Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

The Taliban is on the side of the anti-“Ground Zero Mosque” protesters

September 2, 2010

One of my first posts on this blog when I started it about a year ago quoted the Washington Independent on the issue of pre-emptive detention:

“We appreciate that the United States has security concerns about Yemen, but continuing to hold these men without charge is morally wrong, is in violation of court orders, and it’s handing al-Qaeda a recruiting tool,” said Letta Taylor, a researcher for Human Rights Watch…”

Later I wrote about Anwar al-Awlaki and how President Obama authorized his assassination, even if he’s found to be outside of any battlefield in which the US military is engaged. Here’s one of the problems I had with that policy:

And what’s more is that the perceived positive effects of such an assassination are pretty unlikely to actually happen. It’s not going to destabilize al Qaeda. If anything it’d give them a martyr and a recruiting mantra.

And later I wrote about a NY Times piece by Nicholas Krystoff on the cost and allocation of resources in the Afghanistan war:

Some other comparisons of costs really bring home the waste of the military occupation of Afghanistan. The money spent on deploying a single soldier there could be used to build 20 schools. A single cruise missile’s price tag is equivalent to 11 schools. And really, which is more corrosive to fundamentalist Islam: Cruise missiles that kill families and give recruiting slogans to al Qaeda, or education?

So there’s this recurring theme here. The policies which are based on this idea of a culture war between the Muslim world and the West are in the interests of the fringe elements of Islam which want to escalate this global conflict. Radical Muslim terrorist networks actually like it when US foreign policy fits with their demonization of all Americans. It gives their propaganda an element of truth which the average potential suicide bomber on the street can relate to. It bridges the gap between those with legitimate grievances regarding American foreign policy and our support for autocratic regimes in the Middle East and the committed religious fanatics who would hate the evil secular Americans no matter what. And now this same phenomenon of appeasing the terrorists by adopting short-sighted, emotionally-fueled, reactionary policies is applying to our domestic policies, specifically in the case of the Park 51 Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero. From Newsweek:

“By preventing this mosque from being built, America is doing us a big favor,” Taliban operative Zabihullah tells NEWSWEEK. (Like many Afghans, he uses a single name.) “It’s providing us with more recruits, donations, and popular support.”

Zabihullah speculates about an increase in potential future attacks, but you don’t even need to depend on those kinds of predictions to see the effect this “controversy” is having on the Afghan public. Apparently the effect is already apparent:

Zabihullah also claims that the issue is such a propaganda windfall—so tailor-made to show how “anti-Islamic” America is—that it now heads the list of talking points in Taliban meetings with fighters, villagers, and potential recruits. “We talk about how America tortures with waterboarding, about the cruel confinement of Muslims in wire cages in Guantánamo, about the killing of innocent women and children in air attacks—and now America gives us another gift with its street protests to prevent a mosque from being built in New York,” Zabihullah says. “Showing reality always makes the best propaganda.”

Zabihullah’s coldness in how he reacts with joy to such atrocities definitely fits with the popular perception of how radical Muslims don’t care about human life. So it’s difficult to see why this connection is so rarely made, especially amongst US policymakers. Our enemies won’t be deterred by idiotic protesters trying to stop the community center of death. That just encourages them. They care more about the great mosque in the sky than they do about the average NYC Muslims looking for a place to go on Fridays, whom the radical Muslims view as too liberal, assimilated, and Americanized for their tastes anyways.

WikiLeaks v. Pentagon

August 1, 2010

So it’s been a week since WikiLeaks published the leaked internal US military documents which detail some aspects of the occupation of Afghanistan which the administration would rather not emphasize. Like how Pakistan’s ISI is funneling our ‘aid’ back to the Taliban, which they then use to attack our troops. And civilian casualties are being massively underreported. And there’s a secret task force which captures and executes Taliban leaders. Oh yeah, and the US military is paying Afghani journalists to write favorable stories about the occupation.

Certain people can be expected to react to this leak in certain ways. Republicans will insist that we firebomb the internet and every last one of its many series of pneumatic tubes. Liz Cheney just now said something like that, as if anyone gives a shit.  Newt Gingrich is calling it treason, etc.

