Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Obama Heads Into G-20 Talks, NATO Challenges

Bridget Johnson, The Hill: "President Obama kicks off an eight-day European visit - and steps into a morass of economic conflict and sensitive political maneuvers - when he lands in London on Tuesday evening."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Reminder: Call Your Senators Today to Ban Cluster Bombs!

Dear Friend,

Please remember to make your free call today to help save lives and limbs. Call NAME OF SENATOR(S) toll-free at 800-590-6313 and urge them to ban U.S. use of cluster bombs.
The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2009 (S. 416/H.R. 981) would ban the use of most cluster bombs. Right now, 24 senators support this bipartisan bill. Your call can help increase this number, demonstrating to the president that he has sufficient support to sign the new global treaty banning these weapons and send it to the Senate for ratification.
Call NAME OF SENATOR(S) on March 30.
How to Call
Call 800-590-6313. This free call will connect you to the Capitol switchboard. Ask for your senator by name.
Once you reach someone in the senator's office, identify yourself as a constituent and ask to speak to the legislative assistant who deals with foreign or military policy issues. If that person is not available, either give the information below to the receptionist or ask for the legislative aide's answering machine and leave your message there.
Here are some talking points to help you leave your message:

My name is [NAME], and I live in [CITY, STATE]. Thanks for taking my call.

I am calling to encourage Senator [SENATOR'S NAME] to cosponsor S. 416, the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act.

Senator [NAME]'s co sponsorship of this bill will help align U.S. policy with that of our closest NATO allies and ensure that we no longer use weapons known to kill more civilians than soldiers.

Will co sponsorship of this bill be possible? (Give your phone number if you would like a call back.)

Thank you.
If you wish to speak with your other senator, call the toll-free number again.
Find Out More
Visit the national call-in day site and learn more about banning cluster bombs. For a reminder of why your call matters, read this recent BBC article highlighting the continued danger from cluster munitions dropped on Serbia 10 years ago.
Kathy Guthrie
Field Program Secretary

Sunday, March 29, 2009

How to Destroy the Government in Three Easy Steps

Joe Brewer, Truthout: "In eight short years, conservatives have effectively bankrupted many state governments and left the fed in shambles. And now citizens have to 'make tough decisions' and share the suffering equally across the land (unless of course, you're part of that lucky 1 percent who co-opted the functions of government to serve their own ends ... they'll be cozy with their offshore bank accounts, golden parachutes and permanent tax holidays). Are you a teacher who educates our future citizens? Too bad. You've got to tighten your belt and let that job go. Manual laborer? Sorry, but that job can earn more money for our shareholders if it's done in Micronesia."

Veterans For Peace Statement on Obama's Afghanistan Policy

For Immediate Release
Veterans For Peace: www.veteransforpeace.org
March 27, 2009
CONTACT: Mike Ferner 419-360-3621 Michael T. McPhearson 314-303-8874 Today President Obama announced what he termed, "a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan."
The President went on to say, "I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That's the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: We will defeat you."
The national organization Veterans For Peace takes issue with the President's characterization of the conflict in Afghanistan and his policies. Vietnam War Navy Corpsman and National President of VFP, Mike Ferner, said, "The President has already escalated the war in Afghanistan by an additional 17,000 troops. Today's announced escalation of 4,000 more troops is another step into the swamp. It doesn't matter if those steps are big or small, we're still going into the swamp and we need to turn around. At some point we will undoubtedly stop bombing and start talking. The sooner we do that the better."
Ferner, who as a Corpsman attended hundreds of wounded troops, added, "Some of what the President said will help the situation, but it is all undercut by the basic belief that more force will provide security. U.S. use of force in the region has caused the deaths of thousands of civilians, greatly increasing opposition to U.S. presence and undermining confidence in the local government. Our military operations in Pakistan have aggravated an already unstable environment, and expanding them will only increase instability. Obama's plan will ensure more of the same in both countries."
VFP Executive Director Michael T. McPhearson stated, "President Obama expressed concerns for the women and girls in Afghanistan. VFP shares those same concerns for the women serving in our Armed Forces who are more likely to be sexually assaulted than their civilian counter-parts. What I do not hear in this discussion is the fact that those who suffer the most in war are women and children. War does not protect the vulnerable, it throws social mores out the window and women are seen as spoils. VFP urges the President to rethink his plan of escalation and put the full force of U.S. efforts in diplomacy, economic assistance and humanitarian aid."
In their August, 2008 Annual Convention VFP passed a resolution calling for: "the government of the United States to immediately withdraw all military and intelligence forces from Afghanistan and Pakistan; to provide humanitarian aid directly to the people of Afghanistan, in non-coercive forms, to help the Afghan people rebuild their own nation and their lives in cooperation with other nations in the region; and to allow the people of Afghanistan to freely determine their own government without interference by the US."
The resolution also renounced the claim that the war in Afghanistan is somehow the "right" war and reaffirmed their position that war must be abolished.
# # #
Founded in 1985, Veterans For Peace is a national organization of men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations spanning the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts cold or hot. It has chapters in nearly every state in the union and is headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary. Veterans For Peace is an official Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) represented at the U.N.
Veterans For Peace: www.veteransforpeace.org

Friday, March 27, 2009

Disastrous path on which America is currently embarked

Interesting article by Jeffrey Kuhner , Washington Times.

Disastrous path on which America is currently embarked was tried in another country. A fact not well known is that Argentina, prior to World War II, was an economic powerhouse. Beginning in the 1880s and continuing through the 1920s and 1930s, it was regarded as one of the most prosperous and advanced nations in the world. Then Juan Peron and his wife Eva took control in the 1940s until a coup in 1955 ousted them from power.

Argentina had a strong industrial base, thriving agricultural exports, huge cattle ranches, and a broad and expanding middle class. Like America , it served as a magnet for immigrants from all over the world, especially Italians. Within 15 years under the Perons, Argentina , however, went from being one of the richest to one of the poorest countries. To date it has never fully recovered.

Upon coming to office, Peron, along with his popular beautiful wife, Eva, created a state characterized by lavish social spending, elaborate welfare programs, protectionism, confiscatory taxation, and runaway deficits. Juan Peron used class warfare rhetoric. He attacked big business, the banks, the private corporations, and the propertied class. He gave the labor unions power and made them pivotal allies of his regime. Then Peron expanded the bloated government bureaucracy to intervene in every aspect of business and life, which led to internal corruption.

Peron's central socialist economic planning destroyed industrial productivity and growth. The world's investment capital fled. Taxes, inflation, unemployment, and interest rates soared and the middle class was wiped out. Finally, an independent judiciary and media ceased to exist . Eva's cult of supporters fostered a climate of violence and political enemies of the regime were exterminated. Argentina degenerated into the typical debt-ridden Latin American country that it still is today.

The failure of Argentina under Peron should serve as a warning to us. Socialism and a sky-rocketing debt can permanently impoverish even the wealthiest of nations and America is not immune from the laws of economics.

Obama is taking the first dangerous steps toward an American version of Peronism. His followers see him as a political messiah and a revolutionary change agent. He and the Democrats are plundering the country, using it as a vehicle to reward supporters and punish foes. They plan to confiscate wealth by taxing the rich and successful business class. Obama's plan to do away with secret ballets will strengthen the labor unions. His wife, Michelle, is the Eva Peron of our time, a glamorous, chic, socialist fashion trend-setter who is beloved by the media.

Just remember, "Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it".

Get Involved To All Readers: Help Force Congress To Observe the Law on National Emergencies!!!

