Saturday, December 19, 2009
Monday, December 28
St. Joan of Arc Church
4537 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Obama's escalation in Afghanistan is the last in a string of disappointments. His flip-flopping acceptance of the military coup in Honduras has squandered the trust of Latin America. His Wall Street bailout leaves the poor, the unemployed, the minorities, and the college students on their own. And now comes the Afghanistan-Pakistan decision to escalate the stalemate, which risks his domestic agenda, his Democratic base, and possibly even his presidency.
The expediency of his decision was transparent. Satisfy the generals by sending 30,000 more troops. Satisfy the public and peace movement with a timeline for beginning withdrawals of those same troops, with no timeline for completing a withdrawal.
Obama's timeline for the proposed Afghan military surge mirrors exactly the 18 month Petraeus timeline for the surge in Iraq.
We'll see. To be clear: I'll support Obama down the road against Sarah Palin, Lou Dobbs or any of the pitchfork carriers for the pre-Obama era. But no bumper sticker until the withdrawal strategy is fully carried out.
But for now, the fight is on.
This is not like the previous conflict with Bush and Cheney, who were easy to ridicule. Now this orphan of a war has a persuasive advocate, a formidable debater who will be arguing for support from the liberal center, one who wants to win back his Democratic base.
The anti-war movement will have to solidify support from the two-thirds of Democratic voters who so far question this war. Continuing analysis from The Nation and Robert Greenwald's videos at rethinkafghanistan.com have a major role to play. Public opinion will have to become a growing factor in the mind of Congress, where Rep. Jim McGovern's resolution favoring an exit strategy [HR 2404] has 100 co-sponsors and Rep. Barbara Lee's tougher bill to prevent funding for escalation [HR 3699] now is at 23.
Key political questions in the immediate future are whether Rep. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, will oppose Afghanistan funding without a surtax is only bluffing, and whether Sen. Russ Feingold will step up with legislation for a withdrawal timetable.
Beyond public persuasion and pressuring Congress, activists are sure to be hitting the streets and precincts in the year ahead. The anti-war movement has a certain leverage based on the current doubt in the minds of voters and policy experts, and the potential dissent from within the Obama base. Democratic turnout increased 2.6 percent in 2008 over 2004, while Republican votes dropped by 1.3 percent. Twenty-two million more young people voted in 2008 than in 2004. The unprecedented energies of those young people who volunteered their time, money and hope could drain away by 2012, if not sooner.
In addition, the peace movement will be globalizing its reach as Obama seeks to extract more troop concessions from wary NATO countries. Opposition is particularly strong in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and France. When Obama accepts the Nobel Prize in Oslo on December 10, he may address as many as ten thousand protestors.
Adding 30-35,000 US troops will raise the US death toll by over 1,000 by 2011 on Obama's watch, in addition to the 750 who died under Bush. The numbers of US wounded are rising faster than ever, with 300 counted in the past three months. Civilian casualties are under-reported according to the UN mission in Afghanistan. The budgetary costs are growing to $75 billion annually, and could become another trillion-dollar war.
The albatross of the Karzai government will threaten any plans to rapidly expand the Afghan army and police, themselves divided along sectarian lines. In 2005, the Kabul regime ranked 117th on the list compiled by Transparency International; by this year it was 176th. [NYT Magazine, Aug. 9 2009]
There are alternatives. There is evidence that the Afghanistan Taliban are seeking a peace settlement without "havens" for al Qaeda (see my article in the LAT, "Why Die for Karzai?"). There also is an October 11 statement by Gulbaddin Hekmatyer of Hezb-I-Islam Afghanistan, a mujahadeen leader and former prime minister in the 1990s, once funded by the CIA. Never reported in the US media, the letter proposes an "honorable exit strategy", including
- relocation of Western troops from Afghan cities, plus a "logical and practical time schedule" for their withdrawal;
- transfer of power to an interim government independent of the parties currently fighting;
- new elections under an independent election commission;
- release of political prisoners;
- a possible peacekeeping force from neutral Islamic countries;
- and, more importantly for the Obama agenda, the document states: "Hezb-I-Islami is prepared to discuss the exit of ALL foreign fighters [non-Afghan, be it forces of the West, or embedded with the Mujahideen. We assure all sides that we agree that neither the embedded fighters with the Mujahideen nor foreign military forces be allowed to remain or to establish military bases or training camps in Afghanistan."
But instead of pursuing an Afghan-based political settlement without havens for al Qaeda, the US strategy is to pursue the same goal through more bloodshed, leaving Afghanistan somewhere between the Stone Age and ashes. What is obsessive about this approach is the fact that there is no longer an al Qaeda haven in Afghanistan, which means the US troops are fighting Afghan insurgents in their own country. But if your primary tool is a hammer, as the saying goes, all problems appear to be nails.
The war clearly is shifting to Pakistan, a far more clandestine and dangerous conflict fought by American secret operatives on the ground and drones from the sky. The targets are twofold:  to eliminate the Afghan Taliban from their enclave in Quetta instead of negotiating with them, and  using US advisers and drones to push Pakistan's army into a war against Pakistan's homegrown Taliban and other insurgents now in the tribal areas, impoverished and unrepresented in Pakistan's institutions. This approach so far has caused a sharp expansion of violent attacks and suicide bombings across the region. The fear of a destabilized Pakistan with scores of nuclear weapons may lead Obama's advisers to soon present the president with a more apocalyptic scenario than anything so far, if they have not already.
This article appeared in The Nation on December 1, 2009.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Do you really want to be the new “war president”? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do — destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they’ve always heard is true — that all politicians are alike. I simply can’t believe you’re about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn’t so.
It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That’s the way General Washington insisted it must be. That’s what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. “You’re fired!,” said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we f*#&in’ hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption).
So now you feel backed into a corner. 30 years ago this past Thursday (Thanksgiving) the Soviet generals had a cool idea — “Let’s invade Afghanistan!” Well, that turned out to be the final nail in the USSR coffin.
There’s a reason they don’t call Afghanistan the “Garden State” (though they probably should, seeing how the corrupt President Karzai, whom we back, has his brother in the heroin trade raising poppies). Afghanistan’s nickname is the “Graveyard of Empires.” If you don’t believe it, give the British a call. I’d have you call Genghis Khan but I lost his number. I do have Gorbachev’s number though. It’s + 41 22 789 1662. I’m sure he could give you an earful about the historic blunder you’re about to commit.
