“Overall, seven in 10 Democrats say the war has not been worth its costs, and fewer than one in five support an increase in troop levels.
“Nearly two-thirds of the most committed Democrats now feel “strongly” that the war was not worth fighting. Among moderate and conservative Democrats, a slim majority say the United States is losing in Afghanistan.”
“Nearly two-thirds of liberals stand against a troop increase, as do about six in 10 Democrats,” The Post added.
While “Change” has been Barack Obama’s mantra, as of late he has been channeling his predecessor.
“Afghanistan,” according to Obama, “is a war of necessity… [And] If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.”
President George W. Bush was adept at keeping the American public in an elevated state of panic. That tactic may be useful for advancing controversial policies. But if policymakers continue to downplay the drawbacks of our current course of action, America risks intensifying the region’s powerful jihadist insurgency and entangling itself deeper into a tribal-based society it barely understands.
Americans must be told the truth about the war in Afghanistan. To understand the disadvantages of pursuing present policies, we must unpack the myths that war proponents use to justify staying the course.
Myth #1: Both al Qaeda and the Taliban Are Our Mortal Enemies
Given the magnitude of the atrocities unleashed on September 11th, removing both al Qaeda and the Taliban regime that sheltered the terrorist organization was appropriate. But eight years later, is waging a war against the Taliban a pressing national security interest? Not really.
The Taliban, the Haqqani network, and other guerilla-jihadi movements indigenous to this region have no shadowy global mission. In fact, what we are witnessing is a local and regional ethnic Pasthun population — divided arbitrarily by a porous 1,500-mile border — fighting against what they perceive to be a hostile occupation of their region. Prolonging our mission risks uniting these groups and making U.S. troops the primary target of their wrath.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, even if the Taliban were to reassert themselves amid a scaled down U.S. presence, it is not clear that the Taliban would again host al Qaeda. In The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, Lawrence Wright, staff writer for New Yorker magazine, found that before 9/11 the Taliban was divided over whether to shelter Osama bin Laden. The terrorist financier wanted to attack Saudi Arabia’s royal family, which, according to Wright, would have defied a pledge Taliban leader Mullah Omar made to Prince Turki al-Faisal, chief of Saudi intelligence (1977-2001), to keep bin Laden under control. The Taliban’s reluctance to host al Qaeda’s leader means it is not a foregone conclusion that the same group would provide shelter to the same organization whose protection led to their overthrow.
As the war in Afghanistan rages on, President Obama should be skeptical of suggestions that the defeat of al Qaeda depends upon a massive troop presence. Globally, the United States has degraded al Qaeda’s ability to pull off another 9/11 by employing operations that look a lot like police work. Most of the greatest successes scored against al Qaeda, such as the snatch-and-grab operations that netted Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi bin al Shibh, have not relied on large numbers of U.S. troops. Intelligence sharing and close cooperation with foreign law enforcement and intelligence agencies have done more to round up suspected terrorists than blunt military force.
Call to Rethink Afghanistan and ‘War on Terror’
A coalition of major U.S. non-government organizations will be campaigning for peace nationwide in October, including teach-ins, demonstrations and new, award-winning film screenings.
The peace project follows a recess during which hope for change under the Obama administration has gradually dwindled due to no change in U.S. foreign policy including the “long war.”
The antiwar silence has been “crashingly deafening” says Cindy Sheehan on her pilgrimage to Martha’s Vineyard to protest her son’s death and all other innocent people killed over a falsified cause for war. (John Walsh, The Silence of the Antiwar Movement is Deafening: Cindy Sheehan’s Lonely Pilgrimage to Martha’s Vineyard, Counterpunch, August 26, 2009) Sheehan’s protest coincided with President Obama’s vacation in the resort area.
CodePink founder, Medea Benjamin said, “We’re coming out of a low period. But as progressives feel more comfortable protesting against the Obama administration and challenging Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress, then we’ll be back on track.” James Dao, New York Times, American Antiwar Movement Plans an Autumn Campaign Against Policies on Afghanistan, August 30, 2009)
Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Military Families Speak Out, Votevets.org, Win Without War and U.S. Labor Against the War, a network of nearly 190 union affiliates, are among national organizations planning peaceful awareness raising about US foreign policy.
