Sunday, September 27, 2009

McCrystal requests 500,000 troops for 5 years in Afghanistan

Robert Naiman: McChrystal's "Ground Truth": Need Half a Million Boots on the Ground:

Andrea Mitchell reports: "with the leaks that have come, most likely from the military, about the troop strengths and all this, you have to really wonder, what would people expect? The numbers are really pretty horrifying. What they say, embedded in this report by McChrystal, is they would need 500,000 troops - boots on the ground - and five years to do the job. No one expects that the Afghan Army could step up to that. Are we gonna put even half that of U.S. troops there, and NATO forces? No way."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

VFP Chapter 14 tables at Crosby Stills and Nash Concert

Stephen Hunter

It was a beautiful day in St. Augustine for a concert under a canopied amphitheatre.
Bill Warrick (left) and myself, Stephen Hunter (right), represented the Gainesville, FL chapter of Veterans For Peace. We were joined by two members from the Central Florida chapter, Tom Santoni and Terry Buckenmeyer (center), both St. Augustine residents.
In the CS&N contract it states that local VFP members be provided with a table and chairs to hand out free literature about VFP and our activities. As stated in our charter, we must remain unbiased in our presentations.
Along with VFP, the Autism Speaks group, promoting autism awareness and Donate Life, an organization promoting organ donations were represented. The band is devoted to supporting these organizations.
Bill and I arrived in the parking lot at the exact same time as the St. Augustine members. (There was a little grumbling about being charged to park...) We pooled our resources and carried all our materials to the gate. We were met by a helpful attendant who was expecting us. It was just minutes before we gained entry and were led to our table. We hung the banners and placed a sign, set up the table with our literature and waited, watching what was happening in the pre-concert atmosphere as masses of fans (mostly aging ex-hippies like ourselves) were gathering at the gates.
In our bundle of materials brought were gifts for the band, T-shirts reading "Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam" a book Lions of Medina and a CD on "Winter Soldier II." We contacted the "guy in charge" again and told him we had things for the band. Graham Nash's son, Will, came to see us and received the gifts for his dad and the rest of the band. We had hoped that the band might come out to see us, but to our (mild) disappointment, they did not. It is understandable that they can't just walk around in a huge crowd of fans.
Our table was just a few yards from the arena and we could hear all of the concert. We took turns going in to watch. With a triple encore, it was a good time for us all to the very end.
We encountered a lot of interest about our organization. Many who stopped by had family or friends, either in the military or thinking about joining. We handed out "Enlistment Guides" explaining the truth about recruiting and what to expect from the military, the VA and other organizations concerned with the welfare of our men and women in uniform.
Some people told us stories of people they knew and how they have been treated. One school teacher from a St. Augustine high school requested a stack of "Enlistment Guides" to hand to her students. A lot of people asked questions and took literature from the St. Augustine representatives. Their chapter may be getting new aapplications for membership. Overall, I think VFP was well received.
We want to thank Crosby, Stills and Nash for supporting our efforts to promote peace.

Why I threw the shoe | And Why We at VFP Stand Against the Occupation of Iraq

Why I threw the shoe | Muntazer al-Zaidi | The Guardian:
This is for me the heart of why I participate in Vets For Peace.

"I am free. But my country is still a prisoner of war. There has been a lot of talk about the action and about the person who took it, and about the hero and the heroic act, and the symbol and the symbolic act. But, simply, I answer: what compelled me to act is the injustice that befell my people, and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by putting it under its boot.

Over recent years, more than a million martyrs have fallen by the bullets of the occupation and Iraq is now filled with more than five million orphans, a million widows and hundreds of thousands of maimed. Many millions are homeless inside and outside the country.

We used to be a nation in which the Arab would share with the Turkman and the Kurd and the Assyrian and the Sabean and the Yazid his daily bread. And the Shia would pray with the Sunni in one.

Our patience and our solidarity did not make us forget the oppression. But the invasion divided brother from brother, neighbor from neighbor. It turned our homes into funeral tents."...

"As soon as I finished my professional duties in reporting the daily tragedies, while I washed away the remains of the debris of the ruined Iraqi houses, or the blood that stained my clothes, I would clench my teeth and make a pledge to our victims, a pledge of vengeance.

The opportunity came, and I took it...