Tuesday, March 24 2009 Peter Dale Scott and Dan Hamburg
On 9/11 the Bush administration declared a State of Emergency (SOE), which was formally proclaimed on September 14, 2001, and extended by Bush repeatedly thereafter, most recently on August 28, 2008.1 Under cover of this SOE, Bush secretly enacted many extreme measures, ranging from suspension of habeas corpus to preparations for martial law in America; all these were undertaken as part of secret so-called "Continuity of Government" (COG) procedures associated with the SOE, and first instituted on 9/11.2 and 3
The National Emergencies Act, one of the post-Watergate reforms so detested by Vice-President Cheney, requires specifically that
Not later than six months after a national emergency is declared, and not later than the end of each six-month period thereafter that such emergency continues, each House of Congress shall meet to consider a vote on a joint resolution to determine whether that emergency shall be terminated.
(50 U.S.C. 1622 (2002)4
Last fall one of us appealed on the Internet for the Democrats in Congress to take this statutorily required step, and also to learn what secret COG measures were being enacted under the SOE.5 There was no response.
In February 2009 we sent to officials in Washington the following appeal to consider terminating the State of Emergency. The appeal was sent to President Obama's staff in the White House, and to the staff of Nancy Pelosi, Peter DeFazio, and Dennis Kucinich in Congress. Almost two months have passed, and there has not yet been any response from the addressees.
We are now appealing to the readers of this post to contact their representatives in Congress, and demand that they consider the termination of the State of Emergency, as is required of them by law.

Pick up the phone

Call the White House and tell the President you oppose escalation in Afghanistan: 202-456-1111.

Don’t Escalate, Negotiate Diplomacy and Development, Not Predators and Prisons What about the Home Front?  

Visit Get Afghanistan Right and learn more about reasons to oppose an escalation in Afghanistan http://www.getafghanistanright.com Call your Member of Congress and let them know you oppose escalation in Afghanistan. If you’re not sure who represents you, visit the House of Representatives website https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml and input your address–it will give you the name of your congressperson (and, it will take you to their email form). You can reach them through the Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121. United for Peace and Justice prepared some fantastic fact sheets to help you prepare http://www.unitedforpeace.org/article.php?id=4019 Sign the petition over at Rethink Afghanistan http://rethinkafghanistan.com/?utm_source=rgemail calling for oversight hearings on the Afghanistan policy. (They’ve also just posted part 2 of their excellent film…see the trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WhQON0MiGc&feature=player_embedded Sign Sojourner’s petition to Obama http://go.sojo.net/campaign/afghanistan2009_obama Sign the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s petition calling for an investment in peace, not war, in Afghanistan http://capwiz.com/fconl/issues/alert/?alertid=12647486


By TomHayden Bush’s war costs in Afghanistan have been $173 billion from 2001 through 2009. Obama’s proposals for Iraq/Afghanistan are $144 billion this fiscal year, but not broken down. The secret war by the US-trained “Freedom Corps” in Pakistan is budgeted at $400 million. As America’s infrastructure decays, the Army Corps of Engineers is spending $4 billion for construction in Afghanistan this year, including 720 miles of roads this year alone. [W. Post, Mar. 22]. The expansion of Afghanistan’s army will cost “up to” $20 billion in the next several years, while Afghanistan’s entire national budget is $1.1 billion for this year.[Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation, Mar. 23]. Cost overruns and corruption being what they are, it is easy to predict the Afghan/Pakistan wars costing one trillion dollars by the end of the president’s first term. Military spending will continue to outpace civilian reconstruction aid indefinitely.

In summary, be prepared for a war that spans the length of the Obama presidency, an Obama War. Expect the Congress to be inert and distracted. Expect little help from the media.

But hey, we’ve been here before.
It’s time for a new movement against reckless escalation, especially one which threatens to divert our attention from the crisis at home, while only leaving poverty, malnutrition and anti-American hatreds rising abroad.

The new movement could begin this week, a living memorial to the passing of Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968.


By Tom Hayden
In the model currently applied, military force is to be followed by diplomacy with NATO at the center. Whatever the reason – access to oil resources, global dominance, the clash of fundamentalisms, distrust of the region – this desire for Western dominance delays and may even derail any possible diplomatic solution. The primary powers in the actual region include Iran, India, Russia and China, all distrusted on various levels by the US government, which therefore wishes to include them only as junior partners or satellites of NATO. Take the example of Iran; with 150,000 American troops on its border with Iraq, and upwards of 100,000 more on its border with Afghanistan, are they going to revert to their 2001 posture of supporting the US in Afghanistan? Or take the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [China, Russia and Central Asian countries]; will they be persuaded to welcome NATO? – they already are on record calling for US military withdrawal from the region. Or take the Kashmir crisis; does the US expect Pakistan to withdraw support for the Taliban and other jihadists they see as a bulwark against the Indian threat in Kashmir and Afghanistan while the US tilts towards India?

The other problem with a diplomatic solution for the US is the uncomfortable matter of democracy. In Afghanistan, the Karzai regime might not survive this year’s election, in which case the US will be seeking a substitute who signs off on the occupation. In Pakistan, the US has spent nearly a decade, and $11 billion in taxpayer money, supporting a military dictatorship and now, after the assassination of Benezir Bhutto, the US has been backing the Zardari regime against the more popular movement of Nawaf Sharif supported by thousands of lawyers and civil society in the streets. Anything resembling genuine popular democracy in Afghanistan or Pakistan would end the Western military occupation, or at least the air war, house to house roundups, and mass incarceration at Bagram and force a reversal of the current ratio of 18:I spending priority on the military. [See, Tariq Ali, The Duel, 2008, and Ahmed Rashid, Descent into Chaos, 2008].


By Tom Hayden President Obama obviously has no intention of sending hundreds of thousands of American troops into Afghanistan or Pakistan. But escalation, once it begins, is increasingly difficult to stop. Already Obama’s generals want more troops than the president is sending. The neo-conservatives and Republicans are demanding a “Must-Win War” and denouncing any talk of an exit strategy. A gradual American escalation may play into the jihadist game plan, drawing more Western troops into jeopardy, or permitting a retreat into mountainous wastelands if necessary. Any “redeployment” [another word for retreat in the minds of the neo-cons] other than returning with Bin Ladin’s head on a platter, provokes a right-wing reaction at home. The easy solution to these pressures is another escalation followed by another, like one drink at a time. [See D. Ellsberg, Secrets, 2002]


By Tom Hayden


The Obama Plan instead will accelerate any plans al Qaeda commanders have for attacking targets in the United States or Europe. The alternative for al Qaeda is to risk complete destruction, an American objective that has not been achieved for eight years. A future terrorist attack need not be planned or set in motion from a cave in Waziristan. The cadre could already be underground in Washington or London. The real alternative for President Obama should be to maintain a deterrent posture while immediately accelerating diplomacy to meet legitimate Muslim goals, from a Palestinian state to genuine progress on Kashmir.

President Obama is right, at least politically, to take very seriously the threat of another 9/11 from any source. Besides the suffering inflicted, it would derail his agenda and perhaps his presidency. This is all the more reason he must understand that by repeatedly threatening to “kill al Qaeda” he is provoking a hornet’s nest without protection against a devastating sting.

