Archive for category afghanistan

Hands Off WikiLeaks: Free Julian Assange

Julian Assange’s attorney, Mark Stephens, says that he’s learned there is a secret grand jury convened in Virginia, to consider charges against Assange, CNN reported today in Assange attorney: Secret grand jury meeting in Virginia on WikiLeaks.

Assange is being held in London on a Swedish warrant for questioning in relation to allegations of sexual assault there.  It’s widely believed that those charges – which should be carefully investigated, as should all charges of sexual misconduct – are a cover for the Swedish government handing Assange over to the U.S. government.

“I think that the Americans are much more interested in terms of the WikiLeaks aspect of this,” Stephens told Al-Jazeera. He said it was his understanding that Swedish authorities have said that if Assange is extradited there, “they will defer their interest in him to the Americans… It does seem to me that what we have here is nothing more than a holding charge.” The United States just wants Assange detained, he said, so “ultimately they can get their mitts on him.”

Amid a worldwide surge of protest against US government-sponsored attacks on Wikileaks by private companies, and the dangerous threats to prosecute Assange, TIME magazine announced that Assange has won the readers poll as Person of the Year.  In a TIME interview, Assange answers allegations:

Secrecy is important for many things but shouldn’t be used to cover up abuses, which leads us to the question of who decides and who is responsible. It shouldn’t really be that people are thinking about, Should something be secret? I would rather it be thought, ‘Who has a responsibility to keep certain things secret?’ And, ‘Who has a responsibility to bring matters to the public?’ And those responsibilities fall on different players. And it is our responsibility to bring matters to the public.

And,

This organization in its four years of publishing history — we don’t need to speculate, it has a history — has never caused an individual, as far as we can determine or as far anyone else can determine, to come to any sort of physical harm or to be wrongly imprisoned and so on. That is a record compared to the organizations that we are trying to expose who have literally been involved in the deaths of hundreds or thousands or, potentially over the course of many years, millions.

The threats to Assange have been given wide publicity in US media.  Revolution in U.S. Lashes Out at Wikileaks, summarizes

Leading U.S. political figures clamored for Assange’s capture, even his execution. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said Assange is a “high tech terrorist,” and Newt Gingrich said he is an “information terrorist” who should be arrested as an “enemy combatant.” Influential right-wing columnist William Kristol asked, “Why can’t we use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are? Why can’t we disrupt and destroy Wikileaks in both cyberspace and physical space, to the extent possible?” Sarah Palin, writing on her Facebook page, asked, “Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?”

Ray McGovern took those charges on, appearing on CNN.  Ray writes in What’s Behind the War on Wikileaks about the motives of leakers of war crimes

WikiLeaks’s reported source, Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, having watched Iraqi police abuses and having read of similar and worse incidents in official messages, reportedly concluded, “I was actively involved in something that I was completely against.”

Rather than simply look the other way, Manning wrote: “I want people to see the truth..  because without information you cannot make informed decisions as a public,” adding that he hoped to provoke worldwide discussion, debates and reform.

There is nothing to suggest that WikiLeaks/Assange’s motives were any different.

Daniel Ellsberg appeared on The Colbert Report last week, disputed claims that Assange is “not a journalist” and that journalists shouldn’t report the actions of governments.

Those action of governments are What Wikileaks Reveals: Cables, Lies & Murder, writes Larry Everest:

Wikileaks’ trove of secrets offers vivid, direct, and unassailable evidence that the U.S. routinely carries out all manner of crimes across the world, from torture and rape in Afghanistan, to mass murder in Yemen, to illegal spying at UN headquarters. They show the U.S. involved in a no-holds-barred capitalist-imperialist rivalry with powers they are allied with, as well as their more direct rivals. They document how the U.S. manages a global network of brutal client regimes as key links in their empire of oppression and exploitation. And these secret cables show that the U.S. lies about all of it. This is the nightmare world the U.S. dominates, and is viciously trying to maintain.

Finally, intellectual activists in the UK made this statement, printed in The Guardian:

We protest at the attacks on WikiLeaks and, in particular, on Julian Assange (Report, 9 December) The leaks have assisted democracy in revealing the real views of our governments over a range of issues which have been kept secret and are now irreversibly in the public domain. All we knew about the mass killing, torture and corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan has been confirmed. The world’s leaders can no longer hide the truth by simply lying to the public. The lies have been exposed. The actions of major corporations such as Amazon, the Swiss banks and the credit card companies in hindering WikiLeaks are shameful, bowing to US government pressure. The US government and its allies, and their friends in the media, have built up a campaign against Assange which now sees him in prison facing extradition on dubious charges, with the presumed eventual aim of ensuring his extradition to the US. We demand his immediate release, the dropping of all charges, and an end to the censorship of WikiLeaks.