If you’ve paid attention to the Obama administration’s pattern of hostility towards whistleblowers, then it’s not very difficult to predict how they would react. Here’s White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs being questioned:

Q Thanks, Robert. Two questions, a few on WikiLeaks. What was the President’s reaction once he heard about the leaking —
MR. GIBBS: Well, I remember talking to the President sometime last week after discussions with news organizations that these stories were coming. Look, I think our reaction to this type of material, a breach of federal law, is always the same, and that is whenever you have the potential for names and for operations and for programs to be out there in the public domain, that it — besides being against the law — has a potential to be very harmful to those that are in our military, those that are cooperating with our military, and those that are working to keep us safe.

OK, got that? This is all VERY SERIOUS and will PUT ALL OF OUR TROOPS IN DANGER, and by the way it’s also a FEDERAL CRIME. If it’s putting our troops in danger to have this information publicly available, it must be the case that this is new information in the public sphere. Because if it were already known, then there would be no danger in releasing it. Right? Well, only a few questions later, Gibbs contradicts that line of reasoning:

MR. GIBBS:  Well, let’s understand a few things about the documents.  Based on what we’ve seen, I don’t think that what is being reported hasn’t in many ways been publicly discussed either by you all or by representatives of the U.S. government for quite some time.

So the WikiLeaks data dump is at the same time both YAWN OLD NEWS and VERY SERIOUS TREASONOUS TROOP-KILLING CRIMES. Julian Assange must be both a dangerous anti-American criminal and a harmless kid living in his parent’s basement all at the same time. That’s pretty much how it plays out inside the heads of people like Robert Gibbs and the President.

But all that’s not that surprising, especially given the aforementioned administration’s record on whistleblowers and the internet in general. What’s more surprising is that one of the three publications given access to the documents pre-publication, the NY Times, has basically been toeing the administration’s line on their own leak. And the Washington Post has been producing their copy on the subject pretty much directly from the Republicans’ playbook. The two other newspapers (Der Spiegel and The Guardian) have been a bit more responsible and independent, to their credit.

If you’ve been following the ongoing saga of WikiLeaks, you might remember the ‘Collateral Murder’ video they released a few months ago of the US military shooting at a group of people from a helicopter which turned out to be civilians and a journalist. US Army Intelligence Analyst Bradley Manning was charged with forwarding the video based on an online conversation he had with a hacker named Adrian Lamo who subsequently informed on him. Manning is now in the brig in Virginia, where he faces a sentence of up to 52 years. And now the NY Times is quoting unnamed Pentagon officials who claim that Manning is a “person of interest” in the case of these newly-released documents. Here you can find a support group for Manning.

The Pentagon’s also going after WikiLeaks founder/editor Julian Assange, who’s more or less on the run. He is wanted for questioning, presumably to verify or deny whether or not Manning was the source of the Afghan War Diary. And oh yeah, they’d also like WikiLeaks to be shut down, please. For now, Assange is staying out of the US and responding strongly to comments from the administration. As a side note, he’s also trying to turn Iceland into a journalistic refugee’s paradise.

Now two more things just happened in the past day or two. First, a WikiLeaks volunteer named Jacob Appelbaum was detained, searched, and interrogated by US Customs officials at the Newark airport. They asked him to decrypt his laptop, an offer he refused. Then they confiscated it, but his laptop had no storage device and therefore there was nothing for the officials to search. He was later approached by FBI agents at a conference where he gave a talk in place of Julian Assange, who could not attend for reasons which should by now be pretty obvious.

The second recent development was WikiLeaks posting a mysterious encrypted 1.4 GB file called ‘insurance’ on their Afghan War Logs page. There are no instructions or details on what it’s supposed to be, but the general consensus is that a password will be issued in the event that anything fishy happens to WikiLeaks, Assange, or anyone associated with them. This is turning into a very interesting conflict, much better than anti-war protesters v. cops. But don’t bother downloading the file just to see if the password is “password,” that’s already been checked.