The hard choices are laid out very clearly in writings by the CIA’s former point man on Osama bin Ladin, Michael Scheuer, who also ran the Agency’s rendition program and still supports it. Scheuer is a tough guy, in other words, who says the options are either to kill all the jihadists, make it quick, and withdraw [not a real option], or begin pursuing an agenda which addresses what he calls Muslim issues: the American military and civilian presence in the Arab Peninsula, the unqualified US support for Israel, US support for states which oppress Muslims [China, India, Russia], US exploitation of Muslim oil and suppression of its price, US military presence in the Islamic world, US support and protection of Arab police states. [Michael Scheuer, Marching Toward Hell, 2008]

Such an approach would create an option to violence for many millons of jihadi sympathizers and potential recruits. It would create an incentive not to inflict terrorism, blow up airplanes and hotels, or deploy a nuclear bomb in a suitcase. It would disturb the multinational oil companies and the Israel lobby, but open a better path to stability than wars against the Muslim world.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Military Spending: About 43 Percent of Your 2008 Taxes Goes to War

As Tax Day approaches, do you know what your tax dollars are paying for? We don't yet have enough information to do our usual comprehensive analysis, but we can estimate that about 43 percent of your 2008 income tax dollars were spent on current and past military activities. Find out more, and see four ways the United States could cut its military budget.

BAD NEWS: Progressive Think Tank Tells Obama to Escalate

The Center for American Progress has positioned itself as a "progressive" Washington think tank, especially suited to channel new thinking and expertise into the Obama administration. It therefore is deeply disappointing that CAP has issued a call for a ten-year war in Afghanistan, including an immediate military escalation, just as President Obama prepares to unveil his Afghanistan/Pakistan policies to the American public and NATO this week.

It is likely that Obama will follow most of CAP's strategic advice, assuming the think tank to be the progressive wing of what's possible within the Beltway.

That means a long counter-insurgency war ahead, with everything from massive incarcerations and detention to Predator strikes that amass increasing civilian casualties. CAP begins by calling on the president to meet the request of his commander in Afghanistan for another 15,000 troops in addition to the 17,000 Obama already has committed, which would bring the near-term US total to 70,000. To pay for these additional troops, CAP proposes redirecting $25 billion annually from combat in Iraq to Afghanistan. In addition, CAP favors up to $5 billion annually for diplomatic and economic assistance, also from a redirection of Iraq spending.

Even assuming the economic assistance reaches villages instead of corrupt middlemen, CAP's primary emphasis is a military one, sending larger numbers of American troops on a counterinsurgency mission in southern and eastern Afghanistan, as well as the outskirts of Kabul. Make no mistake, the American mission will be to fight, kill and capture, and, is intended to leave NATO allies in secondary training roles. The CAP proposal seems to flesh out the Obama strategy already described in a New York Times January 28 headline, "Aides Say Obama's Afghan Aims Elevate War Over Development." The CAP report calculates that in FY 2009, "the ration of funding for military forces versus non-military international engagement is 18 to 1."

There is no exit strategy contemplated in the CAP proposal, although the president apparently is been asking for one behind the scenes. Nor is there any projected cap on future escalation The CAP timeline, front-loaded with military force, is as fanciful about Afghanistan/Pakistan as the neo-conservatives were towards Iraq in the Nineties:

- in the next 18 months, a combat/counterinsurgency push to prevent Afghanistan from being a "safe haven for terrorist and extremist groups with a global reach"; prevent the destabilization of Pakistan by creating "a stable civilian government committed to working toward the elimination of terrorist safe havens" there.

- In three to five years, create a "viable Afghan economy", curb the poppy trade, promote democracy and human rights, and resolve regional tensions.

- In ten years, build an Afghan state that can defend itself, and "prepare for full military withdrawal."

As a practical matter, all that is certain is that there will be blood. When the problem is a nail, reach for the hammer. But military occupation, particularly a surge of US troops into the Pashtun region in southern Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the surest way to inflame nationalist resistance and greater support for the Taliban. President Hamid Karzai said last December that "the coalition went around Afghan villages, burst into people's homes and has been committing extraditional killings in our country." A United Nations investigator made the same point in 2008, accusing the CIA and Special Forces "of conducting nighttime raids and killing civilians in Afghanistan with impunity." Pakistan's prime minister said the same years that "if America wants to see itself clean of terrorists, we also want that our villages and towns should not be bombed." As a January 2009 report by the Carnegie Endowment concluded, "the only meaningful way to halt the insurgency's momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban."

CAP takes no notice of the torture and detention without human rights protections at Kabul's Bagram prison, now undergoing massive expansion. Obama's team already says his anti-torture executive order does not cover the hundreds detained in Afghanistan, so it is likely that the American forces will launch a massive "preventive incarceration" campaign in the months ahead. CAP's silence on this matter is especially disturbing since the think tank expressed deep concern over the same policies in Iraq.

Many Americans are confused, but it is not necessary to have a West Point or Ivy League degree to understand the heart of the matter. Whether it is the street of LA or the alleys of Kabul, law-and-order always comes first along with promises of jobs and development "later", a later that gradually becomes never. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the levels of suffering are among the most extreme in the world, and from suffering, from having nothing to live for, comes the will to die for a cause.

United Nations recent development data places Afghanistan 173rd out of 178 countries; Pakistan is 136th. According to such estimates, about sixty percent of children in the Pashtun areas are "moderately" or "severely" stunted. In Afghanistan as a whole, such children will be spared miserable lives because the country has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. No more need be said.

As to the threat from al Qaeda, it is understandable that the president would define himself as an aggressive commander-in-chief. But he must wonder if our killing so many civilians and stunting so many children won't result in yet another generation dying to hate us. He must wonder if he is squandering the good will of the world, including the Muslim world, by sending more Americans to kill and die in a quagmire. He must recognize that he is putting his eight-year presidency on the line.

He must wonder too, as he approaches his meetings in Europe, why NATO is occupying countries so far from its base in the mainly-white Western world. It is hard to avoid the hint that the white man's burden is falling on the shoulders of our first African-American president. The only solution to the Afghanistan/Pakistan quagmires has to be a regional one, as argued forcefully by Tariq Ali in his recent book, as well as by Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashid, but NATO is the stranger in the neighborhood. CAP recognizes this critical problem, as does Hillary Clinton who will meet the regional players at the Hague next week. The problem is that NATO, burdened with imperial assumptions, would like China, Russia, and the Central Asian Republics constituting the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to be satellite parties to the Western occupation of Afghanistan/Pakistan. But the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, while having serious stakes in quelling instability in the region, calls on the US and NATO to go home.

Can the burden be sustained politically and economically for ten years more? Already Canada and the Netherlands have set timelines for withdrawing their forces, assigned now to the most violent regions of southern Afghanistan. Germany may be the next to balk. And with the American economy in shambles, can anyone envision a war whose costs will exceed one trillion dollars a decade from now? Only the neo-conservatives, if Iraq is any example, which makes it tragic that CAP has aligned itself. Tom Hayden