John Pilger, Lindsey German Stop the War Coalition, Salma Yaqoob, Craig Murray, Alexei Sayle, Mark Thomas, Caryl Churchill, AL Kennedy, Celia Mitchell, Ben Griffin (former soldier), Terry Jones, Sami Ramadani, Roger Lloyd Pack, David Gentleman, Miriam Margolyes, Andy de la Tour, Katharine Hamnett, Iain Banks

Join in world-wide protests to say Hands Off Wikileaks!

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“Cablegate” Raises Question: How Does a Superpower Dominate?

“Cablegate,” the huge leak of U.S. Embassy cables from 1966 to this year, began coming from Wikileaks.org Sunday.  This ongoing project, building on the leaks from earlier this year about the U.S. occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan, is huge not only for the amount of information released, but for its import.  I suspect we won’t know that fully until we have a chance to dig into more.  Wikileaks has helpfully organized the search by country, date, and topic.

What does the leak reveal?  More than just one administration’s practices; more than dirty tricks, individual opinions, “rogue” spies and diplomats, what I’ve seen already confirms a pattern, a system, of an un-checked superpower conducting “business as usual” behind secrecy, using diplomacy as yet another weapon.

Der Spiegel described it as “a political meltdown for American foreign policy” that leaves “the trust America’s partners have in the country … badly shaken.”  USA Today reports Hillary Clinton

“condemned the WikiLeaks release of once-classified diplomatic documents as nothing less than an attack on the United States and its allies.”

Private individuals are entitled to privacy, despite the actions of the Bush & Obama administrations, and governments may be entitled to secrecy.  But everything from “dirty tricks” ala Dick Nixon  to CIA assasinations are crimes by governments, and should be exposed.

Once again, we owe a debt to Wikileaks and the source of the leaks, for providing us the basis to see behind the lies. Bradley Manning is charged with these leaks, and sits in military prison at Quantico VA, awaiting a court martial. It is up to us to defend Manning, and do good with the revelations, by acting to stop the crimes through visible, vocal, public protest, just what World Can’t Wait exists for.

But the pro-war Congress leader Peter King wants Julian Assange tried for espionage as a “terrorist.”  Harold Koh, the State Department legal counsel who defends the Obama administration’s targeted assassination as compatible with international law, says the leaks will

“place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals,” and “place at risk on-going military operations.”

Nancy A. Youssef, in Officials may be overstating the danger from WikiLeaks, challenges that assertion.

“American officials in recent days have warned repeatedly that the release of documents by WikiLeaks could put people’s lives in danger.But despite similar warnings ahead of the previous two massive releases of classified U.S. intelligence reports by the website, U.S. officials concede that they have no evidence to date that the documents led to anyone’s death.”

Glen Greenwald wrote earlier today on damage to civilians,

“Many of the same people who supported the invasion of Iraq and/or who support the war in Afghanistan, drone strikes and assassination programs — on the ground that the massive civilians deaths which result are justifiable “collateral damage” — are those objecting most vehemently to WikiLeaks’ disclosure on the ground that it may lead to the death of innocent people.  For them, the moral framework suddenly becomes that if an act causes the deaths of any innocent person, that is proof that it is not only unjustifiable but morally repellent regardless of what it achieves.  How glaringly selective is their alleged belief in that moral framework.”

The danger to civilians is in being militarily occupied, economically controlled and dominated by an unchecked superpower.  Everything we can do to rouse people living in the United States to act to end these occupations is needed, now!

worldcantwait.net will be covering the ongoing revelations.

Wednesday December 1: 2pm EST/11 am PST

Live From Frontline Club, London, a webcast on Wikileaks: The U.S. Embassy Cables

Following the release this weekend of 251,287 confidential United States embassy cables, this month’s First Wednesday debate will focus on the revelations of this latest leak from whistle-blower website WikiLeaks. We will be joined by:  WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson; James Ball a data journalist who has been working with WikiLeaks; Nicky Hager, author and Investigative journalist; Additional panelists to be confirmed.

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United Response to George W. Bush Memoir

With the publication of George Bush’s book, Decision Points, we, the undersigned, set the record straight. Instead of being rewarded with a lucrative book contract and treated by the media as a distinguished statesman, Bush should be indicted and prosecuted for the crime of aggressive war, the supreme crime against peace in occupying Iraq and Afghanistan; devastation of the civilian population and civil society; the institutionalization of torture and denial of due process to detainees; massive illegal spying against people in the U.S.; and perjury before Congress and the people. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been sent to an early grave because of Bush. Thousands of people have endured the most gruesome torture and abuse because of Bush. Tens of thousands of US service members have either died or suffered horrendous physical and mental injuries because of Bush. Trillions of dollars have been spent in the commission of criminal acts, abroad and at home.

