes, farms, livelihoods, and lives, while Americans, Europeans, and Canadians will pay with lives and treasure invested in a war that couldn’t be more bizarre, a war with no end in sight. If this goes on to 2014 “and beyond,” heaven help us.
Wholesale Attack on Iraq Electricity Union - YOUR Solidarity Needed!!
Iraq government shutters union offices across country in lightening raids
Iraqi troops and police have raided the offices of the Electricity Union all across Iraq, implementing a new decree - the latest in an escalating series of antiunion measures designed to incapacitate and destroy the Iraqi labor movement.
The unions of Iraq have called upon the labor movement of the world to respond to this outrageous assault on worker rights.
Channel 4: There could be concessions from Israel on the Gaza
Strip aid blockade
There could be concessions
from Israel on the Gaza Strip aid blockade, Channel 4 News
International Editor Lindsey Hilsum reports from Ashdod, as it faces
more international pressure after stopping another aid ship.
The Israeli navy diverted
the Rachel Corrie - the last of the so-called "freedom
flotilla" containing thousands of tonnes of aid for Gaza, as
well as activists from Ireland and elsewhere - without incident.
The ship, named after the American woman
killed in Gaza in 2003, had ignored Israeli orders to divert
to Israel's Ashdod port where Israel had offered to unload the cargo
and deliver it to Gaza before inspecting it.
following the Israeli military intervention, it was escorted to Ashdod
where the cargo was unloaded and the passengers were put onto buses to
the airport to be deported.
Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News International Editor,
said that Israelis continued to support the blockade, despite the aid
crisis in Gaza and international condemnation - although some
alterations could be made to what kinds of items are blocked as a
result of recent events, she said.
"Most Israelis seem to
agree with their government that the blockade of Gaza is necessary in
order to weaken the Hamas government in Gaza and prevent it from
getting weapons," she said.
"But international reaction
is now stepping up - with the White House saying that it is
unsustainable, it has to change.
"But nonethless Israel
seems quite determined...they think that if the blockade is lifted,
there is a danger of weapons going into Gaza, that at least is what
"But I think now there will be new negotiations to
change at least what can go in and what can't. There is an Israeli list
of goods which are allowed in and which aren't. Rather bizarrely,
coriander is not allowed in, ginger however is allowed in."
The humanitarian cargo on board the Rachel Corrie
includes: 550,000 kilograms of bagged cement 20,000 Kgs
of printing paper 25,000 kgs of school supplies and books 12,000
kgs of toys 150,000 kgs of medical supplies
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying: "Forces
used the same procedures for Monday's
flotilla and Saturday's sailing but was met by a different
"On today's ship and in five of the six vessels in
the previous flotilla, procedure ended without casualties. The only
difference was with one ship where extremist Islamic activists,
supporters of terrorism, waited for our troops on the deck with axes
Passengers on board the
MV Rachel Corrie include: Mairead Maguire, nobel Peace
Laureate and Cofunder of Peace People, Northern Ireland. Dennis
Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary General, nobel peace prize
nominee, and winner of the UK Gandhi Peace Prize. Matthias Change
Wen chieh, Malaysia barrister and former political secretary to former
Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammed.
ship was the latest attempt to break the four-year
old blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel, with the stated aim
of preventing Gaza's rulers Hamas from building up weapons to attack
the Jewish state.
It prevents materials
such as cement from entering Gaza, which it says could be used for
The Guardian newspaper reported today that autopsy
results showed they had been shot a total of 30 times, many at close
range. Five were killed by gunshots to the head, it said.
to Channel 4 News, Chris Gunness, UN Relief and Works
Agency spokesman, said that the key issue was that people in Gaza were
absolutely desperate for aid.
"We have to get aid into Gaza. There is 80% aid
dependency and 44% unemployment. Last year 100,000 people came to us
because they could not feed their families, this year it was 300,000
so deep poverty has gone up three times," he said.
"There's a crisis in the health service in Gaza, there's a
crisis in the education service in Gaza," he said.
of five and six year olds can't go to UN schools today because of
this illegal blockade, this collective punishment of 1.5 million
people, which is why we say lift the sea blockade, lift the land
blockade. We know we can do it and do it in a way which adequately
accommodates Israel's legitimate security concerns."
also said that his organisation had been working with Israeli
authorities to get cement into Gaza, which showed that it could be
"If we can do it for two months, we can do it for
two years. If we can do it for a few trucks, we can do it for a few
tens of thousands of trucks," he said.
criticism has been heaped on the blockade following the incidents this
week, including by Israel's ally the United States.
spokesman for the White House National Security Council said: "We are
working urgently with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and other
international partners to develop new procedures for delivering more
goods and assistance to Gaza.
"The current arrangements
are unsustainable and must be changed. For now, we call on all parties
to join us in encouraging responsible decisions by all sides to avoid
any unnecessary confrontations.
U.N. High Commissioner
for Human Rights Navi Pillay increased the pressure.
humanitarian law prohibits starvation of civilians as a method of
warfare and ... it is also prohibited to impose collective punishment
on civilians," she said.