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

US Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs

U S C B L e - a c t i o n
m a r c h 2 0 0 9
Tell the Senate to Give Cluster Bombs the Boot!
Join the National Call-in Day on Monday, March 30th
Toll-Free Number: 1-800-590-6313
U S C B L e - a c t i o n
m a r c h 2 0 0 9
Tell the Senate to Give Cluster Bombs the Boot!
Join the National Call-in Day on Monday, March 30th
Toll-Free Number: 1-800-590-6313
Two weeks ago Congress and the president permanently outlawed exports of nearly all U.S. cluster munitions because these weapons always end up harming more civilians than soldiers. Now, USCBL is organizing a national call-in day to help Congress take the next step: making sure the U.S. military never again uses its vast arsenal of nearly 700 million cluster submunitions.
The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2009 (S. 416/H.R. 981) would block use of cluster munitions that leave behind more than one percent of their submunitions as landmine-like duds, and any use in areas where civilians live. Since only a very tiny fraction of the U.S. arsenal meets this reliability standard, the bill would effectively ban U.S. use. S. 416 was introduced a month ago and has already gathered 24 Senate co-sponsors from both parties. Increasing co-sponsorhip of this legislation will show President Obama that there is widespread support for him to join more than half the world's nations in signing the treaty banning these weapons.
Help save a life or limb by making a free phone call on Monday, March 30.
Together, we can generate hundreds of calls to senators who have not yet cosponsored the legislation. It's as simple as 1,2,3...
1. Before the 30th
Before March 30, tell five friends about the call-in day, forward this alert to your activists and e-mail lists, and/or post something about the call-in day on your website. You can use the graphic at the bottom of this e-mail.
2. Whom to Call
Are you from California, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, or Vermont? Both of your senators are already on board! You can still call your representative and urge her or him to cosponsor the companion bill in the House, H.R. 981.
Are you from Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, West Virginia, or Wisconsin? One of your senators is already co-sponsoring, so you need only call one! These senators still need calls: Chuck Grassley (IA), John Kerry (MA), Carl Levin (MI), Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Tom Udall (NM), Arlen Specter (PA), George Voinovich (OH), Jack Reed (RI), John Thune (SD), John Rockefeller (WV), Herb Kohl (WI).
Do you live in any other state? You should call both of your senators and ask them to cosponsor the bill! Find out who your senators are. http://capwiz.com/fconl/dbq/officials/

3. How to Make the Calls
Call 1-800-590-6313. This number will redirect you to the Capitol Switchboard for free. Ask for your senator by name. Check the list above to see which of your senators already support the bill.
Once you are directed to the office, identify yourself as a constituent, and ask to speak to the legislative assistant who deals with foreign or military policy issues.
Follow the script below, if you'd like.
After you call one senator's office, call the switchboard again and ask for your other senator (unless your other senator is already a cosponsor).
Note: if the receptionist tells you that the person is not available, you can either give the below information to the receptionist, or ask for the legislative aide’s answering machine and leave your message there.
Script for your call (feel free to improve and add additional information!)
My name is [NAME], and I live in [CITY, STATE]. Thanks for taking my call.
I am calling to encourage Senator [SENATOR’S NAME] to cosponsor S. 416, the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act.
Senator [NAME]’s co-sponsorship of this bill will help align U.S. policy with that of our closest NATO allies and ensure that we no longer use weapons that are known to have a record of killing more civilians than soldiers.
Will co-sponsorship of this bill be possible? (Give your phone number if you would like a call back.)
Thank you.

Scars of Nato bombing still pain Serbs

Miroslav Maksic was killed months after the end of the Nato offensive Miroslav had just been for a swim with his friend in Bujanovac, when he was killed by a cluster bomblet. His friend was seriously injured. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7960116.stm

Bradbury Torture Memos to Be Released

Jason Leopold, Truthout: "The Obama administration intends to declassify and publicly release three Justice Department memorandums drafted in May 2005 that gave CIA interrogators the legal authorization to torture 'high-value' detainees as well as a list of techniques to use against the prisoners, according to a report in Newsweek. According to a list of still-secret documents related to the Bush administration's 'enhanced interrogation techniques' obtained from the ACLU, the May 2005 memos were signed by Steven Bradbury, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). However, one of the memos Bradbury signed, dated May 10, 2005, was largely one in which he reinstated elements of an August 2002 torture memo drafted by Jay Bybee and John Yoo, former deputy assistant attorney generals at OLC, which spelled out exactly what techniques interrogators could use against prisoners and was written for the CIA."

Monday, March 23, 2009

On Sixth Anniversary of Iraq war...

A "throng of war protesters swelled Saturday as they marched across the Memorial Bridge." (AP) The protesters marched on the Pentagon and what followed was a dramatic direct action at Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and KBR, corporations that demonstrators labeled "merchants of death." The predominantly young crowd continued to grow as the day proceeded. They marched through the Pentagon north Parking Lot and then into downtown Crystal City, where the leading war corporations' headquarters are located.

The march was led by a contingent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. James Circello, an Iraq war veteran and member of the Veterans and Service Members Task Force of the ANSWER Coalition, said, “We refuse to accept the new administration’s attempts to rewrite the history of the occupation of Iraq into that of a humanitarian mission."
There was a significant delegation from members of the Arab and Muslim communities and many students participated.

The Arlington County Police mobilized in full riot gear in an attempt to block the demonstrators from delivering symbolic coffins at the doorsteps of the war corporations. They brought tear gas, snarling dogs and pointed guns loaded with rubber bullets directly at demonstrators. The Arlington County Police also put out an absurdly low count of the demonstration, which was more than 10,000 people.

In Los Angeles, a simultaneous demonstration drew 4,000 people, which culminated with a dramatic die-in at the Kodak Theater. Another 4,000 demonstrated in San Francisco, where police carried out violent attacks on demonstrators and arrested numerous people.

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-694-8720
Los Angeles: 213-251-1025
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
Chicago: 773-463-0311

Sunday, March 22, 2009

North Korea Says Holding Two Americans

Miyoung Kim, Reuters: "North Korea reopened a military hotline with the South on Saturday, a day after Washington and Seoul ended annual defense drills Pyongyang had called preparations for an invasion. The North also confirmed it had detained two Americans on Tuesday for 'illegally' crossing its border from China and said they were being investigated."

Iran Sets Terms for US Ties

Fredrik Dahl, Reuters: "Iran has responded to US President Barack Obama's offer of better relations by demanding policy changes from Washington, but the Islamic state is not closing the door to a possible thaw in ties with its old foe."

Diplomat Testifies About Legality of Iraq Invasion

David Hencke, The Guardian UK: "A former diplomat at the centre of events in the run-up to the Iraq war revealed yesterday that the government has a 'paper trail' that could reveal new information about the legality of the invasion.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Congressional Progressive Caucus Holding Forums on Afghanistan/Pakistan

In a move to awaken Congress to the need for debate on the Afghanistan/Pakistan war, the Congressional Progressive Caucus will hold six forums beginning this week and ending in May.

The forums are a response to calls from Tom Hayden, Brave New Foundation, Peace Action West, southern California clergy, and other anti-war groups.

According to Hayden, who met twice with CPC co-chair Raul Grijalva, “Congressional opposition to these wars has not begun to stir, perhaps because of confusion, deference to the Obama administration, or pre-occupation with the economy. Therefore this is a preliminary attempt to ‘get Afghanistan right’ before it becomes yet another trillion-dollar quagmire.” [for information and new video material on Afghanistan/Pakistan, contact Axel Woolfolk and Leighton Woodhouse at BNF, email: axel@gmail.com], lwoodhouse@bravenewfoundation.org, and the campaign website: Rethinkafghanistan.com
The forums, while an important stimulus to Congressional discussion, are problematic in several ways:

1. They are heavily laden with representatives of the national security establishment, with certain exceptions like William Polk, a historian and critic of the Iraq War.
2. There are no participants from the anti-war movement, whose expertise is anchored in having been right in the past.
3. There is no panel on exit strategies from the two wars.
4. There is no discussion of how Congress can and should play an oversight role in obtaining accurate budget figures, casualty numbers, information on mass detentions, and holding the Obama administration accountable for measurable progress.

“Local anti-war groups should gear up to oppose President Obama’s forthcoming plans for escalating these wars, and request that their Congressional representatives participate in shaping these initial CPC forums in a more progressive direction”, Hayden suggested.