It is the responsibility of the people of the United States to demand the investigation, indictment and prosecution of crimes committed by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and other high officials.

It is up to each and every one of us to act. Unless high officials are held accountable for criminal acts, it sends a clear message to future administrations – including the current one — that they are not required to uphold the basic tenets of human rights and international law. Today, in fact, we see that many of Bush’s illegal actions have become codified as a new norm.

George W. Bush is recognized by the people of the world as a criminal. We, inside the United States, understand that too and thus we must demand that Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration uphold the law and appoint a Special Prosecutor for the prosecution of Bush and his principal accomplices. We also encourage individuals to take creative measures to stop Bush’s rewriting of history: speak out at his appearances, go to bookstores and move his book to the Crime Section, and challenge the media to cover our message.  War criminals may write books, but we—the people—must speak the truth.

Brian Becker, ANSWER Coalition

Medea Benjamin, Code Pink

Elaine Brower, military mother, World Can’t Wait

Mike Ferner, President, Veterans for Peace

Susan Harman, Code Pink & Progressive Democrats of America

Nancy Mancias, Code Pink

Ray McGovern, Veterans for Peace

Stephanie Rugoff, War Criminals Watch

David Swanson, War is a Crime

Debra Sweet, World Can’t Wait

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Army “Killing Club” Uncovered But No Justice for Aafia Siddiqui

A federal judge in New York sentenced Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to 86 years in prison today.  Her trial earlier in  2010, on charges of assault against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, was a travesty.  Obviously mentally distraught, having suffered isolation and alleging torture at the hands of her American captors, but remarkably perceptive and witty, Dr. Siddiqui was convicted of attempting to shoot U.S. special forces who were interrogating her.

Convicted murderers in the U.S. get 25 years, sometimes life.   People who shoot others get years in prison.   Those who commit war crimes generally don’t even get prosecuted, but that’s another story.  Aafia gets 86 years, but was not even charged with actually harming anyone, and certainly did not, as the defense showed in the trial.  She was shot in the stomach, and brought to the U.S. while still recovering form her wounds.  She is a victim of the Bush regime’s so-called “war on terror, ” as I wrote at the time in Victim of the War of Terror: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

There were mass protests in Pakistan, Siddiqui’s country of origin, at her prosecution, forcing the Pakistani government to pay for her defense in U.S. courts.  We probably will never know the intrigues behind the scenes, as the U.S. dominates and threatens Pakistan, while it’s also dependent on Pakistan’s ISI to contain the Islamic fundamentalist movement along the border with Afghanistan.  The U.S. bombs civilians in Pakistan — a country with which it’s not at war, but supplying huge amounts of weapons to — while, according to Seymour Hersh, important sections of the Pakistani military support the Taliban.

In the midst of all this, thousands of Pakistanis are disappeared, and a woman like Dr. Siddiqui, herself disappeared for several years, has no chance of justice from either government.

Dr. Siddiqui asked supporters not to raise funds for an appeal.  The Guardian reports

Before the sentencing, Siddiqui repeated her claim that she had been abducted and held at a “secret prison” for several years. She said she only wanted peace in the world. “I do not want any bloodshed. I do not want any misunderstanding. I really want to make peace and end the wars.”

“Killing Club” in Afghanistan

While Dr. Siddiqui’s trial went on in New York, with the prosecution bringing in her military interrogators to say how traumatized they were by her actions, their compatriots back in Afghanistan were preparing the “surge.”   Civilian and US military deaths began increasing; indeed 2010 already has more military deaths than any year of the U.S.’ longest war.

Part of that story is beginning to come out with the prosecution of U.S. Army Stryker Brigade members for targeted murders of Afghani civilians.  Real News interviews the Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton who is following the case.

U.S. Soldiers Charged with Targeting Afghan Civilians: Did U.S. Soldiers Create Afghan Killing Club?

Only because one soldier had misgivings about what his unit was doing, the military started a criminal investigation in May 2010.  5 soldiers are charged with killing civilians, and 7 with covering up the killings.  The Washington Post reported earlier this month, Members of Stryker Combat Brigade in Afghanistan accused of killing civilians for sport.

BBC reported in US troops ‘murdered Afghan civilians and kept body parts’:

In charge sheets obtained from the US Army, Staff Sgt Calvin Gibbs, Cpl Jeremy Morlock, Pte First Class Andrew Holmes, Specialist Michael Wagnon and Specialist Adam Winfield are accused of murdering male Afghan civilians with grenades and firearms.