With our economic collapse still in full swing and our precious young men and women being sacrificed on the altar of arrogance and greed, the breakdown of this great civilization we call America will head, full throttle, into oblivion if you become the “war president.” Empires never think the end is near, until the end is here. Empires think that more evil will force the heathens to toe the line — and yet it never works. The heathens usually tear them to shreds.
Choose carefully, President Obama. You of all people know that it doesn’t have to be this way. You still have a few hours to listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking. You know that nothing good can come from sending more troops halfway around the world to a place neither you nor they understand, to achieve an objective that neither you nor they understand, in a country that does not want us there. You can feel it in your bones.
I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush’s Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it.
Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you’re doing it so you can “end the war”) will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you’ve said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone — and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout “tea bag!”
Choose carefully, Mr. President. Your corporate backers are going to abandon you as soon as it is clear you are a one-term president and that the nation will be safely back in the hands of the usual idiots who do their bidding. That could be Wednesday morning.
We the people still love you. We the people still have a sliver of hope. But we the people can’t take it anymore. We can’t take your caving in, over and over, when we elected you by a big, wide margin of millions to get in there and get the job done. What part of “landslide victory” don’t you understand?
Don’t be deceived into thinking that sending a few more troops into Afghanistan will make a difference, or earn you the respect of the haters. They will not stop until this country is torn asunder and every last dollar is extracted from the poor and soon-to-be poor. You could send a million troops over there and the crazy Right still wouldn’t be happy. You would still be the victim of their incessant venom on hate radio and television because no matter what you do, you can’t change the one thing about yourself that sends them over the edge.
The haters were not the ones who elected you, and they can’t be won over by abandoning the rest of us.
President Obama, it’s time to come home. Ask your neighbors in Chicago and the parents of the young men and women doing the fighting and dying if they want more billions and more troops sent to Afghanistan. Do you think they will say, “No, we don’t need health care, we don’t need jobs, we don’t need homes. You go on ahead, Mr. President, and send our wealth and our sons and daughters overseas, ’cause we don’t need them, either.”
What would Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would your grandmother do? Not send more poor people to kill other poor people who pose no threat to them, that’s what they’d do. Not spend billions and trillions to wage war while American children are sleeping on the streets and standing in bread lines.
All of us that voted and prayed for you and cried the night of your victory have endured an Orwellian hell of eight years of crimes committed in our name: torture, rendition, suspension of the bill of rights, invading nations who had not attacked us, blowing up neighborhoods that Saddam “might” be in (but never was), slaughtering wedding parties in Afghanistan. We watched as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were slaughtered and tens of thousands of our brave young men and women were killed, maimed, or endured mental anguish — the full terror of which we scarcely know.
When we elected you we didn’t expect miracles. We didn’t even expect much change. But we expected some. We thought you would stop the madness. Stop the killing. Stop the insane idea that men with guns can reorganize a nation that doesn’t even function as a nation and never, ever has.
Stop, stop, stop! For the sake of the lives of young Americans and Afghan civilians, stop. For the sake of your presidency, hope, and the future of our nation, stop. For God’s sake, stop.
Tonight we still have hope.
Tomorrow, we shall see. The ball is in your court. You DON’T have to do this. You can be a profile in courage. You can be your mother’s son.
We’re counting on you.
Yours, Michael Moore
P.S. There’s still time to have your voice heard. Call the White House at 202-456-1111 or email the President. Michael Moore is an activist, author, and filmmaker. See more of his work at his website MichaelMoore.com
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
On the one hand, he is sending 30,000 more American troops, who have been dying at a current rate of more than 500 per year.
On the other hand, he is attempting to placate growing anti-war sentiment by pledging to limit the duration of the war.
As with all compromises, this one will satisfy only the few. It is what President Bill Clinton called kicking the can down the street.
The antiwar movement will continue to support Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill cutting off funds for the troop escalation and Rep. Jim McGovern’s resolution calling for the administration to offer an exit strategy.
Sending 30,000 or more American soldiers to die for the Karzai government is a waste of valuable American lives, which at the present rate will exceed 1,000 in two years of bloody battles under President Obama. Spending one million dollars per American soldier will mean a waste of one trillion dollars on this war by the end of the President’s term of eight years.
These costs in human lives and tax dollars are simply unsustainable.
The president is tragically jeopardizing his domestic agenda by this expenditure of tax dollars without any tax increases. Like President Johnson before him, President Obama is squandering any hope for his progressive domestic agenda by this tragic escalation of the war.
As I committed myself during Vietnam, I am committing myself to do everything possible to turn our nation’s priorities around and make President Obama’s domestic agenda a possibility. Just as President Johnson could not pay for guns and butter, President Obama cannot possibly pay for Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Pentagon’s projection of a “long war” of fifty years duration.
I am afraid to say that President Obama is even risking his presidency by this decision. From this point forward, he will lack the support of the rank and file Democratic majority and become dependent on the very Republicans whose highest priority is to defeat him in 2012.
Friday, October 23, 2009
From the Resource Center
It appears that President Obama will miss his last chance to stop the Afghan train to quagmire wreckage. He could seize the opportunity presented by the exposure of Karzai as an emperor with no clothes. Instead he seems to be choosing a blatant makeover of Karzai so the troops can be sent. For a devastating NY Times description of Karzai by Elizabeth Rubin on August 9, follow this link.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/magazine/09Karzai-t.html?_r=1 For deeper background on the revival of the Vietnam Phoenix Program in Afghanistan today, see this piece in the current Nation magazine. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091102/hayden The following are excerpts.
"These projections reveal a staggering audacity--not Obama's audacity of hope but an audacity of martial commitment. A fifty- to 100-year military campaign--the subtitle of Kilcullen's book is Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One--will span thirteen presidential terms and twenty-five Congressional sessions, casting a long shadow over generations of politicians not yet running for office. The Long War assumes either perpetual democratic approval by many voters not yet alive or that democracy will simply be circumvented by the national security state. Bin Laden will be dead of natural causes or otherwise long before it's over.