The CPC can be reached through executive director William Goold at: bill.goold@mail.house.gov, or through Glenn Miller in Rep. Grijalva’s office, at: glenn.miller@mail.house.gov

Pope meets Muslims, delivers anti-violence message

Last update: March 19, 2009 - 7:43 PM
YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - All religions must reject violence, Pope Benedict told Muslim leaders Thursday before celebrating an open-air mass and offering a message of hope to Africa's expanding Catholic flock.
In Cameroon's capital of Yaounde, a clapping, swaying crowd of 40,000 welcomed Benedict to a sports stadium -- his first occasion as pope to be among a large crowd of faithful on the continent that is witnessing the church's biggest growth.
In his homily, Benedict stressed traditional values and expressed compassion for African children being kidnapped and forced to fight by rebel groups across Africa.
"God loves you; he has not forgotten you," he said in a message to those children.
Earlier, the pope met with 22 representatives of Cameroon's sizable Muslim minority and said that religion is the basis of human civilization.
"Genuine religion ... stands at the base of any authentically human culture," he said. "It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith but also of right reason."
Christians and Muslims largely coexist without problems in Cameroon, unlike in neighboring Nigeria. "May the enthusiastic cooperation of Muslims, Catholics and other Christians in Cameroon be a beacon to other African nations of the enormous potential of an inter-religious commitment to peace, justice and the common good," Benedict said.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Afghanistan: More Troops + Afghanistan = Catastrophe

President Obama is preparing to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan. This video, the first part of a documentary directed by Robert Greenwald, questions the U.S. strategy of more troops and more war.
Check out the video and spread the word that diplomacy and development, not war, are the answer in Afghanistan.


No More Cluster Bomb Exports

March 17, 2009

Great news! The omnibus spending bill that President Barack Obama signed on March 11 prohibits the United States from exporting nearly all cluster bombs. FCNL coordinates the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs and led the lobbying for this ban. Find out more about the ban in this Congressional Quarterly article.


Monday, March 16, 2009


A coalition of progressive clergy gathered at historic All-Saints Church on March 8 to call for a new mobilization against the escalating Obama war in Afghanistan. All-Saints was threatened with tax revocation by the Bush Administration for its anti-war stance in 2004. The church has never backed down.
The press conference can be widely circulated as a call to action from Christian, Muslim and Jewish peace advocates.
Introductory remarks were by Rev. Ed Bacon of All-Saints:
the Rev. Ed Bacon, Part 1:
Remarks on Afghanistan/Pakistan were delivered by Tom Hayden:
Tom Hayden, Part 2:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRTRMNsPffsFor a longer talk by Tom Hayden at the All-Saints Rector’s Forum that day, go to
Link for Rector's Forum and the uncut "Peace in Afghanistan" Press Conference (the first two entries listed on the webpage):

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Ongoing Occupation of Iraqi Artists

Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "For centuries, artists, writers, and intellectuals have been meeting in Baghdad's teahouses over tulip-shaped glasses of sweet lemon tea, cigarettes, and shisha pipes. A car bomb detonated near one of the oldest teahouses a year-and-a-half ago, causing massive destruction around the area. When it reopened recently, Mohammed Al-Mumain, a 59-year-old biology teacher resumed his visits there. The portly, jovial teacher brought tea for my colleague and I before settling to talk, 'The mind needs art and education. I come here because the lamp needs electricity. The lamp of my mind, like that in all of us, needs to discuss and review life continually. That feeds me. When I come here I feel like a teenager again. All that I need, the old culture along with the new, I find here.'"

How Not to End Another President's War (L.B.J. Edition)

Robert Dallek, The New York Times: "On November 24, 1963, two days after John F. Kennedy's assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson met with his principal national security advisers to consider the most volatile issue he had inherited: Vietnam. A coup at the beginning of November - approved by the Kennedy administration - had toppled Ngo Dinh Diem's government and taken his life. Concerns about the ability of his untested successors to withstand Vietcong insurgents backed by Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnamese Communist regime gave Johnson a sense of urgency about an issue that could threaten United States interests abroad and undermine his standing at home."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Death Toll in Pakistan Missile Attack Hits 22

Munir Ahmad, The Associated Press: "Militants searched Friday for bodies in the debris of a house destroyed by suspected US missiles in northwestern Pakistan as the death toll rose to 22, including foreign extremists, intelligence officials said."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Proposed Focus of Congressional Hearings on Afghanistan and Pakistan

By Tom Hayden - March 9, 2009, 3:12PM
President Obama is about to complete his Afghanistan review, and already has proposed $144 billion for Iraq/Afghanistan in FY2009, $130 in FY2010, and $50 billion as a place marker for FY2011 and beyond. These figures are optimistic and not yet broken down between Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan. But Afghanistan funding from 2001 into 2009 has been $173 billion overall, according to the Congressional Research Service, and is certain to rise.

Two facts loom: if Obama sinks into a quagmire in Afghanistan/Pakistan, at the current rate of spending these wars will cost over one trillion in taxpayer dollars -direct and indirect- at the end of his first term. If American casualties continue increasing, they could be approaching a death toll of one thousand at the end of that term as well.

As Obama inherits Bush's wars, this is an important moment for Congress to assert a new role in critical oversight and not repeat the dysfunctional deadlocks between the executive and legislative branches which led to so much secrecy, false accounting and mismanagement in Iraq. If the current Congress actively pursues oversight and insists on transparency and accountability, the media, interested public and peace movement will have the information necessary to play their critical functions in wartime.

Already there are some signs of a greater openness in the Obama era with the Justice Department's disclosure of the Bush-era memos on presidential powers, permission for photo coverage of returning military coffins, and the promise to include war costs in the regular budgetary process. These are important steps away from the past. But make no mistake, the administration is expanding our military commitments in both Afghanistan and Pakistan without President Obama having completed his policy review. While few in Congress are ready to oppose the president over Afghanistan and Pakistan, now is the time for an independent review before the escalation deepens any further.

Congressional hearings are urgently needed on at least the following:

[1] EXIT STRATEGY AND TIMELINES. What goals will the administration set for Afghanistan and Pakistan, what measurements of progress will the administration employ, and who will monitor that progress? In the case of Afghanistan, the administration appears to be setting diplomatic/political goals, using military means; in Pakistan, the administration is setting certain military goals, especially the defeat of al-Qaeda, as well as diplomatic/political ones. Under the Bush presidency, Congress demanded exit strategies, timelines, and regular progress reports [benchmark assessment reports]. This Congress should require this administration to accurately measure progress towards its goals and be held accountable for that progress. Over time, the Congress will be divided between those who oppose and those who support the wars, but they should be united in expecting open debate, full disclosure, and standards of accountability from the new administration. Respected anti-war experts like Chalmers Johnson, William Polk, Juan Cole, Andrew Bacevich and Robert Fisk should be among those invited to testify.

[2] TRANSPARENT BUDGETING. The true costs of these wars should be readily available to Congress and the public, not hidden and minimized as during the Bush years. Experts like Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes should be asked to prepare testimony suggesting the best methodologies for estimating the direct and indirect costs of these wars over time, and the administration and Congress should adhere to those models in preparing and disclosing their budgets.

[3] DISCLOSURE OF CASUALTIES. The Bush administration was successful in blurring, hiding and downplaying estimates of civilian and military casualties, even American ones. As a result, there was never an agreed consensus on real casualty figures, and public outrage was hobbled. For these wars, rational guidelines for establishing casualty numbers should be agreed in the new Congress. John Tirman at MIT, the authors of the 2006 Johns Hopkins reports and the British Lancet surveys should be called to testify as to comprehensive and honest reporting methodologies for casualties - killed and wounded - among all civilians as well as military forces.