Other soldiers were accused of stabbing an Afghan corpse, taking or possessing photographs of casualties and beating other men in an effort to keep them from talking to investigators.

The soldiers were attached to the Army’s Fifth Stryker brigade, which deployed to Afghanistan last year and has seen heavy fighting around Kandahar. They were based in Washington state.

The reports get worse.   The Army Times, in a candid piece on September 13, describes rampant hashish consumption and alcohol binges in the unit, while writing these crimes off essentially as “isolated incidents”.

The charges only came about because a member of the unit complained to his father that he was being threatened because he opposed the killings.  In the New York Times blog today, his father, Chris Winfield, charges that the Army ignored his warnings, made before some of the later killings in May 2010, just as General McChrystal was being replaced. Father: Army Ignored Complaints Of Afghan Slayings

Emma and Christopher Winfield at their home in Cape Coral, Fla., on Sept. 3. Their son, U.S. Army Spc. Adam Winfield reported the "killing club," and is now himself accused of murdering civilians during his deployment to Afghanistan, a charge he and his family firmly refute.

The whole U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is illegitimate, unjust, and immoral.  The U.S. military is being led to commit war crimes.

The population of the United States is being directed to fear Muslims, who face political targeting and prosecution.  See Project SALAM.

As the anniversary of the U.S. attack on Afghanistan approaches, October 6, we should step up the loud and visible protest, demanding that the U.S. get out now.

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The Newspaper of Record…and The Truth

Monday evening, Daniel Ellsberg was at The New York Times in a discussion with Times editors and reporters on the Pentagon Papers.  The evening was sponsored by POV, the PBS program which will air The Most Dangerous Man in America, the film about Ellsberg’s action, on October 5.

Max Frankl, who was in the Washington bureau of the Times in 1971, talked about the intense struggle within the Times on whether to publish the Pentagon Papers.  The paper’s outside lawyers were against publication, but courageous editors went ahead, making the history gripping.

The smugness of The Times’ position — “aren’t we fine to have done the right thing back then?” — was infuriating to some of us in the audience, given what they’ve done through the last 9 years in complaining about how the Bush and Obama administration have waged wars, but helping create legitimacy for them.

Dan challenged the Times on its responsibility, bringing up Wikileaks four times.  “We need a lot more of that!” he said, referring to the 2010 leaks of Collateral Murder and the Afghan War Diary.  “We’ll get to that,” said the Times Managing Editor.  But her only comments were about how hard the Times worked to vet the Wikileaks information.

The Times risked money, and perhaps could have been shut down by the Nixon administration when it published the Papers.  But Dan risked his life and a long prison term.  He thought the Papers might have “only a small chance of helping” stop the war, but considered the risk worthwhile.  He reminded us that he spent 22 months waiting on Congress to get the story out, his biggest “mistake.”  “Timing matters.”  If he had leaked what he knew in 1964 and 1965 when people in the military knew the Vietnam war was a disaster, and that the Gulf of Tonkin justification was a lie, “many deaths could have been avoided.”

Dan was very critical of the Times for sitting on the NSA spying story for a year, before printing it in late 2005.  But the Times representatives mainly would not go there, except to say there’s a “great burden of conscience” in having such information and knowing whether to publish it.  Dan pointed out that the burden functions to keep secrets “too well.”

We didn’t get to hear debate over the Times’ role in pushing the “official story” of the Bush regime on Iraq in 2003.  So much defense of imperialist wars…and so little time.

Matthis Chiroux, Janis Karpinski, and Ray McGovern, who have all taken  responsibility to end the wars and torture of the Bush regime, were in the audience.  Ray stood up for the first question.  He told the panel that, as of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, Iran has no nuclear weapons in production.  He asked the panel what an intelligence analyst should do if the 2010 Intelligence Estimate were to be cooked in the same way the NIE on Iraq was changed in 2003, paving the way for war.  Should that analyst leak the truth to The New York Times…or to Wikileaks?  The implication was clear, and again, the Times did not answer.

We were all seated together, and I told those around me of World Can’t Wait’s plans to publish Crimes are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them as a full page ad in the Times around the anniversary of the war on Afghanistan.  The longest running war in U.S. history, and getting bloodier.  You won’t hear it condemned by The Times.

But you should be able to read what many of us know to be true!

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Obama Steps over the Line to Assassination First; Due Process Never

“In the past few weeks, it has become common knowledge that Barack Obama has openly ordered the assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, because he is suspected of participating in plots by Al Qaeda.  Al-Awlaki denies these charges.  No matter.  Without trial or other judicial proceeding, the administration has simply put him on the to-be-killed list. ”

Graphic from New York Review of Books ad May 27 2010

So begins the text of a paid ad in The New York Review of Books May 27 issue which arrives on newsstands Thursday.  The statement, under the headline “Crimes Are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them” poses the challenges:

What would we have done if President George Bush had publicly ordered the assassination of a citizen?  And what should we do now as a fever pitch of media calls for the drones to “take out” Al Awlaki?