When I threw the shoe in the face of the criminal, George Bush, I wanted to express my rejection of his lies, his occupation of my country, my rejection of his killing my people. My rejection of his plundering the wealth of my country, and destroying its infrastructure. And casting out its sons into a diaspora."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Juan Cole on Afghan - nam and the End of Western Colonialism in Asia

Informed Comment
Some excerpts from Juan Cole's analysis on Afghanistan. Whole article is linked above.

"Obama ... rejected any analogy between Vietnam and Afghanistan: “You have to learn lessons from history. On the other hand, each historical moment is different. You never step into the same river twice. And so Afghanistan is not Vietnam.” Obama may be the first American president to quote pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus."...

"the process of decolonization after WW II, while it unfolded differently in different colonies/ countries, did have some common or at least widespread characteristics. One of the reasons the Project for a New American Century and the Bush administration failed in their attempt to reinvent 19th-century empire in the 21st century is that peoples of the global south are now politically and socially mobilized en masse in a way they were not in 1850. Some 15,000 British troops could no longer hope to hold all of India. In some important respects, "Vietnam" partook of characteristics of decolonization and one could compare it to Algeria, e.g."...

"On Wednesday morning, MSNBC's "Morning Joe" had as a guest Jamie Rubin, an adjunct professor at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia U., and a "kitchen" adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the president (also husband of CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour). Rubin also took up cudgels against the Vietnam analogy.
"I think that Vietnam is a terribly debilitating analogy for our country. Every time something is difficult, we say, oh, it's Vietnam."...

Afghanistan and Vietnam have nothing to do with each other. The whole world is on our side in Afghanistan; the whole world was clearly not on our side in Vietnam."...

Here is Juan Cole's answer to Professor Rubin:

Afghanistan differs from Iraq in the following respects:

1) The Pashtuns from whom the anti-government forces derive are some 44% of the population, not a 20% or less minority the way the Sunnis of Iraq are. While most Pashtuns still reject the guerrillas, so did most Sunni Arabs reject the extremist guerrillas; the latter still controlled significant swathes of Sunni Iraq. The Taliban and kindred groups are a significant presence everywhere there are large Pashtun populations.

2) The Tajik and Hazara militias have largely been demobilized and are not available for deployment against the Taliban and other fundamentalist groups. The pro-Kabul Pashtuns typically do not have militias.

3) The pro-Karzai Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazara Shiites and Uzbeks that form the ruling clique are not united, and the government they dominate is extremely weak and poverty-stricken (the GDP in international currency [not purchasing power parity] is only about $9 bn a year, and the government budget is a little over $1 bn.). Iraq has something close to $70 bn. in reserves from oil sales. The Afghan government controls only 30% of the country. The country is resource-poor and there is no prospect of it having a proper tax base for a competent bureaucracy and army any time soon.

4) The Pashtun plurality is backed by the enormous Sunni country of Pakistan, whereas the pro-Kabul Pashtuns have no regional foreign patron to speak of; Iran generally supports the Tajiks and Hazaras, but it is hard to discern that they have pumped very significant resources into the country. In essence, Washington's regional ally, Pakistan, is ambivalent about the Tajik/Hazara/Uzbek takeover of Kabul and not close to Karzai's faction of Pashtuns.

5) In the aftermath of the recent election, probably a majority of Afghans and of Pashtuns sees the Karzai government as corrupt and illegitimate.

6) The Afghan army has faced extreme difficulties in training and expansion. Some 90% of the troops are illiterate, which limits how much they can be trained and even their ability to read street signs when they are sent into an unfamiliar city. (Iraq's literacy rate is 76%). Many Afghan troops lack discipline and some proportion regularly use recreational drugs during work hours. There is no evidence of any great esprit de corps or attachment to the Karzai government, in contrast to the Iraqi army's willingness to fight for PM Nuri al-Maliki and his ruling coalition.

7) US troops have proven unable to disarm the Taliban, Hizb-i Islam, or the Haqqani group. The number of fighters attached to these guerrilla groups has grown from 3,000 a few years ago to 15,000- 20,000 today. They are local, know the terrain, and receive patronage and support from Pashtun tribes who resent the foreign troop presence.

8) Pashtuns are not for the most part secularists, and a combination of religious and nationalist rhetoric such as is deployed by old-time guerrilla leader Gulbadin Hikmatyar and his "Islamic Party" has a great deal of appeal to them. Although the Taliban are only thought well of by 5% of Afghans in polls, that is probably 10% of Pashtuns. And many of the guerrilla groups opposing Karzai are not properly called Taliban (Pashtuns in Kunar Province are not thinking of Islamic Party when they denounce Taliban). Virtually no Pashtuns, who are a plurality of the country and the largest single ethnic group, want US or NATO troops in their country.