There has been little public discussion of the Long War. The term is attributed to Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command from 2003 to 2007; it is endorsed by counterinsurgency theorist John Nagl, who heads the Center for a New American Security; and it has been critically reviewed only in a collection, The Long War, edited by Andrew Bacevich."
Saturday, September 12, 2009
September 10, 2009
Dear Tim,CODEPINK has never flagged in opposing the Afghanistan war and now public opinion is finally catching up. With 70 percent of Democrats opposing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, President Obama is making a fateful choice. If he escalates, the quagmire deepens and he loses more support among his base. If he refuses to send more troops he will be attacked by the Republicans for losing the war on terror.
CODEPINK and the peace movement are calling for an exit strategy that includes NATO/American troop withdrawal, all party talks, regional diplomacy, and continued aid for reconstruction, medical care, education and development, but your voice is not represented in Congress. But we have a proven ability to set off a storm in their districts that makes a difference. We affected the election outcomes in 2006 and 2008, and we must continue to raise hell until they listen and act.
Please read, sign and circulate this petition.
Double your numbers. Widen your support. Become the margin of difference. Bring down the Predators. Bring home the troops.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
"The U.S. is treaty bound to prosecute all persons, high and low, who have authorized, condoned or committed torture if our word in the international community is to mean anything."
- Ramsey Clark
A free people will not permit torture. Throughout history, torture has always been an instrument of tyranny. The very purpose of the Grand Inquisitor was to compel absolute obedience to authority. Torture was the weapon he used in the struggle to force freedom to submit to authority.
Fear is the principal element in both public acceptance of torture and individual submission to it. The frightened public is persuaded that only torture can force confessions essential to prevent catastrophic acts—terrorism in the present context. The frightened victim is persuaded torture will be unbearable, or be his death.
Franklin Roosevelt spoke truth when he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Justice Black warned wisely, "We must not be afraid to be free," dissenting in America. Anastaplo was a law school classmate of mine who refused to take a non-Communist oath, a requirement for admission to the Illinois bar at the time. We have failed to follow this wisdom, a failure of faith urged by Lincoln at the then Cooper Institute: "Let us have faith that right makes might and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."
At stake is our cultural insistence that America has faith in freedom, that America is, or aspires to be, the land of the free and the home of the brave. At risk is the image of America, which might become Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and rendition to torture chambers in client States.
Now we are confronted by the brutish and brazen mentality of Dick Cheney, only one of George W. Bush’s many vices. Having concealed truth by refusing to release records and after the destruction of evidence, Cheney proclaims, "I am very proud of what we did"—a war of aggression that has devastated and fragmented Iraq and Afghanistan, and created a danger to peace in Pakistan and beyond. The same wars that have left 5,000 U.S. soldiers dead and maybe 30,000 with impaired lives, spread corruption within the Bush administration, politics in prosecutors offices, the worst recession in 70 years caused by the failure to police his greedy friends and supporters, boasting of torture by any other name.
Cheney wants us to believe "enhanced interrogation techniques," the phrase he prefers to torture, "were absolutely essential" in successfully stopping another terrorist attack on the U.S. after 9/11. This is utterly false, a matter of indifference to Cheney who may be getting desperate. These "enhanced interrogation techniques" were, however, torture as defined in Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture of 1984, an international treaty ratified by 184 nations, including the United States a decade late in 1994. The Convention, which is part of the supreme law of the land under the U.S. Constitution, recognizes "the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world," and "that these rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person."
Thus, the U.S. is treaty bound to prosecute all persons, high and low, who have authorized, condoned or committed torture if our word in the international community is to mean anything.
The Convention requires each signatory to ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law. It requires prosecution, or under specific conditions, extradition to another nation for prosecution of alleged torturers.
Former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan is only one of the key U.S. intelligence and investigative officials directly involved in the key interrogations who have publicly condemned the "enhanced interrogation techniques." He has explained how the practice not only failed to obtain reliable or new information, but was also harmful. He concluded an op-ed article in the New York Times on Sept. 6, which stated that "the professionals in the field are relieved that an ineffective, unreliable, unnecessary and destructive program, one that may have given Al Qaeda a second wind and damaged our country’s reputation is finished."
The struggle to prosecute torture by U.S. agents is related to the struggle over health care legislation and troop increases in Afghanistan. Real health care reform would end the theft of major national resources by the insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and the wealth seeking medical profession at the expense of the lives and health of the poor and middle class.
We should remember that a decade before he gave us "What is good for General Motors is good tor the nation," Charles E. Wilson, once President of General Motors, and later Secretary of Defense under President Eisenhower, wrote in the Army Ordinance Journal in 1944: "War has been inevitable in our human affairs as an evolutionary force ... Let us make the three-way partnership (industry, government, army) permanent." Notice what comes first for Wilson, whose credo was "Let us have faith that might makes right."
President Obama faces all three of these challenges, torture in our name, health care and Afghanistan at once. If he fails to insist on full investigation of torture and prosecution of all persons found to have authorized, directed or committed it, including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, he will lose all three, because his adversaries in each are the same.
The announcement that a Special Prosecutor has been appointed to investigate the crimes committed during the Bush administration is a critical step. It was the action taken by you and people all around the country that made this possible. Now we will build on this momentum. The voice of the people must and will be heard.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have tough truths to tell, and it has been well demonstrated that the establishment media does not want to broadcast these. Given the lack of an outlet for anti-war voices in the corporate media, many contemporary veterans and active-duty soldiers have embraced the arts as a tool for resistance, communication and healing. They have made use of a wide range of visual and performing arts - through theater, poetry, painting, writing, and other creative expression - to affirm their own opposition to the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq." http://www.truthout.org/
Friday, September 4, 2009
Posted by sakerfa on September 4, 2009
Afghanistan – The stench of burnt flesh hung over the banks of the Kunduz river in the early hours of Friday, the ground scattered with the body parts of villagers who just wanted something for free.
Helping yourself to the spoils of hijacked military convoys is nothing new in Afghanistan and the payload of two fuel tankers destined for Nato-led forces seemed as good as any.
But the overnight bonanza soon turned to horror when Nato jets launched an airstrike before 3am (22.30GMT), strafing the tankers and igniting an inferno that officials said killed between 50 and 90 people.
“Nobody was in one piece. Hands, legs and body parts were scattered everywhere. Those who were away from the fuel tanker were badly burnt,” said 32-year-old Mohammad Daud, depicting a scene from hell.