The New York Times went front page Sunday with a long profile titled “Imam’s Path From Condemning Terror to Preaching Jihad.” The article covers al-Awlaki’s speeches and advocacy of ideas, providing no evidence that he’s committed crimes.  But this is the newspaper that front-paged Judith Miller’s reporting on Iraq having “weapons of mass destruction.”  I’m not convinced that because something  appears in the “paper of record” it’s either true, or that it should inform U.S. foreign policy.

My understanding of Obama’s order is that Al Awlaki is to be killed by whatever means necessary, wherever he is found, on sight, or within the scope of a drone or sniper’s rifle.  As in Eric Holder’s statement Sunday May 9 that the Obama administration’s effort to set aside Miranda rights in cases of interrogations of suspected terrorists is a “very big deal,” so is ordering the killing of someone suspected of a crime, but not convicted.

If the president is judge, jury, executioner, and there is no check, no appeal, what exactly protects people from being killed for any reason, speech, idea, or even un-uttered thought?

Glenn Greenwald wrote in February when this policy was first made public:

“it’s so dangerous — as well as both legally and Constitutionally dubious — to allow the President to kill American citizens not on an active battlefield during combat, but while they are sleeping, sitting with their families in their home, walking on the street, etc.  That’s basically giving the President the power to impose death sentences on his own citizens without any charges or trial.  Who could possibly support that?”

Post-colonial rebellions and uprisings around the world reached the U.S. in response to the American-backed, funded and organized assassinations of Patrice Lumumba; Salvador Allende; repeated attempts to kill Fidel Castro and countless abuses such that in 1976, after intense struggle in Congress on the Church Committee, Gerald Ford issued an executive order prohibiting such assassinations.  Under the Bush regime, and justifications of the so-called “Global War on Terror” international law, and U.S. laws, were set aside, but not as openly as they have been by the Obama administration.

One of the signers of the NY Review ad, Bill Quigley, wrote May 10 on Common Dreams, “Assassination of US Muslim Cleric is Illegal, Immoral and Unwise,”

“A simple committee of unelected individuals from one branch of government, no matter their subject matter expertise, should not have the power to assassinate an American citizen.”

Even FOXNews.com ran a piece, by Mohamed Elibiary, against the assassination order, It’s a Mistake to Assasinate Anwar Al-Awlaki. Elibiary warns the U.S. not to become identified historically with the Nasser regime in Egypt, which in 1966 executed Syed Qutb, as Islamic scholar, merely for his speech.

“The public perceived injustice, witnessing a military execution without any recognized due process inflicted upon a man for simply speaking and writing his mind. It led to the violent radicalization of tens of thousands.”

A comment on Facebook about the assassination order said, “The ease with which Obama did that, and the easy acceptance by the US public, is quite frightening.”  I agree.  Jeremy Scahill,writing in February:

There has been almost universal silence among Congressional Democrats on the Obama administration’s recently revealed decision to authorize the assassination of a US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki.

That hideous war criminal Ronald Reagan once “joked” when he didn’t realize he was on a live mike, “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in 5 minutes.”  There was international condemnation.

On May 1, President Obama made news — but was not widely condemned as far as I’ve seen — for this “joke:”

Obama declared a warning to the Jonas Brothers, who attended the affair. “Sasha and Malia are huge fans but, boys, don’t be getting any ideas. I have two words for you: predator drones.”

This is the president who launched more predator drones into Pakistan and Afghanistan in one year than George Bush did in 8 years.  A week later, PressTV reported that 20 civilians had been killed in a drone bombing in Pakistan, saying,

A total of 300 people have so far lost their lives in 42 drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal belt this year.

I am proud of those who signed this ad, and all those who paid for it in advance of its publication.  Sign it yourself, and send your donations so this message can spread!  We should all be raising our voices to say “Crimes ARE crimes!  No matter WHO does them!”