[4] CORRUPTION IN CONTRACTING. For Iraq, Congress finally created a special unit, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction [SIGIR], to monitor and report on billions of tax dollars lost on criminal waste, fraud and abuse. Will Congress extend the Special Inspector General's mandate to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and provide greater oversight powers as needed? It should.

[5] HUMAN RIGHTS AND TORTURE. The prison at Bagram Airbase already is suspected of being another Abu Ghraib in the making. The administration should describe how its recent executive order on torture at Guantanamo applies to Afghanistan/Pakistan, how human rights standards will be enforced and funded, whether human rights lawyers and media will be allowed independent contact with detainees, and what limits if any will be placed on policies such as "preventive incarceration" and extra-judicial targeted assassinations which have been employed in Iraq. Critics of the Bush policies from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, ACLU, and reporters like Jane Mayer and Mark Danner should testify on transparency and accountability on human rights issues.

These are some examples of process reforms, as distinct from questions of whether these wars are in our interest and should be funded in the first place. Both tracks should be pursued at the same time. But since it is doubtful that the Democratic Congress, except for a prophetic few, will oppose the wars and cut funding anytime in the near future, the questions of greater disclosure, transparency and accountability become all the more important in the immediate future. One can only hope that truth will not be the first casualty in the Obama wars. The peace movement, which was a major constituency in the 2006 and 2008 elections, has a right to expect a more open, evidence-based, legal and accountable set of policies in the coming wars than in the disgracefully-manipulated Iraq war. If the truth is fully disclosed, the American people will be better able to decide on whether to support these wars in the days ahead.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I'm Overwhelmed! Thank You

Friends Committee on National Legislation
Dear Friends,
I've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our network over the past weeks as I prepare to leave the FCNL staff as of April 1, 2009. You've sent me flowers, http://www.kathyguthrie.blogspot.com/ , recorded videos, http://www.youtube.com/group/fcnl
I'm also glad that the work I've done to connect people around the country with FCNL has been successful. I was touched by Margaret McCoy's reflection on her connection to the organization:
Kathy has enabled me to feel a partner with FCNL. I have relied on her for information that I needed to form my opinions about what has been happening in the world. She has encouraged me to be a participant in areas of importance to FCNL.
I was reminded by former Executive Secretary Ed Snyder that FCNL has successfully weathered transitions before. He recalls that I took over from another amazing woman, which reinforces my confidence that the current executive secretary, Joe Volk, and other FCNL staff members will carry on my legacy:
I hope you know how much I value your work with FCNL. I thought no one could ever successfully follow in Alison Oldham's footsteps, but you certainly have. Your role has been the hub of FCNL's successful work between the lobbyists on the Hill and the grassroots activists around the country.
From the bottom of my heart I thank you all.
Most sincerely,

P.S. I value the feedback all of you provide to every email I send. Please don't stop sharing your thoughts after I'm gone. Joe welcomes your messages and will count on you to keep FCNL on its toes!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Leaders say N. Ireland killings will not dent peace

By Anne Cadwallader
ANTRIM, Northern Ireland (Reuters) - Northern Ireland's former political foes vowed on Sunday the killing of two British soldiers by gunmen would not be allowed to plunge the province into a new cycle of violence.

Baghdad police attack 'kills 28'

A suicide bomber has killed 28 people at a police recruitment center in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, police say.
At least 57 other people were wounded in the attack, which was reported to have been carried out by a bomber who drove his motorcycle into a crowd.
The victims were queuing outside the academy when the bomber struck.
The level of violence in Iraq has dipped significantly over the past year, but it remains a feature of daily life for many Iraqis.
At least 12 people died two days ago when a car bomb exploded at a cattle market in Babil province.
The BBC's Mike Sergeant says that although there has been a substantial decline in the violence in Iraq, it does not appear such attacks are ending altogether.
Explosives belt
Police recruitment centers have been a popular target for insurgents.
The attack happened in "the middle of a crowd outside the [police] academy on Palestine Street," a police official told AFP news agency.
Reports suggest the bomber detonated a belt of explosives as he drove into the waiting line of people.

Ex-Detainee Says UK Supplied Torture Questions to CIA

Stefano Ambrogi, Reuters: "A former Guantanamo Bay prisoner has accused British intelligence of feeding questions to the CIA that he says were put to him while he was tortured in Pakistani and Moroccan jails. The allegations by Binyam Mohamed, a British resident, looked set to fuel demands by human rights groups for a full investigation into whether Britain's support for the US 'war on terror' amounted in his case to complicity with torture."

Northern Ireland attack

2 Dead in Northern Ireland Shootings first in 12 years Democratic Unionist Jeffrey Donaldson urged politicians on all sides to support the security forces in their determination to track down those behind the Massereene Barracks shooting.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

BanBan Cluster Munitions

Clusters are terribly inaccurate and unreliable weapons which do not distinguish between military targets and civilians. They scatter thousands of “bomblets” over a vast area and hundreds fail to explode on impact, littering the landscape with landmine-like “duds”. The US maintains a stockpile of close to one billion submunitions and has used them in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq, Vietnam, and the former Yugoslavia. The suffering that continues in countries plagued by the lasting effects of cluster munitions underlines the urgent need to curb the misuse of these weapons. Cluster munitions used in the Vietnam War are still killing and injuring civilians decades later.
The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007, which has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Dianne Feinstein and in the House by Representative Jim McGovern would ban the use, sale, and transfer of cluster munitions with a failure rate of more than percent.1 Please urge your elected representatives to cosponsor The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007 and support clear, sensible US policy on cluster munitions.

Supreme Court Puts Off Decision on Indefinite Detention

Robert Barnes and Carrie Johnson, The Washington Post: "The Supreme Court yesterday vacated a lower court's ruling that the president has the right to indefinitely detain a legal U.S. resident as a terrorism suspect, and put off a decision on one of the most expansive legal claims of the Bush administration."

CIA Videotapes Depict "Enhanced Interrogation Methods"

Daphne Eviatar, The Washington Independent: "The CIA has reportedly just confirmed - conveniently late on a Friday afternoon - that 12 of the videotapes it destroyed while its interrogation methods were under investigation and the subject of a pending lawsuit depicted the 'enhanced interrogation methods' that detainees' advocates were worried about."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rage Is Good


March 6, 2009

Hopefully, the demonstrations planned on Wall Street April 4 by United for Peace and Justice and other groups will contribute to the global uprising. Our president and Congress need the pressure.

The world has turned against American hegemony before: against the Vietnam war, against the World Trade Organization and against the invasion of Iraq. On all three occasions, the world was right and Washington was wrong.
On this occasion, the global economy is being devastated by the Wall Street crash. Hundreds of millions are hurtling into extreme poverty, export industries are collapsing, currencies being destabilized.

As the conservative French president Nicolas Sarkozy says, "Laissez-faire, c'est fini." (Laissez-faire is finished.)

As nations blame Wall Street and move to protect their people, the protests need not be anti-American nor anti-Obama. Sarkozy cannot be accused of being anti-US. Neither are Iceland nor Ukraine. The global opposition might just may be what we need, an organized populist counterforce to the business and banking lobbies entrenched in Washington.