The burned-out shells of the tankers, still smoking in marooned wrecks on the riverbank, were surrounded by the charred-meat remains of villagers from Chahar Dara district in Kunduz province, near the Tajik border.
Dr Farid Rahid, a spokesperson in Kabul for the ministry of health, said up to 250 villagers had been near the tankers when the airstrike was called in.
Officials said about 55 Taliban were killed and more than 10 wounded, but witness accounts of civilian deaths are yet to be officially confirmed.
Witnesses told Agence France-Presse that villagers, including children, gathered around one of the tankers that had stalled in the shallows of the river to help themselves to fuel.
Taliban insurgents hijacked the trucks late Thursday, the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) under Nato said, and were trying to drive them across the river when one got bogged down.
Witnesses said the insurgents called on villagers living nearby to help themselves to the fuel — probably to lighten the load and make the stranded truck easier to move.
“Villagers rushed to the fuel tanker with any available container that they had, including water buckets and pots for cooking oil,” said Daud.
Some farmers even brought their tractors to fill up, he said, and as they did, 10 to 15 Taliban gunmen stood on top of the tanker watching the free-for-all.
“This was when they were bombed,” Daud said. “Everyone around the fuel tanker died.”
Shoes, an AK-47 rifle, swatches of burned clothing, the carcass of a donkey with a woven saddle cloth still tied across its flanks, yellow plastic jerry cans with red screwtops — all lay scattered across the pebbled banks.
Turbaned men, one holding a GI doll in a blue uniform, and Afghan security forces in desert boots and green berets strode around the tankers as dawn segued into a blue-sky day.
At a funeral ceremony, village men and boys stood silent along the edge of a mass grave as a tractor opposite shoved earth over the shrouded bodies below.
And at a hospital in Kunduz city, the provincial capital, the wounded were brought in on carpet-covered stretchers, their skin burned away from red-raw wounds, many too dazed and in too much pain to even cry, witnesses said.
Around eight bodies were in a terrible condition — the skin burnt black and peeling off to expose raw red muscle. Others arrived with their clothes burnt on to their skin.
The hospital was filled with the smell of burnt flesh, with even the corridors occupied by the wounded, said an Agence France-Presse reporter. — AFP
Source: Information Clearing House
Thursday, September 3, 2009
October 7, 2009 marks the start of the ninth year of the invasion of Afghanistan. On that day, there will be anti-war actions in cities and towns throughout the country. There will also be anti-war actions on Monday, October 5, and Saturday, October 17.
We encourage everyone to read and pass along to their friends the statement below, released yesterday by March Forward!March Forward! veterans speak out against Gen. McChrystal's report
"All foreign forces should leave Afghanistan now!"
March Forward! is a group of anti-war veterans affiliated with the ANSWER Coalition formed In January 2009 by veterans and active-duty service members who had been seasoned activists and leaders in the movement against the Iraq war. Their goal was to unite those who have served and who are currently serving in the U.S. military.
March Forward! was created in response to the pressing issues facing veterans and service members: the forced participation in these horrible imperialist wars, as well as economic hardship, inadequate care, and a lack of access to resources before, during and after military service, with the view that only grassroots organizing and a mass people's movement can solve these problems. March Forward! will be organizing against the war in Afghanistan, encouraging troops to refuse to fight, and building the struggle against all manifestations of the U.S. war machine.
The war in Afghanistan, like the one we were sent to fight in Iraq, is based on lies and false rationales. Instead of expanding the war, all foreign troops should leave Afghanistan immediately.
March Forward! supporter Ron Kovic eloquently stated: "As a United States Marine Corps Sergeant who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, and was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down in 1968, I strongly disagree with General McChrystal. The war in Afghanistan is a huge mistake, another Vietnam disaster in the making. I want to encourage every member of our military, every veteran, and citizen, to raise your voices against this war, to protest, to demonstrate, to do all that you can before more lives are lost."
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, top commander of the Afghanistan war, has submitted his assessment report to the president. The report is another case of official double-speak. McChrystal essentially admits that the previous eight-year strategy has been catastrophic and an abysmal failure.
Yet he announced in a statement on Aug. 31 that "success is achievable and [the war] demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort."
As a politician/salesman in uniform, Gen. McChrystal is selling the country a bill of goods. He asks us to genuflect before the war machine and "trust" the generals.
Deciphering McChrystal’s real message is important for every member of the armed forces. In short he is saying: all we have to do is be prepared to send several thousand more US servicemembers to their graves while they try to kill tens of thousands more Afghans and then, or perhaps then, the US will have established a stable puppet government in Kabul.
It's worth remembering Gen. McChrystal stated in April 2003 in a nationally televised Pentagon briefing on the operations in Iraq, "I would anticipate that the major combat engagements are over." The general is either a professional pitchman or a professional liar, or both.
To read the full March Forward! statement, click here.
We encourage veterans and active duty service members to join March Forward! and become a part of the anti-war movement.
Millions of students around the country are returning to school this month.
But now there’s a new R in addition to the three old ones: Recruitment. By law, schools must give recruiters access to students, and the military often targets teens from poor neighborhoods young people who may not know what their alternatives are.
The conscientious objectors who founded the American Friends Service Committee during World War I believed there were peaceful, honorable alternatives to military service. We still believe that today.
That’s why I’m eager this month to share stories about our work to broaden the dialogue in schools across the country to include peace.
With violence in Afghanistan escalating and military leaders calling for more troops, our peace work with teenagers has gained renewed importance. We’ve had victories in Georgia and North Carolina and have brought together teens from many cities to learn how to refute recruiters’ claims and share the truth about military service with their peers.
Perhaps William Penn said it best: “Force may make hypocrites, but it can never make converts.” This month, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating our victories over military might.
Peace, Mary Ellen McNish,
American Friends Service Committee
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
American Death Rate Under Obama Could Exceed 1,000 by 2011
By Tom Hayden
For the Huffington Post
August was the cruelest month for American forces in Afghanistan, with at least 49 killed, not including possible last-minute reports. The August numbers exceeded the previous high of 43 in July, as a result of the new escalation of fighting approved by President Obama.