Hundreds have signed already. Here are the signers appearing in the New York Review of Books ad:

Rocky Anderson • Edward Asner • William Ayers • William Blum • Fr. Bob Bossie • Elaine Brower • Matthis Chiroux • Noam Chomsky • James Cromwell • Carl Dix • Daniel Ellsberg • Jodie Evans • Hester Eisenstein • Donald Freed • Ann Fagan Ginger • Mike Gravel • Stephen Hays • Chris Hedges • Dahr Jamail • Kathy Kelly • Uzma Khan • Joyce Kozloff • Emily Kunstler • Sarah Kunstler • Dennis Loo • Peter McLaren • Ray McGovern • Ann Messner • Tom Morello • Tomás Olmos • Bill Quigley • Michael Ratner • Rev. Dr. George F. Regas • Mark Ruffalo • Cindy Sheehan • Jed Stone • Frank Summers • David Swanson • Debra Sweet • Sunsara Taylor • Cornel West • Andy Worthington • Ann Wright

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Marching in Protest of 7 Years US Occupation of Iraq

Protesting John YooSeven years of U.S. war and occupation of Iraq were marked with varied protests in the U.S. last weekend. There were more of us than last year, in 2009, when people widely believed the election of Barack Obama was going to end these wars.  It’s important we’re out there to go against the tide.

Today, Obama is in Afghanistan, on dark-of-night unannounced trip to twist the arms of Hamid Karzai, the president who didn’t win the recent election, but nevertheless is the US’ best hope to secure Afghanistan firmly under the domination of the U.S. empire.  Even Fox News notes today that

Both of Karzai’s vice presidents are former warlords whose forces allegedly killed thousands of people in the civil war of the 1990s that paved the way for the rise of the Taliban.

Few people, including those against the wars, are paying attention to the US offensive in Marja, Afghanistan, which is now being spread north to Kandahar.  The U.S. is already warning people there to leave, or else they will be considered Taliban sympathizers…in the second largest city in the country!  Where should people go? It’s impossible not to kill civilians in an occupation, as reported Friday in Tighter Rules Fail to Stem Deaths of Innocent Afghans at Checkpoints.

“The people are tired of all these cruel actions by the foreigners, and we can’t suffer it anymore,” said Naqibullah Samim, a village elder from Hodkail, where Mr. Yonus lived. “The people do not have any other choice, they will rise against the government and fight them and the foreigners. There are a lot of cases of killing of innocent people.”

Still Waitin on that ChangeYes, Obama and General Stanley McChrystal report the occupation is now “winning” even while they tell us to expect more casualties.  While the headline is US deaths double in Afghanistan as troops pour in, the news is that more people in the US support the offensive than in December 2009

After a summer marked by the highest monthly death rates of the war, President Barack Obama faced serious domestic opposition over his decision in December to increase troops in Afghanistan, with only about half the American people supporting the move. But support for his handling of the war has actually improved since then, despite the increased casualties.

The latest Associated Press poll at the beginning of March found that 57 percent of those surveyed approved his handling of the war in Afghanistan compared to 49 percent two months earlier.

The Washington Post today polls 53% in favor of Obama’s policy in Afghanistan, so Obama feels he can get away with telling the troops in Afghanistan that people at home support the war there.  I think that support is shallow, and temporary, and that we have a great responsibility to bring reality to people on why the U.S. is occupying Afghanistan.  See A War for Empire – Not a “Good War” Gone Bad by Larry Everest.

The Iraq War was Illegitimate from Bush’s Invasion On

The Bush regime’s war on Iraq was, and remains, completely illegitimate by all measures.  Yet, too few people, even those against the wars, stop to look at  how the Iraq war began.  As we said in Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime in 2005, “YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in its sights.”  Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet and the whole cabal openly lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction and a link to al Qaeda and 9-11 in an attempt to bully other countries into joining the invasion.

The Bush regime carried out the destruction of civil society in Iraq.  The electrical, educational, sewage, water, and security systems.  In the process 1.2 million, displaced more than 4 million, tortured unknown numbers directly in detention, and made the country unlivable.  The Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war amounted to a war crime on its face, of aggressive war.

Should we stop talking about that?  Much of this country thinks the war is a) over or b) ending because Obama is withdrawing troops, even though private contractors are still pouring in for a permanent US military occupation.  Foreign policy is gone from the headlines, except for that minor problem Obama has with Netanyahu.

I am still thinking about the piece in the Christian Science Monitor by Michael Ollove, reporting on the war from York, PA

After seven years in Iraq and nine in Afghanistan, residents of York, Pa., talk about how the wars have become like a screen saver: always there but rarely acknowledged.

So, that’s why our visible protests are important. A survey of the ways in which people protested:

Washington, DC:

Stop the KillingCindy Sheehan set up Camp OUT NOW on the national mall as part of the ongoing Peace of the Action effort to have continuous protest in Washington until the wars end.  The action resumes April 6.

The Iraq War Memorial came to the Washington Monument, stopping thousands of tourists with the names of those killed in Iraq, both US military and Iraqis.