A demonstration for peace is scheduled in Washington D.C. next month.
United for Peace and other group are planning smaller, local opportunities to create peace through in other places around the country. Teach-ins with Veterans and families, ‘ad hoc memorials featuring the boots of deceased soldiers and Marines” and films are being scheduled according to the NY Times.
A restive antiwar movement, largely dormant since the election of Barack Obama, is preparing a nationwide campaign this fall to challenge the administration’s policies on Afghanistan.
Anticipating a Pentagon request for more troops there, antiwar leaders have engaged in a flurry of meetings to discuss a month of demonstrations, lobbying, teach-ins and memorials in October to publicize the casualty count, raise concerns about the cost of the war and pressure Congress to demand an exit strategy.
But they face a starkly changed political climate from just a year ago, when President George W. Bush provided a lightning rod for protests. The health care battle is consuming the resources of labor unions and other core Democratic groups. American troops are leaving Iraq, defusing antiwar sentiments in some quarters. The recession has hurt fund-raising for peace groups and forced them to slash budgets. And, perhaps most significant, many liberals continue to support Mr. Obama, or at least are hesitant about openly criticizing him.
“People do not want to take on the administration,” said Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org. “Generating the kind of money that would be required to challenge the president’s policies just isn’t going to happen.”
Tom Andrews, national director for an antiwar coalition, Win Without War, said most liberals “want this guy to succeed.” But he said the antiwar movement would try to convince liberals that a prolonged war would undermine Mr. Obama’s domestic agenda. Afghanistan, he said, “could be a devastating albatross around the president’s neck.”
In a powerful new documentary, “Security” from the Rethink Afghanistan project, three former high-ranking CIA agents explain why the war in Afghanistan is making the world more dangerous, rather than safer, for Americans.
Robert Baer, former CIA field operative in the Middle East and the author of “See No Evil,” says: “The notion that we are are in Afghanistan to make our country safer is complete bullshit.”
And Graham Fuller, former CIA station chief in Kabul, emphasizes: “Both wars have made the world much more dangerous for Americans and for any American presence overseas.”
The election of Barack Obama brought hope for change in our war policy, but this was an illusion. Early in his presidency he negotiated the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from Iraq over a 19-month period. However, this has now been extended to possibly 10 years; although this is slightly better than the 100 years suggested by John McCain.
Then came the comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan in which he stated, “We have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan and to prevent their return to either country in the future …”
This column looks at the human costs of escalating the “war of terror” better known as the “war on terror” and offer suggestions for ways to get the voices of peace and sanity heard.
The BBC reported that in the first six months of 2009, the conflict in Afghanistan had resulted in 1,013 civilian casualties compared to only 818 in 2008 and only 684 in 2007. There has been a parallel rise in suicide bombing and roadside explosives, which usually result in many civilian deaths. There were no suicide bombings in Afghanistan before this “war of terror” began. The report says that from 2007 through 2009, insurgents were responsible for more deaths than the government-allied forces were, but two-thirds of the deaths caused by government-allied forces were from airstrikes. Recently, U.S. warplanes dropped bombs in a village in the western province of Farah that resulted in about 100 women, children and men turned into corpses and bits of human flesh by iron fragments. The Afghan survivors carted dozens of corpses in trucks from their village to the provincial capital to publicly denounce the carnage, shouting “Death to America!” U.S. forces have actually killed more civilian Afghans during 2009 than the Taliban has. Our military approach has backfired and has become a great recruiting tool for the Taliban.
By Chris Garofolo at Brattleboro Reformer
BRATTLEBORO — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has partnered with media pioneer Brave New Films to produce a weekly online series.