The President is expected to approve another troop increase shortly, which will inevitably increase American casualty rates in the 18-24 months of "hard fighting" forecast by the Pentagon.
At a rate of 45 American deaths per month, the toll on Obama's watch would be 1,080 additional American deaths through 2011, as the President heads into a re-election.
The total American deaths in Afghanistan since the beginning of the war are approximately 800. The number officially listed as wounded in action is 3,722, with 2,314 never redeployed to the war zone. www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf
The numbers are understated, for example, by not including hundreds of private contractors, many of them American citizens, killed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Others killed during special operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan may not be included either.
Deaths among US-dominated Coalition forces overall now total 1,293, including 210 from the UK and 126 from Canada.
The real number of Afghanistan civilian casualties is obscured in the fog of war, but have risen to a record high as the US has escalated this year, with the UN Aid Mission figures growing from 684 in the first six months of 2007, to 818 in the first six months of 2008, to 1,013 in January-June this year. The July UNAM bulletin's appendix noted that "there is a significant possibility that UNAMA is under-reporting civilian casualties." [p. 16] Because the Pentagon frequently casts doubt on whether Afghan victims are truly civilian, the frequent result is, as UNAM notes, "if the non-combatant status of one or more victims remains under significant doubt, such deaths are not included in the overall number of civilian casualties." #
The passing of Senator Edward Kennedy has brought great sadness and mourning to all who knew and admired this great public servant. Our nation has been inspired by the abundance of eulogies that exemplify and celebrate the Senator’s life and devotion to public service. His commitment to social issues and the belief that all Americans should have the opportunity to succeed, are vividly demonstrated by his decades in the Senate.
Today, as our nation returns to our daily tasks of living, the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy would like to share with you Senator Kennedy’s dedication to strengthen America through its relationship to the world. From advocating peace in Northern Ireland to creating a program that brings students from predominantly Muslim countries to the U.S., Senator Kennedy was a champion of peace, cross-cultural understanding, and bridging gaps to ensure people around the world could know the country he served and loved with a passion.
The U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy wishes to acknowledge and celebrate his contributions to international relations as well as his work with civil rights, education, health care, and immigration. Senator Kennedy is a beacon of light that will continue to shine for years to come and reverberate for generations. He was a true leader and visionary.
May we all remember his work toward creating a more peaceful world and rededicate ourselves to this important task in the days, months, and years ahead.
Ann Olsen Schodde
President & CEO
U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy
1968 – Bilingual Education Act
1971 – Senate Resolution calling for the withdrawal of British troops in N. Ireland
1974 – Foreign Aid bill: first time Congress ended military aid to another country
1981 – Started “Friends of Ireland” organization in Congress
1982 – Nuclear Freeze Resolution to halt the nuclear arms race
1985 – Anti-Apartheid Act: imposed economic sanctions on South Africa to pressure them to racial segregation
1986 – Visit to Soviet Union: Gorbachev stated he would sign a treaty to prevent the basing of nuclear missiles in Europe – signed a year later
1993 – Senate Joint Resolution to designate the week of April 18, 1993, through April 24, 1993, as "International Student Awareness Week" (cosponsor)
-Senate Joint Resolution designating the week beginning October 25, 1993, as "World Population Awareness Day" (cosponsor)
-Senate Joint Resolution to designate the weeks of April 25 through May 2, 1993, and April 10 through 17, 1994, as "Jewish Heritage Week" (cosponor)
1994 – Instrumental in the issuance of a visa for Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to visit the U.S., months later the IRA called a cease-fire
-Senate Resolution expressing the sense of the Senate regarding the tragic humanitarian and political catastrophe in Rwanda (cosponsor)
1996 – Stop Sweatshops Act
-Travel and Tourism Partnership Act (cosponsor)
1997 - Education for the 21st Century Act (cosponsor)
1998 - Africa: Seeds of Hope Act (cosponsor)
1999 - S Visa and Refugee Assistance Authorization Act
2000 – Senate Resolution expressing the respect to the peace process in Northern Ireland
-Global Health Act of 2000 (cosponsor)
-Global AIDS Prevention Act of 2000 (cosponsor)
2001 – No Child Left Behind Act – Kennedy was a champion for educational reform and instrumental in starting educational institutions on the path to become globally competitive
-Bridges to the Cuban People Act
2002 – Cultural Bridges Act: established a program with Sen. Lugar to bring secondary school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to the U.S. and enabling them to live with U.S. host families
-Peace Corps Charter for the 21st Century Act (cosponsor)
2003 – Senate Resolution encouraging the protection of the rights of refugees
-Senate Resolution designating the years 2004 and 2005 as "Years of Foreign Language Study" (cosponsor)
-Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act (cosponsor)
-Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act
2004 – Senate Resolution People-to-People Engagement in World Affairs Resolution
2006 -Peace in Darfur Act (cosponsor)
-Senate Resolution designating April 21, 2006, as "National and Global Youth Service Day", and for other purposes (cosponsor)
-Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Act (cosponsor)
2007 – Held the first committee hearing on Iraqi refugees which lead to legislation Kennedy sponsored that granted special immigration visas to Iraqis who worked with U.S. forces.
-Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act (cosponsor)
-Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Closure Act (cosponsor)
-Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act (cosponsor)
2008 – Advancing Americas Priorities Act – included the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act (cosponsor)
-Restoring America's Integrity Act (cosponsor)
-America COMPETES Act: invest in innovation and education to make the U.S. competitive in the global economy (cosponsor)
2009 - Peace Corps Improvement and Expansion Act (cosponsor)
-Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act (cosponsor)
- Travel Promotion Act (cosponsor)
Sunday, August 30, 2009
by: John Cory, t r u t h o u t | Perspective
He was a man
Who lived at water's edge
And loved both tide and sand and the feel of nature's breath
He knew a dream delayed becomes a dream decayed
And so he fought on
He was a man
Untended and unintended
Neglect is the weed that strangles hope
In a garden of fragile seed
He was a man
The last of three, everyone said
But it was he who remembered one night
The one not here
The one -
Who had gone before in what they called the last good war
I never knew him, only of him, like most who passed the flag draped coffin
And when I asked
The villagers were divided
Some said, sinner
Some said, saint
But an old Tar said it best,
"When I navigate by stars, eyes on the horizon
My feet, like his, stumble on the stones."
