Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Empire For Ever - Working Americans Denied basic services because US maintains 737 bases and 250,000+ military personnel world wide

Empire For Ever - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: "Occupations are the foreign equivalent of entitlement programs. They never end. Why should Americans be denied basic access to health insurance because the money is going to sustain 50,000 troops in Germany, for Pete's sake, or to tamp down sectarian conflicts that have existed for centuries in a country we had no troops in for all of US history until 2003?

When will this madness end? Do we really have to go completely bankrupt and be forced to withdraw from these anachronistic pretensions? Are seven years not enough?"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Informed Comment: Mullah Baradar, No. 2 Man in Old Taliban, Captured by ISI in Karachi

Informed Comment: Mullah Baradar, No. 2 Man in Old Taliban, Captured by ISI in Karachi

Juan Cole provides some great background on Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As usual his analysis makes a lot of sense

Cole explains the cooperation of Pakistan on this operation:
"My own suspicion is that Mullah Baradar was behind the violence against Shiites in Karachi this winter. Provoking Sunni-Shiite violence so as to destabilize Pakistan's financial and industrial hub would be a typical al-Qaeda tactic. The bombings succeeded in provoking major riots and property damage. But when you hurt stock prices and harm government revenues, you rather draw the attention to yourself of the country's elite and their security forces, since you have mightily inconvenienced them. As long as the Old Taliban were mainly bothering the government of Hamid Karzai over the border in Afghanistan, the ISI might have been able to turn a blind eye to them. But if they were going to cause billions of dollars of damage to Karachi, which they did this winter, that is intolerable."

He describes the groups operating under the AL Qaeda as follows:

"(There are four groups typically but inaccurately referred to as Taliban among Pashtun dissidents. They include Mulla Umar's original Taliban; the Haqqani Network founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, based in North Waziristan, which is now led by his son Siraj; the Islamic Party or Hizb-i Islami of Gulbaddin Hikmatyar based in Eastern Afghanistan; and the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, whose leader, Hakimullah Mahsud, was reported recently killed by a US drone strike). For Mullah Omar's organization, based in Karachi and Quetta, to suffer a severe setback would probably not have a huge impact on the other three, which operate relatively independently. None of the others is actually Taliban in the sense of seminary students or graduates of madrasahs among the Afghan Pashtun refugees in Pakistan)."

And the result:

"I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that Mullah Baradar's capture will destroy the Old Taliban. And even if that organization is weakened, there are at least three other major insurgent groups only loosely connected to them, which have the operational autonomy and resources to go on fighting.

But it is true that with the loss of the $200,000 a month the drug trade in Marjah was generating, and with the loss of some important commanders to drone strikes, the Old Taliban may be in a weakened posture compared to a year ago."

more details at the link above

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dollars for Death, Pennies for Life: The Facts of Death in a Warfare State

Dollars for Death, Pennies for Life |
by Norman Solomon

When the U.S. military began a major offensive in southern Afghanistan over the weekend, the killing of children and other civilians was predictable. Lofty rhetoric aside, such deaths come with the territory of war and occupation.

A month ago, President Obama pledged $100 million in U.S. government aid to earthquake-devastated Haiti. Compare that to the $100 billion price tag to keep 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for a year.

While commanders in Afghanistan were launching what the New York Times called “the largest offensive military operation since the American-led coalition invaded the country in 2001,” the situation in Haiti was clearly dire.

With more than a million Haitians still homeless, vast numbers -- the latest estimates are around 75 percent -- don’t have tents or tarps. The rainy season is fast approaching, with serious dangers of typhoid and dysentery.

No shortage of bombs in Afghanistan; a lethal shortage of tents in Haiti. Such priorities -- actual, not rhetorical -- are routine.

Last summer, I saw hundreds of children and other civilians at the Helmand Refugee Camp District 5, a miserable makeshift encampment in Kabul. The U.S. government had ample resources for bombing their neighborhoods in the Helmand Valley -- but was doing nothing to help the desperate refugees to survive after they fled to Afghanistan’s capital city.

Such priorities have parallels at home. The military hawks and deficit hawks are now swooping along Pennsylvania Avenue in tight formation. There’s plenty of money in the U.S. Treasury for war in Afghanistan. But domestic spending to meet human needs -- job creation, for instance -- is another matter.

Joblessness is now crushing many low-income Americans. Among those with annual household incomes of less than $12,500, the unemployment rate during the fourth quarter of last year “was a staggering 30.8 percent,” Bob Herbert noted in a February 9 column. “That’s more than five points higher than the overall jobless rate at the height of the Depression.”

Herbert added: “The next lowest group, with incomes of $12,500 to $20,000, had an unemployment rate of 19.1 percent. These are the kinds of jobless rates that push families already struggling on meager incomes into destitution.”

The current situation is akin to the one that Martin Luther King Jr. confronted in 1967 when he challenged Congress for showing “hostility to the poor” -- appropriating “military funds with alacrity and generosity” but providing “poverty funds with miserliness.”

Such priorities are taking lives every day, near and far.