Krystof on the cost of the war in Afghanistan

July 31, 2010

Nicholas Krystoff of the NY Times has a great article on the cost of the US’ longest war / military occupation. It plays on an angle that is, if you ask me, kind of missing the point; but it appeals to the more xenophobic of our population, and it turns out that there are a lot more of them than which most of us would be comfortable. To me, the stronger appeal of stopping the war is in that it’s causing more unnecessary harm than good. I could imagine a case being made for it if that were not the case even if the cost were great.

He starts off with a pretty simple fact:

The war in Afghanistan will consume more money this year alone than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War — combined.

Now you’re probably thinking that’s an obvious statement since he’s probably only talking about the cost of those wars in terms of the rate of inflation of those times. But those are all adjusted for inflation before you even combine them, according to this report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service. And that’s just this year – we’ve already had 8 other years leading up to this one.

Some other comparisons of costs really bring home the waste of the military occupation of Afghanistan. The money spent on deploying a single soldier there could be used to build 20 schools. A single cruise missile’s price tag is equivalent to 11 schools. And really, which is more corrosive to fundamentalist Islam: Cruise missiles that kill families and give recruiting slogans to al Qaeda, or education? As long as we’re not talking about the Wahabi madrasahs that get funded by outsiders and the Taliban in the absence of secular education, the latter’s bound to work and the former is bound to fail.

And it has failed, and failed hard. Today’s the last day of July, and this month has set a new record for US casualties in Afghanistan. The old record? Well, that was June, 2010. So much for winning their hearts and minds. Obama can fire all the generals and tweak all the knobs he wants, but this war’s going to remain a complete and utter failure when it’s pursued in this way.

no end in sight

June 3, 2010
  • “The Department of Defense announced yesterday the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Pfc. Jake W. Suter, 18, of Los Angeles, Calif., died May 29 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.”
  • “The Department of Defense announced yesterday the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Pfc. Alvaro R. Regalado Sessarego, 37, of Virginia Beach, Va., died May 30 at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, of injuries sustained April 18 from a non-combat related incident at Dahuk, Iraq.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.”
  • “The Department of Defense announced yesterday the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Spc. Jonathan K. Peney, 22, of Marietta, Ga., died June 1 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when he was shot by enemy forces.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.”

a very long war

June 1, 2010

“The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Anthony A. Dilisio, 20, of Macomb, Mich., died May 30 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, IIMarine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.”

More collateral murder

April 6, 2010

And in similar news in the “good war,” the US military has admitted to killing three civilian women in Afghanistan after denying involvement, having claimed that they were killed by the insurgency in an “honor killing.” Two of the women were pregnant.

The initial reaction by the military was that all of the witnesses had somehow conspired to blame it all on the “innocent” members of the military. And this was accepted as the correct response even though the witnesses all seemed to be coming forth with the exact same story. If you apply Occam’s Razor, you would have to accept that they were simply telling the truth and it was the military who was lying here.

From the Times:

“And in what would be a scandalous turn to the investigation, The Times of London reported Sunday night that Afghan investigators also determined that American forces not only killed the women but had also “dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath” and then “washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened.””

Digging bullets out of pregnant women’s bodies. Stay classy! Way to “win their hearts and minds.”

But like the earlier post, this is just another inevitable result of being in a war. And what exacerbates all this is that these wars really have no purpose behind them at all. It’s pretty much all still going on in order to perpetuate itself.

And just as a quick note here at the end, here is what might be a good reason why these senseless killings have continued for as long as they have.

1/3 of deaths from US drone attacks in Pakistan civilians, says report

October 20, 2009

The New America Foundation has a report out which seeks to tally the number of deaths from US drone attacks within Pakistan. According to their findings, one in every three deaths of that sort, or somewhere between 250 and 320, were civilians.

The methodology of the report excludes all but the most credible of news organizations’ reports on battle deaths, so even still this estimate is probably on the conservative side. And as Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent points out, there is a problem with determining who exactly is a “militant” and who is not. The line between combatant and civilian is blurry in a place like Pakistan.