He was a man
No greater, no less, he would say
Than others passed or yet to be
And when I asked, "What should we say?"
The old Tar said it best,
"Square the yards and trim the jib,
Fair winds and following seas, old friend.
Fair Winds and Following Seas."
When Jack Kennedy learned on a May morning in 1948 that his sister Kathleen, known as Kick, had been killed in a plane crash in Europe, he had been listening to recordings from the Broadway musical “Finian’s Rainbow.”
Jack, not yet 31, had already lost his older brother Joseph Jr., a Navy pilot whose plane exploded while on a bombing mission in World War II. It’s not easy to imagine the kind of resilience required to make your way through tragedies that, in the case of the Kennedys, often reached Shakespearean proportions. That resilience was one of the many things to admire about Jack and his siblings, fortunate in so many ways and damned in so many others.
It’s easy to miss the point about the Kennedys. The drama is always right there in your face to distract you. (Even now, with Ted barely gone, the struggle is under way over how his successor in the Senate is to be chosen, and whether Ted’s death will be a spur to — or the death knell for — health care reform.)
The most significant aspect of the Kennedys, more important than their reliably liberal politics or Ted’s long list of legislative accomplishments, was their ability to inspire. They offered the blessed gift of hope to millions, year after year and decade after decade. The key to understanding both the influence and the importance of the Kennedys was to pay close attention to what they said and what they tried to accomplish, and not let the depths of meaning in their words and aspirations become obscured by individual failings or shortcomings, the Kennedy Sturm und Drang.
So there was President Kennedy in 1963, in a landmark commencement address at American University in Washington at the height of the cold war, making an impassioned case on behalf of “the most important topic on earth: peace.” Calling for a halt to the arms race with the Soviet Union, Kennedy told the graduates that it was important for Americans to examine their attitudes toward peace.
“Too many of us think it is impossible,” he said. “Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man-made, therefore they can be solved by man.”
The Kennedy message was always to aim higher, and they always — or almost always — appealed to our best instincts. So there was Bobby speaking to a group of women at a breakfast in Terre Haute, Ind., during the 1968 campaign. As David Halberstam recalled, Bobby told the audience: “The poor are hidden in our society. No one sees them anymore. They are a small minority in a rich country. Yet I am stunned by a lack of awareness of the rest of us toward them.”
Bobby cared about the poor and ordinary working people in a way that can seem peculiar in post-Reagan America. And his insights into the problems of urban ghettos in the 1960s seemed to point to some of the debilitating factors at work in much of the nation today. Bobby believed, as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has noted, that the crisis of the cities ultimately came from “the destruction of the sense, and often the fact, of community, of human dialogue, the thousand invisible strands of common experience and purpose, affection and respect which tie men to their fellows.”
Kennedy worried about the dissolution of community in a world growing ever more “impersonal and abstract.” He wanted the American community to flourish, and he knew that could not be accomplished in an environment of increasing polarization, racial and otherwise.
“Ultimately,” he said, “America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired.”
Like his brothers and sisters (don’t forget Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the Special Olympics), Bobby believed deeply in public service and felt that the whole point of government was to widen the doors of access to those who were being left out.
“Camelot” became a metaphor for the Kennedys in the aftermath of Jack’s assassination. But I always found “Finian’s Rainbow” to be a more appropriate touchstone for the family, especially the song “Look to the Rainbow,” with the moving lyric, “Follow the fellow who follows a dream.”
That was Ted’s message at Bobby’s funeral. The Kennedys counseled us for half a century to be optimistic and to strive harder, to find the resilience to overcome those inevitable moments of tragedy and desolation, and to move steadily toward our better selves, as individuals and as a nation.Ted’s burial today is a perfect opportunity to remember the best that the family has given us.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The Senator will be joined throughout the day and night by a civilian honor guard of family, friends, and current and former staff.
He will also be joined by a military honor guard.
Visiting hours for the public will be on Thursday evening from 6:00 p.m.to 11:00 p.m. and on Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Public wishing to sign the condolence books can do so from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Thursday.
The Museum will close on Thursday at 3:00 p.m. and re-open on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
Parking and Transportation
The Public is encouraged to use public transportation to the Kennedy Presidential Library. Special shuttle service will be available from the JFK/UMass T Stop on the MBTA Red Line from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Thursday and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Friday.
Free Satellite Parking will also be available at the Bayside Expo Center from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Thursday and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Friday. Special shuttle service will be available for those parking at the Bayside Expo Center to the Kennedy Presidential Library.
Please Note: There will be no parking available to the public at the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
No backbacks will be allowed in the building.
Thursday Motorcade Route to Boston
Click here for map of motorcade.
Senator Kennedy will travel Route 3 North to Route 93 North into Boston. (Approximately 3:00 p.m.)
Senator Kennedy will exit at Government Center, and travel down Hanover Street into the North End, past St. Stephen's Church, where his mother Rose was baptized and her funeral mass celebrated.
The Kennedy BrothersContinuing down Hanover and crossing over the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, the park Senator Kennedy joined community leaders in creating that gives mothers and their children green space in the heart of the city. The park sits on the same land young Rose Fitzgerald enjoyed as a child.
Senator Kennedy will pass Faneuil Hall where Mayor Menino will ring the bell 47 times.
Continuing to Bowdoin Street, Senator Kennedy will pass 122 Bowdoin, where he opened his first office as an Assistant District Attorney and President Kennedy lived while running for Congress in 1946.
The motorcade will pass the JFK Federal Building where Senator Kennedy's Boston office has stood for decades, and then travel to Dorchester Street into South Boston and to the JFK Presidential Library.
People who wish to honor Senator Kennedy are urged to line the motorcade route at the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, City Hall Plaza and the Boston Common, in front of the Statehouse on Park Street.
The motorcade will arrive at the JFK Library at approximately 4:00 pm.
The Library will open to the public for visitation at 6:00 pm on Thursday.
For more information, visit these websites.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.
For nearly five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.
His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives -- in seniors who know new dignity; in families that know new opportunity; in children who know education's promise; and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just, including me.
In the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle. His seriousness of purpose was perpetually matched by humility, warmth and good cheer. He battled passionately on the Senate floor for the causes that he held dear, and yet still maintained warm friendships across party lines. And that's one reason he became not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.