Early this month, the National Council of Churches sent out an article by theologians George Hunsinger and Michael Kinnamon, who wrote: “What the Haitians obviously need most is massive humanitarian relief. They need food, water, medical supplies. They need shelter and physical reconstruction. . . . Over half of Haiti’s population are children, 15 years old or younger. Many were already hungry and homeless before the earthquake hit.”

But the warfare state, with vast budgets for military purposes, has scant funds for sustaining life.

These priorities kill.

Norman Solomon is national co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” For more information, go to:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

America Through China's Eyes: Afghanistan Looks like Vietnam

If You Could See America Through China's Eyes | TPMCafe

This sounds like VFP comparisons. I see someone else is paying attention to history, but of course they are not Americans.

By Steve Clemons - February 13, 2010, 9:09AM

"Several years ago, I met with the Deputy Director of the Policy Planning staff of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and I asked him what he was working on -- and what China's grand strategy was.

His reply: "We are trying to figure out how to keep you Americans distracted in small Middle Eastern countries."

It's pretty memorable when one can joke and be truthful at the same time. China has had opportunities throughout the world open up to it easily -- mostly because of systemic American inattention to much else beyond its war slogs. The Obama administration, which in its first year in office, has managed high level presidential and cabinet level face time with leaders around Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East has done a lot to correct the impression from the G.W. Bush years that America has completely checked out from the rest of the world -- but there still is a sense that American pretensions in the world are more veneer than real.

Now read in full a short, brilliantly written report titled "Strategic Contraction Replaces Arrogance: Chinese Analysis of the Quadrennial Defense Review" by Li Shuisheng at China's Academy of Military Science on the Pentagon's recently released Quadrennial Defense Review.

This is a very sobering "offshore perspective" on American power.

I offer you 3 excerpts here - follow the link above for the entire document.
"Against the background of being deeply mired in "one crisis and two wars", this year's report somewhat restrained the usual "arrogant style" appearing in the previous QDR reports, epitomized the more pragmatic defense policy pursued by the Obama administration, manifested the trend of the United States' strategic contraction to a certain extent. The report also revealed some noteworthy new changes in the US military building."

"Prevail in the Current Wars, Move Out of the Strategic Adversity

The report, for the first time, mentioned that winning the currently ongoing wars was a priority task for the US military, and also the top priority in the consideration of the US Department of Defense on the defense budget, the defense policy, and military modernization. To stress the importance of winning the current wars, the report took this as the primary objective of the US defense strategy."

At the End comes the comparison to Vietnam:

"Strengthen the Capabilities of the Partners, Create Conditions for Force Withdrawals

The report took the "strengthening of partner state's security capability" as one of the six core capabilities of the US military, and held that developing the capability of the partner states was one of the major risks in the military operations in the near term, and was also the key to whether the United States could prevail in today's wars. The report came up with following measures for elevating this capability: Strengthen and institutionalize the capabilities of the general-purpose forces for helping the security forces of the partner states; enhance the linguistic, regional, and cultural ability of the forces, with $47 million being allocated by the Department of Defense for this purpose; strengthen and expand capabilities for training partner aviation forces; strengthen capabilities for training regional and international security organizations.

While Nixon took office in January 1969, the Vietnam War had been fought for eight years. Nixon came up with a plan of "localizing" the Vietnam War, staging a force surge, and then withdrawing the US forces. Forty years later, in January 2009, the Afghanistan War had dragged on for seven years and the Iraq War had lasted nearly six years, when the Obama administration took office. At present, the United States is facing an international environment similar to that in the Nixon period at least in three points: Multiple power centers appeared in the world; the United States was deeply mired in two wars; the US economic status continued to decline amid the crisis.

For this reason, in the whole report, the term "partner" appeared 180 times; "partnership" 38 times; and "alliance" 148 times. Such words averagely appeared nearly four times every page. The fact that the US military attached such great importance to the strength of the partner states indicated that the Obama administration seemed to have an idea about "localizing" the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its policy of force surge and force withdrawal looked the same as that of the Nixon administration."

-- Li Shuisheng, Academy of Military Science

We know all too well how that ended.
Mary Bahr

Monday, February 8, 2010

Force As Slot Machine -How much political utility does use of force have?

Force As Slot Machine - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: "From Andrew Bacevich's article in The American Conservative:"

An alternative reading of our recent military past might suggest the following: first, that the political utility of force—the range of political problems where force possesses real relevance—is actually quite narrow; second, that definitive victory of the sort that yields a formal surrender ceremony at Appomattox or on the deck of an American warship tends to be a rarity; third, that ambiguous outcomes are much more probable, with those achieved at a cost far greater than even the most conscientious war planner is likely to anticipate; and fourth, that the prudent statesman therefore turns to force only as a last resort and only when the most vital national interests are at stake. Contra Kristol, force is an “instrument” in the same sense that a slot machine or a roulette wheel qualifies as an instrument.

Obama’s 2011 Budget Proposal: How It’s Spent - Interactive Graphic -

Obama’s 2011 Budget Proposal: How It’s Spent - Interactive Graphic -

This amazing graphic really makes you think about the deficit and what we even consider cutting (NOT DEFENSE!). You can also see the increase in spending on Veterans here. I can't figure out how to embed it so follow the link. Its really cool!
Mary BAhr