If you were playing a video game and for every 2 bad guys you killed, you killed one innocent, you wouldn’t get very far in the game. So I’m going to propose that we adopt some kind of video game-based rule for a war strategy’s efficacy. If you couldn’t pull it off in 1943 (the game, see below) then it definitely shouldn’t be done in real life to real people.

Today is Blasphemy Day

September 30, 2009
OK, buddy. As long as its this God thing punishing us and not you.

OK, buddy. As long as it's this "God" thing punishing us and not you.

Four years ago today, some Danish newspaper printed some drawings of Mohammed and yada yada yada, a bunch of people burned shit down and then yada yada yada, now it’s Blasphemy Day.

The Center for Inquiry is having a Blasphemy Contest. The deadline is midnight tonight for verbal submissions (< 20 words), and the cartoon version is yet to be fully described.

There have been a lot of issues regarding blasphemy still, which is just completely fucking insane. This isn’t just about remembering some cruel past where people were severely punished or even killed because of what they said.

In the “liberated” Afghanistan, 24 year old journalist Parwiz Kambakhsh was given a 20 year sentence for blasphemy. His “crime” was in downloading an article which was critical of Islam’s treatment of women. Although, to be fair, he was recently pardoned by Karzai.

In India, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has been involved in attacks on women in pubs. They were said to be acting “obscenely.” By drinking with men to whom they were not married. That’s “obscene.” This is where you end up when you start allowing people to think they have a right to not be offended by anything ever.

The BJP then started a War On Valentine’s Day by trying to intimidate non-married couples from going out in public and maybe doing something OBSCENE like kissing or holding hands or something AWFUL like that. So some opponents of the BJP and their supporters started a campaign to send BJP leaders pairs of old ladies’ pink underwear.

And this past July, Ireland passed an anti-blasphemy law which made it a crime to cause “outrage among a substantial number of the adherents” of the religion so blasphemed. Since this is the nice, civilized western world, instead of decades in some of the worst prisons in the world, “offenders” are to be charged with a €100,000 €25,000 fine. There is now a campaign to repeal this legislation.

So celebrate Blasphemy Day today by offending someone. Not just anyone. Try to find someone who thinks they have a right to not hear about any ideas that might offend them and show them that they have no such right. Because if they did, nobody could ever say anything ever, since what we consider to be offensive is subjective. I might find the idea of another “National Treasure” movie offensive and nauseating, but that doesn’t mean I should be able to have Jerry Bruckheimer arrested.

Or should I? Does he ever travel to Ireland? Maybe these blasphemy laws have an upside after all.

Follow-up: “Faith is no reason”

John McCain’s hypothetical foreign policy = Obama’s actual foreign policy

August 28, 2009

Transcript from This Week With George Stephanolokolopopuloukopopolous:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Would we be fighting these two wars any differently if you were president now?

MCCAIN: Not now, but it’s very obvious that, for at least three years, we conducted the war in Iraq in the wrong fashion. And we paid a very heavy price in American blood and treasure. And we developed a strategy that worked. That strategy is adopted to the different conditions in Afghanistan.

So in other words, here we have John McCain admitting to both his base and Obama’s, that his foreign policy in regards to Iraq and Afghanistan would have been identical to what Obama has done by escalating the war in Afghanistan while ever-so-gradually pulling out of Iraq.

And since Obama is actually following through on his campaign promises in these matters, this proves that any of the alleged differences in foreign policy during the campaign were simply manufactured – from the Obama supporters making a fuss over McCain’s 100 years in Iraq to McCain supporters hysterically claiming that Obama was going to dissolve the military or something retarded like that.

Marital Rape

August 19, 2009

New law in “liberated” Afghanitan allows Shia men to starve their wives who refuse to fuck them. ReutersLondon Times

The Bahamas going the other way: Bill to outlaw marital rape stirs controversy. The Bahama Journal

It is ridiculous for them to try to make that a law, because I don’t think a man can rape his own wife. After two people get married, the Bible says that they become one – one flesh. How is it possible to rape what is yours?

It is ridiculous for them to try to make that a law, because I don’t think a man can rape his own wife. After two people get married, the Bible says that they become one – one flesh. How is it possible to rape what is yours?

And the worst part: That last one – well, it’s from a woman.