I personally valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've benefited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.
His fight gave us the opportunity we were denied when his brothers John and Robert were taken from us: the blessing of time to say thank you and goodbye. The outpouring of love, gratitude and fond memories to which we've all borne witness is a testament to the way this singular figure in American history touched so many lives.
For America, he was a defender of a dream. For his family, he was a guardian. Our hearts and prayers go out to them today -- to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.
Today, our country mourns. We say goodbye to a friend and a true leader who challenged us all to live out our noblest values. And we give thanks for his memory, which inspires us still.
President Barack Obama
Sen. Ted Kennedy died shortly before midnight Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass., at age 77.
The man known as the "liberal lion of the Senate" had fought a more than year-long battle with brain cancer, and according to his son had lived longer with the disease than his doctors expected him to.
"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," the Kennedy family said in a statement. "He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it."
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
As a result of shocking revelations in the CIA Inspector General’s report, which was brought to light by an ACLU lawsuit, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced the appointment of a prosecutor to investigate prison abuse cases carried out as part of the Bush torture program.
As anyone who has seen the details of this appalling report can tell you, this investigation is necessary and long overdue, and Attorney General Holder should be commended for taking this important step.
However, the very limited scope of the investigation he launched today is nowhere near as thorough and broad as the torture investigation America really needs.
Urge Attorney General Holder to conduct a thorough examination of the Bush torture program.
According to early reports, prosecutor John Durham’s mandate will be limited to roughly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated U.S. torture laws and other statutes. Moreover, Durham will conduct a 'preliminary' investigation meant to determine whether a full investigation is appropriate.
But justice demands an investigation without such limits -- a comprehensive investigation that doesn’t exempt high-ranking officials.
That’s especially true in the aftermath of today’s release of the long-secret CIA Inspector General’s report detailing outrageous CIA prisoner abuses including mock executions and holding guns and power tools to people’s heads.
We have to be confident that abuses like those documented in this report will never happen again. That won’t be the case if everyone knows that horrendous crimes were committed and that those ultimately responsible faced no consequences.
Urge Attorney General Holder to conduct a thorough examination of the Bush torture program.
The persistence of ACLU supporters like you and of our amazing lawyers and advocates has put accountability for torture at the forefront of the national debate. Now, we must insist that the investigation started today is only the beginning.
For justice to truly be served, we must have an investigation that holds high-ranking officials accountable for any role they played in the Bush torture program’s horrendous violations of the law.
Now that a long-awaited torture investigation is underway, let the Attorney General know it’s essential for it to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
Urge Attorney General Holder to conduct a thorough examination of the Bush torture program.
Thank you for continuing to fight for freedom and justice. Let's keep going until there's real accountability for torture.
Anthony D. Romero
American Civil Liberties Union
P.S. At every step in this process, the ACLU has been told it can’t succeed. But, with your support, we’ve persisted until key memos have been released and essential lawsuits have been allowed to move forward. Now, an investigation few thought would ever be undertaken is underway.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The mission statement of St. Thomas University School of Law, posted currently at the University web site, reads, “The University of St. Thomas School of Law, as a Catholic law school, is dedicated to integrating faith and reason in the search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice”. Given this mission statement, many of us who also care about morality and social justice, wonder how the University of St.Thomas can justify maintaining Professor Delahunty on its teaching staff. We also wonder why Dean Mengler finds it necessary to defend Professor Delahunty. Is it the position of the University of St.Thomas Law School that Professor Delahunty’s position on torture is morally correct? Come to the rally August 24 (first day of classes) to hold Professor Delahunty and The University of St. Thomas Law School accountable.
For those who are willing to make it a slightly longer day, some of us will be marching with our banners and letters of discontent from The Center for Human Rights at the U of M to the rally at St. Thomas School of Law. We will be also carrying a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, given to us by The Center for Human Rights. We hope that Dean Mengler and Robert Delahunty will read it. The Center for Human Rights is located in Mondale Hall, University of Minnesota, on the west bank (229 19th Ave. So). We will gather outside the north entrance of Mondale Hall at 7AM. The 2 mile march will begin promptly at 7:15. The march will go straight down Washington Avenue to Nicollet, turn left on Nicollet to 11th Ave, then turn right to St. Thomas University. For questions or suggestions contact Roger Cuthbertson (email@example.com)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 20, 2009
A majority of Americans now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting, and just a quarter say more U.S. troops should be sent to the country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Most have confidence in the ability of the United States to meet its primary goals of defeating the Taliban, facilitating economic development, and molding an honest and effective Afghan government, but few say Thursday's elections there are likely to produce such a government.
When it comes to the baseline question, 42 percent of Americans say the United States is winning in Afghanistan; about as many, 36 percent, say it is losing.
The new poll comes amid widespread speculation that Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, will request more troops for his stepped-up effort to remove the Taliban from Afghan towns and villages. That position gets the backing of 24 percent of those polled, while nearly twice as many, 45 percent, want to decrease the number of military forces there. (Most of the remainder want to keep the level about the same.)
In January, before President Obama authorized sending an additional 17,000 troops to the country, public sentiment tilted more strongly toward a troop increase.
Should Obama embrace his generals' call for even more forces, he would risk alienating some of his staunchest supporters. Although 60 percent of Americans approve of how Obama has handled the situation in Afghanistan, his ratings among liberals have slipped, and majorities of liberals and Democrats alike now, for the first time, solidly oppose the war and are calling for a reduction in troop levels.
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.
Republicans (70 percent say it is worth fighting) and conservatives (58 percent) remain the war's strongest backers, and the issue provides a rare point of GOP support for Obama's policies. A narrow majority of conservatives approve of the president's handling of the war (52 percent), as do more than four in 10 Republicans (43 percent).
Among all adults, 51 percent now say the war is not worth fighting, up six percentage points since last month and 10 since March. Less than half, 47 percent, say the war is worth its costs. Those strongly opposed (41 percent) outweigh strong proponents (31 percent).
Opposition to the Iraq war reached similar levels in the summer of 2004 and deteriorated further, through the 2006 midterm elections, becoming issue No. 1 in many congressional races that year.
By the time support for that conflict had fallen below 50 percent, disapproval of President George W. Bush's handling of it had climbed to 55 percent, in contrast to the solid overall approval of the way Obama is dealing with Afghanistan.