Obama's stimulus package and proposed budget are not the problem. They represent the most progressive government initiatives in a half-century. But as Franch Rich noted in the New York Times March 1, Obama "was fuzzy when it came to what he wanted to do about" more bailouts. The Obama administration is in trouble on the question of what to do about the financial system and the credit crisis. But Rich is wrong for once in suggesting that it's "bad news" for Obama that "the genuine populist rage in the country...cannot be ignored or finessed."

The "bad news" is really an opportunity for progressives, unions and Democrats to build a bottom-up populist alternative to the "greed is good" politics of Wall Street, which has infested both parties. Obama should privately welcome "populist rage" as a stimulus to reform. If he does not, he may see right-wing populism making a comeback as soon as 2010.

Some progressives, including even Warren Beatty, think it's time to introduce a discussion of socialism, if only to point out that our present course is one of socialism for the banks and corporations. Obama himself says good things about Sweden's nationalization of banks, but quickly demurs that Americans are not "culturally" ready for such an option. At the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson, a democratic socialist in the tradition of Michael Harrington, prefers re-regulation to either nationalization or socialism at this point: "to avoid socialism (to whatever extent throwing public money at banks is socialism) you need liberalism (that is, the willingness to restrain capitalism from its periodic self-destruction.)

My sense is that we are moving too rapidly towards economic hell for a socialist ideology to catch up. While efforts to dust off and legitimize the term will go on, Meyerson is right that the battlefield just ahead is over deregulation, which may evolve into a contentious, awkward, bureaucratic nationalization out of necessity. That is why the sturdier, and heavily regulated Canadian and Swedish banking systems already are being closely examined.

But Obama is not only post-Sixties, he is post-Thirties too. Coming of age in the Reagan era, he was convinced that a healthy dose of President Clinton's Rubinomics was the alternative to Reaganomics. It was the Clinton administration who crusaded for the deregulation of Wall Street at home and for neo-liberal privatizations in Latin America, Africa and Asia. A whole generation of "new Democrats" came to believe in market fundamentalism and magic bubbles. They privately dismissed those Canadians and Swedes as girlie-bankers. Now they are busted.

Clinton deregulated the derivatives market and hedge funds, so called because they are investment instruments designed to "hedge" against risk, where the supposed values are "derived" from underlying assets (for example, when shaky home loans were bundled into securities and sold to third parties as if they were AAA-rated.) Under Bush, between 2002 and 2008, the derivative market rose in estimated value from $106 trillion to $531 trillion, 35 percent to 40 percent of all corporate profits with no oversight, according to Obama Economic Advisory Chair Paul Volcker. That was because, under Clinton and his treasury secretaries Rubin and Alan Greenspan, there was deliberate elimination of oversight when it was proposed by Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. She was fired for her efforts.

The Clinton era, with its modest increase in most family incomes while the rich became the super-rich, apparently had a deep effect on Obama and most certainly on his generation of Democrats. Last year Obama raised nearly $7 million from Wall Street investment firms. Wall Street became a cash cow for Democrats who looked the other way. As a centrist, Obama toyed with notions of "nudging" the Wall Street firms into better behavior by designing a better "choice architecture" in place of traditional regulation (the term is that of his close University of Chicago friend Cass Sunstein.)

Obama has filled his most senior economic positions with people directly responsible for the deregulation policies that contributed to the unfolding catastrophe. They include:

Top economic adviser Larry Summers, who as treasury secretary in 2002 championed the law de-regulating derivatives which, according to the New York Times, "spread the financial losses from reckless lending around the world;"

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who worked for two Republican administrations and Henry Kissinger's private consulting firm, then orchestrated the recent bailouts of Rubin's Citigroup and American International Group, the insurance giant;

Budget Director Peter Orszag, another Rubin protégé;

Michael Froman, another Rubin student, was Obama's transition team point person on the economy (The transition team also included Rubin's son, James Rubin);

Securities and Exchange Commission Director Mary Schapiro has made a reputation for self-regulation. An appointee of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, she ran the industry-dominated Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) which oversees Wall Street self-regulation--and missed the Bernard Madoff scandal;

Gary Gensler, the new director of Obama's CFTC, drafted the 1992 law exempting derivatives from oversight by the agency he now heads.

These are only brief snapshots of the tangled conflicts of interest that make a profound re-regulation of Wall Street unlikely at this point. If a street gang member in Los Angeles had conspired to rob an investment banker of a few thousand dollars, he would receive a multi-year prison term with added time for being a gang "associate." But some of the people responsible for the greatest financial scandal in many decades are flying high in high government offices, their friends colleagues rewarded with million dollar bonuses or mega-billion dollar bailouts, while some complain, incredibly, that a cap of $500,000 on executive compensation is not only unfair but will cause a talent drain from Wall Street.

The logical question is why Obama has appointed such people to key decision-making positions in the first place. No one can know the answer to such a question. Franklin Roosevelt, when asked why he appointed Joseph Kennedy to a leading regulatory position, is said to have replied, "It takes a crook to catch a crook." (A defective gene pool from long years of Ivy League inbreeding comes to mind, but that would be unkind.)

In this crisis, Obama seems to be at the progressive end of the political spectrum in Washington, not his preferred position in the center. Where is the movement to push him? Congressional liberals seem uncomfortable criticizing the new president's appointees. This reluctance runs deeper than partisan politics, involving what Rep. Barney Frank describes as an overwhelming desire to preserve the financial institutions. For one example, without naming names, when asked how he could have voted for Henry Paulson's massive bailout package, a leading liberal Congressman said "when the experts look you in the eye and tell you the whole system is going to collapse, it's hard to be a no vote."

The blogosphere usually can be counted on to raise hell, but its middle class whiteness and affinity for Obama make them unlikely leaders of a populist economic revolt. Organized labor has the capacity to fill the streets and generate heat in Congressional districts, but it is delighted with the president's stimulus and budget packages and the appointment of Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary, so are likely to hold its fire for a time.

It's not clear what has happened to the anti-globalization movement of the past decade, but the opportunity now exists to argue for a system of global financial regulations, including capital controls, and a global living wage. Otherwise, financial capital will flow towards banking havens which are the least regulated, and threatened governments will move towards protecting their constituencies from unregulated global capitalism.

That is why the potential threat of worldwide anger in the streets, including the streets of American financial districts, is so important as the only strategic pressure point that that might cause Obama to ride herd on his recovering deregulators while a progressive populism comes alive in American politics.

Rage is good.

About Tom Hayden
Tom Hayden is the author of The Other Side (1966, with Staughton Lynd), The Love of Possession Is a Disease With Them (1972), Ending the War in Iraq (2007) and Writings for a Democratic Society: The Tom Hayden Reader (2008). more...