So Afghanistan is not very much like Iraq (there are other differences, as in the organization of the tribes), and if Rubin advises H. Clinton and Obama to depend on a "surge" plus a "Sons of Afghanistan" artificial militia policy, I think that would be dangerous advice.

Afghanistan is more like Vietnam than Obama and Rubin suggest. And, it is becoming more like it all the time."...

"By the way, Mr. Rubin, we Americans don't call "anything that is hard" Vietnam. We don't call keeping up a space station "Vietnam" or getting universal health care "Vietnam." We invoke Vietnam against long, costly Asian land wars, the objectives of which are murky and the medium-term and long-term success of which is in significant doubt. And by these criteria, Afghanistan has "Vietnam" written all over it."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Good Soldiers chronicles 15 months in Bagdad during the Surge

Daily Kos: State of the Nation

Not since Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried has there been such a searing, unembellished and unforgettable look at war as David Finkel's The Good Soldiers, a journal-like account of 15 months spent with the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, aka the 2-16, aka the "Rangers," in a little slice of vicious hell in Baghdad that everyone, even generals, avoids visiting if they can.

Finkel, a Pulitizer-Prize winning staff writer for the Washington Post, documents the ups and downs--mostly downs--of the Rangers as they become the front line in George W. Bush's infamous "surge," following the soldiers from their home base at Ft. Riley, Kansas, to the IED-mined roads of Baghdad. He follows them and he follows them and he follows them ... to their breakdowns, to their hospital bedsides and even, unfortunately, to their graves, in what has to be one of the most astounding, heartbreaking and beautifully written chronicles of men at war ever written.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Florida Mass March on Weapons Makers in Orlando

Here is an event in line with our recent pickets. Also on our calendar
“End the War Economy”

Healthcare, Not Warfare

12pm, Saturday, October 17th

ORLANDO – In mid-October peace activists will hold two days of protest against corporate war profiteers based at the Central Florida Research Park in Orlando .

On Wednesday, October 14, 2009, a 12pm rally will be held at the free assembly area in front of the Student Union Building on the University of Central Floridacampus. This will be a prelude to Saturday’s demonstration.

Starting at 12pm, Saturday, October 17th a rally will be held at the South East corner of Alafaya Blvd. (SR 434) and University Blvd , the main entrance to the University of Central Florida in Orlando . Following the rally participants will march 1/4 mile south along Alfaya Blvd. to the Central Florida Research Parkentrance to demand an end to the war economy.

Parking is available in strip mall lots on the west side of Alafaya Blvd. on both sides of University Blvd. (Beware of lots with parking restrictions and tow warnings.)
The October 17th march is being held in solidarity with anti-war groups around the nation who are participating in a day of protest and action on October 17. During the summer a call for a nationwide day of action was issued by the National Assembly Against the Occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan .
The events are being organized by the Florida Peace Congress (FPC), a group which seeks to empower and unite peace/anti-war groups throughout the state of Florida . To date the Orlando action has been endorsed by more than 20 groups representing Miami , Tampa , St. Augustine , and Jacksonville . (List of endorsers below.)


While more than 18,000 Americans die annually for lack of healthcare services[1](USA Today, 5/22/02) the United States allots more than $600 billion dollars for military spending each year. In June 2009 the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that the U.S. accounted for 42-percent of the global arms spending in 2008. The U.S. military budget is more than 7 times that of China .

Orlando’s Research Park is home to four of the top 10 recipients of tax payer dollars via the United States ’ bloated military budget. These corporations and their respective rank and earnings among defense contractors are:

#2 Boeing - $32 billion (2007)

#4 Northrup Grumman - $24 billion (2007)

#5 General Dynamics – $21 billion (2007)

#6 Raytheon – $19 billion (2007)

In total, these four corporations received $96 billion dollars in tax payer dollars in 2007 via the military budget.

Protest participants will call on Florida elected representatives, weapons makers’ employees, and the Florida general public to denounce the U.S. wars in Iraq , Afghanistan , and Pakistan , and militarism in general.