ANSWER Coalition 7,000 rallied and marched around the White House, depositing symbolic coffins at the offices of Haliburton (where an effigy of Dick Cheney was trampled); the offices of the Washington Post and Veterans Administration; and in the front of the White House.  Cindy Sheehan, Elaine Brower, Matthis Chiroux and 5 others were arrested for not moving from in front of the White House, held for 48 hours, and banned from the White House area for six months. Read AP report. Watch the AP video. Flickr Gallery.

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans marched along with military families.  While speaking at the rally, Elaine Brower, a leader of World Can’t Wait; Robynn Murray, an Iraq veteran, and Matthis Chiroux, an Afghanistan veteran and Iraq war resister, said the American flag stands for empire, and burned one. See The Nightmare Will End When We Wake Up! Watch the video.

Marches in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle:

Thousands marched.  See Stephanie Tang of World Can’t Wait: Obama’s War is Killing the Afghan People, not Saving Them.

In San Francisco, Daniel Ellsberg spoke to a rally of thousands on the importance of protest:

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the top-secret Pentagon Papers study of the Vietnam War and is the subject of the recent documentary film, “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” likened the protest and others like it around the country Saturday to a day of demonstrations organized against the conflict in Vietnam in 1969.

“They thought it had no effect,” he told the crowd in San Francisco, referring to the 1969 protesters. “They were wrong.”
Ellsberg said President Richard Nixon was planning to escalate the war around that time, but held off.

In Los Angeles, thousands also marched, including a We Are Not Your Soldiers contingent carrying a banner signed by many more youth pledging to resist military recruiters.

Charlottesville, VA:

Friday, March 19, John Yoo made two speeches at the University of Virginia, and was disrupted at both by questions and objections to his authorship of the Bush torture memos; his promotion of aggressive war; and his theory of presidential powers.  150 people protested outside.  See David Swanson, John Yoo: A President Can Nuke the United States for an account, photos & video.

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U.S. Marines Promoting Democracy in Afghanistan

Their words and actions are enough to undo any illusions about the U.S. occupation.

U.S. Marines Promoting Democracy in Afghanistan

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Marines & NATO in Marjah: Spreading the Offensive Occupation

Does anyone think we’re getting a true picture of what’s happening in Helmand Province during the US/NATO offensive in Marjah?

General David Petraeus, who runs the whole Euro/Asian military occupation “overseas contingency operation” as head of CENTCOM, says this battle is an “initial salvo” in a military campaign of 12 – 18 months.  So much for U.S. forces leaving Afghanistan in mid-2011.  This is just a start of the U.S. offensive.

Petraeus, on Meet the Press yesterday was being interviewed on the offensive, and made a fascinating digression into the military price the US military has paid for “expedient measures,” i.e. torture:

I have always been on the record, in fact, since 2003, with the concept of living our values.  And I think that whenever we have, perhaps, taken expedient measures, they have turned around and bitten us in the backside.  We decided early on in the 101st Airborne Division we’re just going to–look, we just said we’d decide to obey the Geneva Convention, to, to move forward with that.  That has, I think, stood elements in good stead.  We have worked very hard over the years, indeed, to ensure that elements like the International Committee of the Red Cross and others who see the conduct of our detainee operations and so forth approve of them.  Because in the cases where that is not true, we end up paying a price for it ultimately.  Abu Ghraib and other situations like that are nonbiodegradables.  They don’t go away.  The enemy continues to beat you with them like a stick in the Central Command area of responsibility.

Afghans, Helmand Province, February 2010

Afghans on the road with US forces near Marja

So, in “living our values” so far, the US/NATO forces killed dozens of civilians during this offensive, including 27 yesterday when they bombed a truck convoy of people fleeing the fighting.

The Telegraph UK reported in Afghan government condemns Nato air strike that killed 27, and noted also that

Last Thursday, a Nato bombing raid in the northern province of Kunduz killed seven Afghan policemen, according to hospital and government officials.

On Feb 15, Natro acknowledged that five civilians were killed accidentally and two others wounded in an air strike in southern Afghanistan.

While Petraeus tries to prepare the U.S. public for increasing loss of U.S. troops’ lives, I must note that the loss of Afghan civilian’s lives is 1) much greater than the number of US troops killed, and 2) usually of no consequence at all to US war planners, except when they become “nonbiodegradable” (huh?) which the enemy “continues to beat you with a stick” over.

Kevin Gostzola takes this on in The Lying Language of Occupation: Murdered Civilians in Marjah are Human Beings, not “Human Shields”

military commanders claim civilian deaths are happening because the Taliban are using civilians as “human shields.” They are framed as purveyors of evil despite evidence and reports from organizations like Amnesty International which indicate that U.S. and NATO forces engage and have engaged in indiscriminate attacks (which are just as bad as using civilians as “shields”).