Women Say No to War

March 6, 2009
Dear Tim,
This Sunday, March 8, is International Women's Day--a day that always energizes us and reminds us of the power of women joining together to create a more peaceful, sustainable future. It was on International Women's Day six years ago that we organized our first major CODEPINK march in DC, encircling the White House with vibrant pink to say No to the imminent war in Iraq. Three years later, we officially launched our Women Say No to War campaign, bringing women together around the globe to give the peace movement a powerful female voice.
We should be proud of all we've accomplished, but even though we're full of hope for the future, now is not the time to sit idly back. War is NOT over, and our voices are still desperately needed. While we are pleased that President Obama is working toward withdrawing our troops from Iraq, we are disheartened by his decision to push that withdrawal back to August, 2010 and leave up to 50,000 residual troops in the area until December, 2011.
Will you write a letter to the editor of your newspaper to take a stand for real peace in Iraq? Click here to send your letter to the editor, it just takes three minutes.
We were heartbroken by this recent NY Times article on the brutal reality of Iraqi war widows; our new administration needs to help rebuild these shattered lives, not further the chaos wrought by Bush. Let your editor know that we are calling on Obama to immediately withdraw all U.S. troops, including residual forces from Iraq. The U.S. government needs to increase efforts in diplomacy, humanitarian aid and refugee resettlement in Iraq, instead. Obama needs to listen to the people of Iraq who want us out their country, and the American people who want our troops and financial resources back home. Please send your letter today and help give voice to the women of Iraq and all people who long for an end to occupation.
Our work continues in Gaza, as well. Our historic 60 person International Women's Day delegation is currently on their way to Gaza, carrying the 2,000+ gift baskets you so generously donated to the women of the beleaguered region. Thank you for honoring our sisters in Palestine, and for asking your senators to encourage Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to dedicate her own trip to Gaza to promoting peace in the region--thanks to you, 33 senators signed on!
A special thank you to all of the CODEPINK local groups who have already organized International Women's Day events in their communities, raising money and awareness for the women of Gaza! Even more are planned for this weekend--from Honolulu to Phoenix to NYC!
Thank you for reminding Obama of his promises and being part of a growing chorus of Women who say No to War,
Audrey, Blaine, Dana, Deidra, Desiree, Farida, Gael, Gayle, Jean, Jodie, Liz, Lori, Medea, Nancy, Paris, and Rae
P.S. Delegation to Gaza Blog Update! As the peace delegation arrives and mobilizes they will be posting their stories here on the PINKTank and here and here and here.

Write a Letter to the Editor about Obama's broken promise on Iraq
Find an International Women's Day event in your area
Check out our beautiful new site Women Say No to War!
You can still donate to the women of Gaza for International Women's Day


Monday, March 2, 2009

Family Guidance Center

As the first stage in a broad plan to provide relief for the untold numbers of women in Afghanistan who are victims of domestic violence, forced and underage marriages, rape, and other violations of their human rights, in 2007, Women for Afghan Women (WAW) embarked on groundbreaking project: the creation of a Family Guidance Center (FGC) in Kabul. Prior to the start of the project, in Kabul alone hundreds of women a year besieged government agencies such as the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA), hospitals, NGOs, and local police stations seeking refuge from domestic persecution only to be turned away, defeated and discouraged, because no meaningful services were available. Now, these cases are referred to the WAW center. The FGC provides mediation and ongoing counseling for the woman and affected family members for a minimum of one year. When a woman cannot safely return home, the FGC provides shelter for her in and her accompanying children as well as legal help. Our philosophy is based on two fundamental premises: women do not have to jettison their culture or their religious beliefs in order to take charge of their lives; men as well as women, perpetrators of DV as well as victims, must receive counseling if headway against this social scourge is to be made.

The Sack Lunches

I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat.

It was going to be a long flight. 'I'm glad I have a good book to read Perhaps I will get a short nap,' I thought.

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation. 'Where are you headed?' I asked the soldier seated nearest to me.

'Petawawa, we'll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we're being deployed to Afghanistan

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached the east, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time..

As I reached for my wallet, I overheard soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch.

'No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn't be worth five bucks. I'll wait until we get to base '

His friend agreed.

I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. 'Take a lunch to all those soldiers..' She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. 'My son was a soldier in Iraq; it's almost like you are doing it for him.'!

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, 'Which do you like best - beef or chicken?'

'Chicken,' I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class. 'This is your thanks.'

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room.

A man stopped me. 'I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.' He handed me twenty-five dollars.

Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand, an said, 'I want to shake your hand.'

Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain's hand. With a booming voice he said, 'I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.' I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine.

He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.

When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned,

And walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. 'It will take you some time to reach the base. It will be about time for ! a sandwich . God Bless You.'

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers. As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers
Were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals..It seemed so little...

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to ' Canada or United States of America ' for an amount of 'up to and including my life.'

That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.'

May God give you the strength and courage to pass this along to everyone on your email buddy list....


Doomed to Repeat History in Afghanistan?

Joe Galloway, McClatchy Newspapers: "If the new American team has some new ideas about how to succeed in Afghanistan, now would be the time to lay them out. Nothing that Alexander the Great, Queen Victoria or Leonid Brezhnev tried in their attempts to subdue the quarrelsome Afghan tribes worked, and nothing we've tried in the last eight years has, either. While we're waiting for a new strategy, perhaps we should break out some old Kipling: 'When wounded and left on Afghanistan's plain.' 'And the women come out to cut up your remains ....' Etc., etc."

The Push to Downsize Defense

Maya Schenwar, Truthout: "As President Obama released his budget outline for fiscal year 2010 on Thursday, recommending about $664 billion in defense funding, a determined group of progressive Congress members and activists pushed for a marked change in the way the US spends those dollars. Led by Rep. Barney Frank, the group advocates a 25 percent cut in military spending, to be accomplished by eliminating wasteful and obsolete programs, reducing active nuclear warheads and withdrawing from Iraq in an efficient and timely manner."

Senate to Investigate CIA's Actions Under Bush

Greg Miller, The Los Angeles Times: "The Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing to launch an investigation of the CIA's detention and interrogation programs under President Bush, setting the stage for a sweeping examination of some of most secretive and controversial operations in recent agency history."

Health Care Reform Is Needed Now More Than Ever

Mark Weisbrot, Truthout: "With the US economy's downward spiral still accelerating and the federal government looking at its largest budget deficits since World War II, some are saying that this is not the time to expand health care coverage to all Americans. But this is exactly the time for the Obama administration to move boldly on its campaign promise to implement a universal health care system. Obama wants spending that stimulates the economy in the short term, but he also wants to reduce the long-term deficit problem after the economy recovers. This is exactly what health care reform will do."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Alison Des Forges

February 13, 2009

(New York) - It is with enormous sadness that Human Rights Watch announces the death of our beloved colleague Dr. Alison Des Forges, who was killed in the crash of Flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo on February 12, 2009. Des Forges, senior adviser to Human Rights Watch's Africa division for almost two decades, dedicated her life to working on Rwanda and was the world's leading expert on the 1994 Rwanda genocide and its aftermath.
http://www.hrw.org/en/des-forges-tribute February 27, 2009
BILL MOYERS: Like so many other people I know, I read the obituary page almost every day. At this stage of life it's often the catalyst for gratitude, at still being around. But the obits can also be a place to read about strangers you wish you had known, people whose lives left a light in the window for others.
In THE ECONOMIST magazine this week, I came upon this full-page obituary for Alison Des Forges, one of the fifty people who died two weeks ago in that plane crash near Buffalo. Regrettably, I didn't know about Alison Des Forges until her death, although I do know and admire the organization with which she worked, Human Rights Watch.
Des Forges was one of the first from the outside to alert the world to the genocide in Rwanda that began in 1994. Her calls for international intervention went largely unheeded - the Pentagon would not even jam the signals of Rwandan radio stations directing the murderers to their victims. When the massacre was over half a million people had died, and still, much of the world turned away. But Alison Des Forges went to Rwanda, investigated the genocide and produced an 800-page definitive account that put many of the guilty behind bars. Here she is in a video produced by Human Rights Watch in 2004.
ALISON DES FORGES: Justice is not going to erase the memory of the crimes, but it will provide people with some level of closure. At least they'll know it has been dealt with, talked about, someone's been held responsible...So this is very important, it is very important that the truth be known, that the people who were killed be remembered, and that their killers be acknowledged.
BILL MOYERS: "That the truth be known" - an epitaph to be remembered.