In his April 4, 1967 speech, "Beyond Vietnam," Rev. Martin Luther King said: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Organizers contend that the U.S. has a moral obligation to prioritize the funding of human needs over war profiteering.

Organizers also call on President Barack Obama to take note of Rev. King’s realization that "the potential destructiveness of modern weapons of war totally rules out the possibilities of war ever serving again as a negative good."

For more information contact Jay D. Jurie at 407-323-5247 or


Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Few Good Kids? | Mother Jones

A Few Good Kids? | Mother Jones:
One interesting item here that is new to me is that the US has signed an international treaty that does not allow recruiting under the age of 18 without parental consent. and yet many of the ads and video games and other recruitment tools being used here are actually indoctrinating kids under 18. My Scholastic Science World magazines have full page recruiting ads and are being used by my 11 year old 6th graders. I have called Scholastic and complained and we have stopped ordering that magazine but it is read all over the country by literally millions of young kids.

"John Travers was striding purposefully into the Westfield mall in Wheaton, Maryland, for some back-to-school shopping before starting his junior year at Bowling Green State University. When I asked him whether he'd ever talked to a military recruiter, Travers, a 19-year-old African American with a buzz cut, a crisp white T-shirt, and a diamond stud in his left ear, smiled wryly. 'To get to lunch in my high school, you had to pass recruiters,' he said. 'It was overwhelming.' Then he added, 'I thought the recruiters had too much information about me. They called me, but I never gave them my phone number.'

Nor did he give the recruiters his email address, Social Security number, or details about his ethnicity, shopping habits, or college plans. Yet they probably knew all that, too. In the past few years, the military has mounted a virtual invasion into the lives of young Americans. Using data mining, stealth websites, career tests, and sophisticated marketing software, the Pentagon is harvesting and analyzing information on everything from high school students' GPAs and SAT scores to which video games they play. Before an Army recruiter even picks up the phone to call a prospect like Travers, the soldier may know more about the kid's habits than do his own parents."
"NCLB is just the tip of the data iceberg. In 2005, privacy advocates discovered that the Pentagon had spent the past two years quietly amassing records from Selective Service, state DMVs, and data brokers to create a database of tens of millions of young adults and teens, some as young as 15. The massive data-mining project is overseen by the Joint Advertising Market Research & Studies program, whose website has described the database, which now holds 34 million names, as "arguably the largest repository of 16-25-year-old youth data in the country." The JAMRS database is in turn run by Equifax, the credit reporting giant."

If you liked this, you might also like...

Fast Times at Recruitment High
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan invited the Pentagon into Chicago's schools. Will he promote military schools nationwide?
No Child Unrecruited
Should the military be given the names of every high school student in America?
War Games: The Army's Teen Arsenal
"America's Army" and more government shooter game lures.

Service Dogs Help Traumatized Veterans Heal - US News and World Report

Service Dogs Help Traumatized Veterans Heal - US News and World Report

THURSDAY, Sept. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Iraq war veteran Jennifer Pacanowski was unaware that she was racing dangerously down the freeway at 85 miles an hour when she felt a wet nose nudge her elbow.

She immediately slowed down.

The wet nose belonged to Boo, Pacanowski's 110-pound Bull Mastiff, warning her that her anxiety levels were rising, a dangerous state given that Pacanowski has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from her experiences as a medic in the war.

Boo, who turned 1 in August, has been with Pacanowski, helping her deal with the world since last December.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

School of Americas comes to Florida?

Eagle training center price tag: $425 million
Questions are being raised about this development in the Everglades wilderness of South Florida by environmental organizations who fear the effects of live bullets in a 2000 acre free fire zone and air traffic associated with a 6000 foot runway both planned by Eagle enterprises of South Florida as a private military training facility. The area is home to endangered Black Bear, Florida Panther and Swallowtail Kites.

Critical Meeting Dates:
The Highland County PLANNING AND ZONING Board voted August 11, 2009 to suggest approval of the Eagle Training Center..
Their suggestion will be voted on by the County Commission at a public meeting, Sept 15, 9am.

The Highlands County Board of County Commissioners' (HCBCC) Land Use Change hearing was scheduled for August 18, and people were encouraged to attend. It was canceled when people from many local civic and environmental organizations showed up with questions. This Eagle Land Use agenda item may be moved to the October 6 meeting, both meetings are important to attend both to show the HCBCC that there is growing opposition.

