Obama expands — not just extends — US war on Afghanistan

It’s worth noting that Obama’s “decision” authorizing US troops’ role in Afghanistan in 2015 is not merely an extension of war he promised to end this year; it’s also an expansion, as US forces are now given new powers, allowed to kill new targets and use new weapons:

Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.

As Marcy Wheeler writes,

Virtually simultaneously with the decision to permit American forces to be more involved with the Afghan government, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has reversed Hamid Karzai’s ban on night raids — and also renamed them “night operations.”

The Times has more on that here:

Nazifullah Salarzai, Mr. Ghani’s spokesman, said that the American and NATO missions in 2015 would be governed by the security agreements the Afghan government has signed with the United States and with NATO.

Neither agreement precludes the possibility of joint night raids.

Some Afghans are worried about resumption of the raids.

The Taliban will be going into other people’s houses, and the Americans will be behind them again, and there will be losses again of women and children when Taliban shoot from people’s houses, and in reaction the foreigners will bomb or kill them,” said Haji Abdullah Jan, a local shura leader in the Maiwand District of Kandahar Province. “I am not in favor of night raids because we have experienced such huge losses from them during those past years.

Nevertheless, headlines have largely said that Obama merely “extended” the US’s role, implicitly focusing on the limited, less surprising, less interesting aspect of Obama’s hypocrisy. Continue reading “Obama expands — not just extends — US war on Afghanistan”

Syria: intervention update

The New York Times reports on what US bombs have done to regular civilians in Syria since airstrikes began this summer:

many people are angry at the Americans. Food and fuel prices in Raqqa have soared, power blackouts have prevailed, and order is now threatened by a vacuum of any authority.

For all their violence and intolerance toward disbelievers, the fighters of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, at least functioned as a government, providing basic services and some semblance of stability.

“People don’t want some outside power to attack,” Khalid Farhan, a Raqqa resident, said during a recent trip to Turkey.

Syrian civilians now see not that ISIS was a noble organization but that by contrast, American airstrikes have left them completely destabilized. Continue reading “Syria: intervention update”

Obama knew he was destabilizing Syria, and he did it anyway

In the Intercept, Dan Froomkin writes that ‘Obama Knew Arming Rebels [in Syria] Was Useless, But Did it Anyway.’ His argument is based on a “New York Times story about how President Obama asked the CIA a while back whether arming rebel forces – pretty much the agency’s signature strategy — had ever worked in the past.” It’s important to note that “worked” here, though never spelled out, essentially means “toppled the side that wasn’t U.S.-compliant in favor of one that’d bow to us in return for arming opposition forces.”

Froomkin largely chalks up Obama’s decision to “political pressure,” linking to this Fox News post, ‘Republicans urge Obama to enforce Syria ‘red line,’ oppose deploying troops.’ Even when the Democratic president arms the rebels, it’s the Republicans’ fault. By perpetuating the liberal trope that Democrats are peaceful in principle but spineless in the face of gridlock, Froomkin lets them off the hook and plays into their own political finger-pointing. Democrats couldn’t have justified it better themselves. Continue reading “Obama knew he was destabilizing Syria, and he did it anyway”

Empathy for empire

Molly Crabapple, a political artist whose artwork I frequently admire and appreciate and some of which decorates my walls, recently admonished what she terms the “Western left” for failing to properly and tangibly support the Syrian revolutionaries fighting their government. She coats this condemnation in deep concern for the Syrian people, but the barely latent thesis shines through: Crabapple is arguing for military intervention.

If it wasn’t clear, Crabapple elucidates when responding to questions about her piece from Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola.

Very often on the left there’s this way where we simplify things, where we’re like, ‘America has fucked up in the Middle East, America murdered hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq.’ And then we look at something like Syria where a nonviolent opposition was met with extreme violence and then after trying to arm themselves they were asking for military aid and we’re like “America’s fucked up in the Middle East, America’s murdered hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq. Let’s not even look at these people. Let’s pretend they don’t even exist.” And I think that there’s a legitimate debate about military aid and intervention.