But there are warning signs for the president.
Among liberals, his rating on handling the war, which he calls one of "necessity," has fallen swiftly, with strong approval dropping by 20 points. Nearly two-thirds of liberals stand against a troop increase, as do about six in 10 Democrats.
On the GOP side, views are more evenly distributed, as Republicans divide about equally in support of an increase, a decrease and no change to troop levels.
Partisan divisions on the handling of the Afghan war itself are tempered when it comes to faith in the ability of the United States and its allies to get the job done. Broad majorities across party lines say they are confident the United States will defeat the Taliban and succeed in spurring economic development.
Far fewer, 34 percent, say they think Afghanistan's national election will result in an effective government, with just 3 percent "very confident."
The poll was conducted by telephone Aug. 13-17 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults including users of both conventional and cellular phones. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points; it is higher among subgroups.
By MARK MAZZETTI New York Times WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.
Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not capture or kill any terrorist suspects.
The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the new C.I.A. director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.
It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.
Officials said that the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.
Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said that it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq.
It has also drawn controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in downtown Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to renew the company’s operating license.
Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified program.
Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to provide details about the canceled program, but he said that Mr. Panetta’s decision on the assassination program was “clear and straightforward.”
“Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so,” Mr. Gimigliano said. “He also knew it hadn’t been successful, so he ended it.”
A Xe spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to give details of the program. But she praised Mr. Panetta for notifying Congress. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for,” she said.
The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.
The House Intelligence Committee is investigating why lawmakers were never told about the program. According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told C.I.A. officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to kill Qaeda leaders.
One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.
“It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” the official said. “It went well beyond that.”
Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.
In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.
Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.
C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.
An executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 barred the C.I.A. from carrying out assassinations, a direct response to revelations that the C.I.A. had initiated assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba and other foreign politicians.
The Bush administration took the position that killing members of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group that attacked the United States and has pledged to attack it again, was no different from killing enemy soldiers in battle, and that therefore the agency was not constrained by the assassination ban.
But former intelligence officials said that employing private contractors to help hunt Qaeda operatives would pose significant legal and diplomatic risks, and they might not be protected in the same way government employees are.
Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.
But Republicans have criticized Mr. Panetta’s decision to cancel the program, saying he created a tempest in a teapot.
“I think there was a little more drama and intrigue than was warranted,” said Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.
Officials said that the C.I.A. program was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using drone aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas where some terrorists hide.
Yet with most top Qaeda operatives believed to be hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan, the drones have remained the C.I.A.’s weapon of choice. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has embraced the drone campaign because it presents a less risky option than sending paramilitary teams into Pakistan.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Jeremy Scahill, The Nation: "Despite the Iraqi government's announcement earlier this year that it had canceled Blackwater's operating license, the US State Department continues to allow Blackwater operatives in Iraq to remain armed. A State Department official told The Nation that Blackwater (which recently renamed itself Xe Services) is now operating in Iraq under the name 'US Training Center' and will continue its armed presence in the country until at least September 3. That means Blackwater will have been in Iraq nearly two years after its operatives killed seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square." http://www.truthout.org/
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "Sergeant Travis Bishop, with the US Army's 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, plead not guilty at a special court martial on Thursday to two counts of missing movement, disobeying a lawful order and going absent without leave (AWOL). Friday, in a trial full of theatrics from the jury, prosecution witnesses and the prosecution, he was found guilty on all counts. Sgt. Bishop is the second soldier from Fort Hood in as many weeks to be tried by the military for his stand against an occupation he believes is 'illegal.' He insists that it would be unethical for him to deploy to support an occupation he opposes on both moral and legal grounds, and has filed for conscientious objector (CO) status. A CO is someone who refuses to participate in combat based on religious or ethical grounds, and can be given an honorable discharge by the military." http://www.truthout.org/
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
At our recent California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting, members voted to support HR 2404, which will require the Secretary of Defense to define an exit strategy for Afghanistan, so we can start bringing our troops home.
Since we invaded Afghanistan nearly eight years ago, more than 700 American troops have been killed there. In just the first six months of this year, there have been more than 1,000 civilian deaths there, according to the U.N.
Email your member of Congress today – and urge him or her to support an exit strategy for Afghanistan now!
For more than seven long years, brave men and women from the American armed forces have been fighting and dying in Afghanistan.
Fifty-eight U.S. and NATO troops died in Afghanistan in July, making it the deadliest month since we invaded to force out al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2001.
Enough is enough.
It’s time we learned the lessons of history. The British Empire, the most powerful empire in the world, could not subdue Afghanistan. Neither could the Soviet Union, the second most powerful country at that time and next-door neighbor to Afghanistan. Two of the great militaries in history found Afghanistan easy to conquer but impossible to hold.
It’s time the people of Afghanistan assumed full control of their own country.
It’s time for American troops to come home – not only from Iraq, but from Afghanistan too. And the first step is an exit strategy.
Click here to email your representative in Congress today – tell him or her that Californians want an exit strategy for Afghanistan now!
Twenty California Democrats voted in June for an unsuccessful amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would have called for an Afghanistan withdrawal timeline. So far, 14 California Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors of HR 2404, the standalone bill for an Afghanistan exit strategy. That’s a great start.
But HR 2404 is stuck in committee, and we need to get it to the floor of the House where it can come up for a full vote.
Already, $223 billion that could have gone to things like health care reform has been sunk into this war, and some in the military are talking about ramping up our presence in Afghanistan. It’s clear our troops and the people of Afghanistan need your help now.
They need your help calling on all of California’s members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, to support this bill and start planning how we’re going to disengage.
Click here to email your member of Congress today – and urge him or her to support an exit strategy for Afghanistan now! http://www.kintera.org/TR.asp?a=bfLLJTNpE9KHI1I&s=[[en_supporter_id]]&m=[[en_MailID2]]
Our brave servicemen and servicewomen have performed admirably in Afghanistan. Now it’s time to bring them home.
Peace and friendship,
California Democratic Party
P.S. Looking for the full text of HR 2404? Well here it is, every last word of it:
Not later than December 31, 2009, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to Congress a report outlining the United States exit strategy for United States military forces in Afghanistan participating in Operation Enduring Freedom.