Good links for updates on these meetings are:
Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition
Save Our Creeks

More info from Highlands Today article from August 27th:
"On a dozen sections of land in the southeast corner of Highlands County, Eagle is proposing to build a training center for what he calls first responders - police, fire and EMS personnel - plus corporate security personnel and soldiers.

"It's going to be a state-of-the-art security training center," Eagle said. "Everyone needs continuing education."

Opponents are upset because they think it will be a School of the Americas to train foreign and domestic mercenaries, like Blackwater.

"It's not going to be Blackwater, or anything like that. It's not going to be a shoot 'em up situation," Eagle said. "There will be no mercenaries.""


In documents submitted to the Highlands County Planning Department, Eagle National Security Training Center proposed to build 100,000 square feet of classrooms and administrative buildings, 40,000 square feet of military-style shoot-houses and three five-story training buildings, 1,000 dorms, 25 single-family homes, 100 multi-family apartments, and two 250-feet tall training towers - a total of 950,000 square feet of buildings.

Eagle would have its own central water and sewer facilities, 1,000 square feet of security gatehouses, a welcome center, and food and beverage facilities. Eagle's document describes the property as 7,696 acres, or 12 square miles in the southwest corner of Highlands County. The property borders Glades, DeSoto and Charlotte counties.

For comparison purposes, Avon Park Wal-Mart is 190,819 square feet; Lakeshore Mall takes up 650,000 square feet. Twelve square miles is bigger than the city of Sebring, which takes up 11.1 square miles.

"It is anticipated that the training center will create approximately 250 jobs with a student body of 1,000," Eagle's document says. U.S. military and civilians will be the initial focus, the document said, but "the international market ... will be accepted for training, education and exercises."

The Players include:
Greg "Eagle is a Vietnam-era veteran, but didn't want to talk about that. He is involved with his brothers in Eagle Realty of Southwest Florida. He has built a Wal-Mart, hospitals, shopping centers and residential subdivisions, but nothing people outside his area would know.

His son, Dane Eagle, is the finance director on Gov. Charlie Crist's staff.

The Miami Herald, in a 2008 story, reported Eagle gave $500,000 to a 527, Floridians for a Better and Brighter Future, that would help Crist and oppose Tom Gallagher. The St. Pete Times said he later contributed another $250,000.

However, Eagle said the Crist Administration will not help him, or play any part in Eagle National Security Training Center."

The project also involves Two Army lieutenant generals Paul Cerjan and Jerry Boykin, and Marine Gen. Dobie MacArthur. Boykin is widely known for his extreme anti-muslim views and the promotion of right wing fundamentalist Christianity in the military.

Eagle was also involved in the "Grove Tactical Training and Homeland Security Center - proposed three years ago in Charlotte County - will be nothing like the Eagle Center in Highlands County. He didn't want to talk about that project."

Reading the comments from residents you can see that many many good questions about safety, cost of the development to local government and environmental concerns like how the water quality of the watersheds of the the Peace River and Fish Eating Creek will be monitored along with concerns for wild life have gone unanswered. And the August 18th meeting was canceled when people showed up with questions. Go to these meetings if you can! Florida does not need another environmental disaster or a School of Americas type training site in her borders. She has enough problems already!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Juan Cole on Escalation in Afghanistan

McChrystal Advises Escalation of Aghan War
Juan Cole responds (and its pretty grim):
"I have some basic questions about the "take, clear and hold" strategy that seems to be recommended in Afghanistan by Gen. Stan McChrystal, and which is modeled on the alleged lessons of Iraq.

The Sunni Arabs of Iraq, who produced most of the insurgency against the US presence and the rise of a new Shiite government, amount to less than 20 percent of Iraq's population of 27 million. In other words, they are about 5 million strong. The compact Sunni areas such as al-Anbar Province have been special challenges.

The Pashtuns of Afghanistan, in contrast, are probably 44% of the population of 34 million, or a little over 14 million.

In other words, pacifying the Pashtuns from whom the Taliban emerge is three times more difficult than monitoring and pacifying Iraq.

Moreover, the Sunni Arabs were ethnically cleansed from Baghdad by Shiite militias, making them more willing to listen to the US and to form Awakening Councils. The Pashtuns have not been defeated by anyone.

I doubt the US & NATO have the sheer resources to put down the guerrillas in Afghanistan."

Health Care not Warfare and single payer

YouTube - The Single-payer Movement with Dennis Kucinich