It is uncertain how long this “surge” will last. The U.S. and NATO seem to be taking action to create the illusion that there is, in fact, justification for waging war and occupation in Afghanistan.
No matter how long this lasts, civilians will pay the highest price.

Al Jazeera reports on the lives of people in the area: Civilians Flee Marjah Fighting.  “We left with nothing, no blankets.  We have only these scarves (we are wearing) to cover ourselves.”

Larry Everest gives the history of the US occupation in Surge of Violence: U.S. Launches Massive Offensive in Southern Afghanistan and concludes that

The U.S. position in Afghanistan is precarious. The war has bled into neighboring Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, which now faces its own growing Islamist insurgency and other deep and volatile internal and external contradictions. And the U.S. is facing real obstacles and challenges to its dominance in the Middle East (such as Iran) as well as globally. It is responding to these challenges by escalating its violence against the people.

Where’s the outrage in the U.S. for civilian casualties?  Some of it should be on display this week when anti-war groups mark the 1,000 U.S. death in Afghanistan.  (The total today is 999).

The best gift to humanity would be to create the situation the people of the Netherlands have.  The Dutch government collapsed this weekend because of mass opposition to Dutch troops being in Afghanistan at all.  Their troops are leaving by the end of this year.

Even as President Obama is pressuring European governments to send more troops, people around the world are fed up with this occupation.  And we should be, too!

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Why the U.S. is Losing Afghanistan

As people who follow World Can’t Wait know, we’ve been opposed to Barack Obama’s plans to expand the US occupation of Afghanistan since the 2008 campaign began.  Now that Obama has expanded the US occupying forces beyond 150,000 (not including all the contractors outside the US military) and is pressuring European allies to send more troops, how is the occupation going?

Reminders:  Obama kept Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has promoted the expansion into Afghanistan.  He’s expanded Bush’s quiet drone war, and is now has two unmanned drone programs (run by the military and the CIA), making far more attacks than Bush ever did.  The administration endorsed the “election” of Hamid Karzai over widespread, incontrovertible evidence of massive fraud in it.

So how is all that working?  I had a chance to hear Anand Gopal speak Monday night, at a Brooklyn for Peace event.  I hope his talk will be broadcast, but in the meantime, I’ll report from my notes.

Anand Gopal gave us important information with “America’s Secret Afghan Prisons,”  a piece based on 24 interviews with detainees and families of those held at Bagram Air Force Base, called “Obama’s Gitmo.”  See a ten minute interview by Russia Today (who surely has an interest in counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan) with Gopal.

Gopal stated that the Taliban had virtually been removed from Afghanistan in 2001-02 with the US invasion, relatively easily.    Now, they once again dominate 1/2 of the country.

The main reason for this he cited was the civilian casualties caused by US/NATO attacks.  He said that the Taliban also kills civilians, directly or indirectly, but that the civilian population thinks the US occupation is what’s responsible for the deaths.  There have been major protests in all the cities, and every time that a group of civilians are killed by NATO or US forces, with American flags and effigies of Obama burned.  People are very angry.

Another reason the US occupation will fail, Gopal said, is that they are supporting the “corrupt and predatory” Karzai government, which is viewed as the enemy by much of the country.  During the 1990′s civil war, the Northern Alliance, and other warlord groups now allied with Karzai were responsible for horrific treatment of women.  In areas they controlled, girls not married by the age of 12 were raped,

When the people protested the treatment of women, so bad that in 2003 hundreds of women drowned themselves rather than be raped by the Northern Alliance, the Karzai government did nothing, because Karzai needs the warlords to hold onto power. Because people in the country are preyed upon by the warlords, get no help from the Karzai government or the U.S. government, they have turned increasingly to the Taliban, despite the crimes against people they have committed.

Another reason for the U.S. lack of success in “winning hearts and minds” of the Afghan people Gopal cited is the “lack of reconstruction.”  He said that 85% of the billions marked for reconstruction goes to US contractors.   Of the remaining 15% much goes to the warlords.  He said the major Kabul-Kandahar highway built by the Bush regime a few years ago is falling apart from shoddy construction.

Gopal said the only solution for the people of Afghanistan is the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The Toronto Star reported Sunday February 7 in Afghans flee ahead of planned NATO offensive

Mohammad Hakim, a 55-year-old tribal leader in Marjah, said fear has risen over the past two weeks and he knows at least 20 families who had left. He himself planned to take his wife, nine sons, four daughters and grandchildren to live with relatives in Lashkar Gah.

“Everybody is worried that they’ll get caught in the middle when this operation starts,” he said in a telephone interview.

Hakim said he was worried about the length of the operation.

“I can stay for one or two weeks,” he said. “But if I have to leave my agriculture land for months and months, then how will I feed my family?”


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