Author and Western leftist David Mizner responded deftly to the original piece with ’For 3rd Anniversary of War in Syria, Molly Crabapple Turns Into a Liberal Hawk.’ He explains how Crabapple is refuting claims her subjects aren’t making to highlight her own empathy — those she condemns are not cheering the status quo, they are simply trying to prevent further horror. Continue reading “Empathy for empire”

UNAC Peace Conference: March 23-25 (now with audio)

Update: audio of the conference

Audio of my talk is here, starting shortly after the 17-minute mark. When video of the talk or the rest of the conference is online, I’ll post that as well.

Original Post:

This weekend, beginning tomorrow night, the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) is hosting a peace conference in Stamford, CT (just 45 minutes from Grand Central Station, NYC), to bring together major groups working to end war, imperialism, poverty, and social injustice.

I’ll be speaking briefly on a Sunday morning panel called “Victims of Political Repression Speak Out.” Representing the Bradley Manning Support Network, I’ll discuss the material PFC Manning is alleged to have leaked, why he shouldn’t be on trial in the first place, and how the military is railroading his court proceedings to make a chilling example of him.

The conference will be livestreamed here: http://cprmetro.blogspot.com/

Below is a schedule of speakers, panels, and workshops. Come if you can, or check out the livestream!

Continue reading “UNAC Peace Conference: March 23-25 (now with audio)”

Detention and Deception Revisited

Exactly four months ago, the United States marked the 10-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks – a day mixed with somber reflection, raging jingoism, and politicized commentary. Today we mark the 10-year anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility – a day of national shame. This is a prison rife with torture, trumped up charges, and hidden abuse. Guantánamo symbolizes the worst of … Continue reading Detention and Deception Revisited

Two-Tiered Transparency

Today National Journal reports that since March, the Justice Department has been investigating former top CIA lawyer John Rizzo for allegedly disclosing classified information about that agency’s highly secretive drone program. The Justice Dept. opened the investigation following Newsweek’s article, “Inside the Killing Machine,” in which Rizzo divulges specific details about the drone program. Reason for Rizzo to leak information on the CIA’s use of … Continue reading Two-Tiered Transparency

U.S. Trying to Profit from Bahrain’s Brutality

Representative James McGovern and Senator Ron Wyden have introduced joint legislation calling on the U.S. to suspend the sale of American-made weaponry to Bahrain, in light of that country’s violent, heinous crackdown on citizens protesting their leaders.

The bill provides a clear list of the extensive human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by the autocratic Bahraini government since February 2011.

These include the killing of at least 32 people (3 of whom were in detention), torturing detainees, limiting due process in military courts, holding political prisoners, failing to prosecute government officials accused of human rights violations, imprisoning doctors for treating political opponents, destroying mosques, and discriminating against Shi’ites. It’s exhaustive and disturbing. The congressmen note that Bahrain is party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against torture.

Due to these accusations, the U.S. State Department said that Bahrain warranted “human rights scrutiny” on June 15, 2011.

Yet on September 14, 2011, as the bill includes -with no formal investigation or no sign that the Bahraini government has ended these policies – the U.S. Defense Department proposed to congress a deal to sell $53,000,000 worth of military arms to Bahrain. Continue reading “U.S. Trying to Profit from Bahrain’s Brutality”

Secret Memo Justifying Killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki

Charlie Savage has an exclusive story in the New York Times on the details of the United States’ secret memo, written by administration lawyers, laying out arguments for the targeted killing of U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki. The memo, which remains classified and was discussed anonymously, is of particular importance because the Obama administration has thus far provided no evidence of al-Awlaki’s wrongdoing and no explanation … Continue reading Secret Memo Justifying Killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki

WikiLeaks reveals US opposed Afghanistan signing cluster bombs ban

As the Washington Post and Democracy Now report, diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks reveal the United States attempted to dissuade the Afghanistan government from ratifying the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Afghanistan joined at least 61 other countries (though one cable puts the number at 93) in vowing to “destroy their stockpiles and clear the munitions remnants from their territory.” Cluster bombs are especially heinous … Continue reading WikiLeaks reveals US opposed Afghanistan signing cluster bombs ban