The “Senator Sanders Unfiltered” program will air once a week in five-minute segments featuring the Vermont Independent answering questions submitted by viewers nationwide via Twitter and Twitvid. Producers hope the show will provide an unprecedented look at the political and policy-making process on Capitol Hill while hearing the concerns from regular citizens.
“It is important that we as Americans have direct access to voices that are truthful, dauntless and unapologetic like that of Sen. Bernie Sanders. [This series] is going to provide that access,” said Robert Greenwald, producer and founder of Brave New Films. “Every week, he will talk about the issues that people are concerned about … and really be able to reach a large audience without any reservations or anything standing in the way.”
Sanders is the first senator in history to release a weekly online show addressing the concerns from everyday Americans. He said the move gives him another vehicle to publicize a more progressive perspective that is often overlooked in the national media.
“Frankly, I think that the media in general does not do a great job of keeping people informed about what’s going on in Washington (D.C.),” said Sanders. “I’m going to use this opportunity to provide a progressive analysis to the people of this country, and I feel good about it.”According to Sanders, there is a strong need for progressive voices in the mainstream to counter the right-wing voices and ideologies.
“Our nation is on the brink of tremendous change, with issues like health care reform, the environment and banking regulations. This series will provide alternative, progressive perspectives that are not being covered by the mainstream media, he said. “It just gives me, as a U.S. Senator, the opportunity to speak with people without a filter and respond to the questions they have.”
Greenwald said the Vermont senator has stayed in touch with his constituents throughout his political career using the latest technological advances. Sanders was one of the first to recognize how important the Internet would become for alternative news outlets and reaching out directly to Americans, he said.
“One of my jobs as an elected official is to do my best to explain to people why things are the way they are and what we can do to improve it,” said Sanders. “I think that’s part of what our job is about … not sitting in an office away from people.”
The first online episode (or Webisode) aired Monday, about a week after the site’s trailer appeared showing Sanders arguing against corporate greed and the high costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 41,000 viewers have checked out the initial episode.
“I think we’re off to a good start … it’s kind of an interesting experiment and we’ll see how it works,” said Sanders.
“The response to the first show was really overwhelming,” said Greenwald. The success should come as no surprise to Greenwald — Brave New Films’ online videos have reached more than 45 million viewers.
To watch the online series or to submit a question to the senator, interested residents can visit www.sandersunfiltered.com.
By Stephanie Condon at CBS News
The White House and other Democrats are increasingly taking aim at the insurance industry to promote health care reform, but one Democratic congressman reportedly says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went too far when she referred to the industry as “villains.”
Rep. John Yarmuth (D- Ky.) sent a letter earlier this month to the chief executive of the Louisville-based insurance company, calling Pelosi’s comments “inflammatory” and “misguided,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
“They are the villains in this,” Pelosi said of the insurance industry in a July press conference. “They have been part of the problem in a major way.”
“Regrettably, with passions inflamed throughout the country, Speaker Pelosi recently made inflammatory statements that assailed the character of health insurers across the board. I unequivocally reject those misguided comments,” Yarmuth wrote in an Aug. 4 letter to Humana executive Michael McCallister, the Courier-Journal reports. “Not only do such overtures distract from a constructive debate, they are simply untrue. That certain insurers have engaged in unscrupulous practices cannot be denied, but to paint an entire industry with a single stroke is unfair.”
Yarmuth reportedly wrote the letter after Humana requested a discussion with Pelosi about her remarks. He said he was concerned about the impressions of the 7,000 Louisville workers employed by Humana.
The insurance industry has warned health care reform supporters that attacking them would be unproductive. The industry is seen as largely responsible for killing health care reform efforts in the 1990’s.
That has not kept President Obama, however, from assailing insurance companies that he said “reaped windfall profits from a broken system.” As doubts have grown about some of the more controversial parts of Mr. Obama’s plans, such as the government-sponsored insurance option, the president has increasingly focused on emphasizing the need for new regulations on the insurance industry.
Meanwhile, outside pro-reform activists are likwise hitting the insurance industry hard. Director Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films, for instance, have launched an online campaign called Sick for Profit that targets well-paid insurance executives.