Sunday, August 30, 2009

Requiem for a Man: In Honor of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

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
That understood
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."

Look to the Rainbow

Op-Ed Columnist

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.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Schedule of Events Surrounding the Funeral of Senator Edward M. Kennedy

Senator Edward M. Kennedy will lie in repose at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum beginning, 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 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

Senator Ted Kennedy

Tim --

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

TED KENNEDY: Historic Speech @ Denver Convention

Sen. Ted Kennedy, recently undergoing surgery for a brain tumor, made a surprise speech to the Democratic Convention in Denver given August 25,2008

Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has died after a yearlong battle with a brain tumor

"Liberal Lion" of the Senate led storied political family after deaths of President John F. Kennedy, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

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

St. Thomas Law Professor Robert Delahunty's "Torture Memos"

Roger Cuthbertson explains the terrible significance of the "torture memos" written by former Bush Attorneys Robert Delahunty and John Yoo to St. Thomas Director of Communications Chato Hazelbaker .

New US Deaths Make 2009 Afghan War's Deadliest

Peter Graff, Reuters: "Four U.S. servicemen were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Tuesday, making 2009 the deadliest year for the growing contingent of foreign troops since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. The deaths highlighted the steadily worsening violence in the country, which has been in political limbo since a disputed presidential election last week. Afghan election authorities were preparing later on Tuesday to publish the first partial results from the presidential election, but the tiny sample may do little to resolve a growing war of words on the outcome."

How much security did $1 trillion buy?

How much security did $1 trillion buy?

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GOP Uses Scare Tactics to Discourage Torture Probe

Jason Leopold, Truthout: "Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona is one of eight senators who signed a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday urging him not to appoint a special counsel to investigate torture. Nine Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Eric Holder on Wednesday saying the US could face a terrorist attack if the attorney general appoints a special prosecutor to investigate the CIA's use of torture against 'war on terror' suspects."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Breaking news: Torture investigation launched

Dear ACLU Supporter,

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
Executive Director
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

Opponents of torture will rally at the University of St. Thomas School of Law

LaSalle Ave and 11th Street, Minneapolis, on Monday, August 24, 9 – 11 AM to bring letters and voices of discontent to Dean Thomas Mengler regarding Professor Robert Delahunty. Prior to his current stint as professor of constitutional law for St.Thomas University, Robert Delahunty, along with John Yoo, authored an infamous memo (1/9/02) for the U.S. Justice Department which advised that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to the war against al Qaeda, the Taliban, and terrorism. The ‘legal’ advice of this memo helped the Bush administration to legitimize harsh methods of interrogation, which are widely understood to be torture.

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 (

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Public Opinion in U.S. Turns Against the War

By Jennifer Agiesta and Jon Cohen

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.

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help in Plan to Kill Jihadists

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.

Baghdad Blasts Kill 77, Iraqi Security Criticized

Aseel Kami and Suadad al-Salhy, Reuters: "A series of blasts in Baghdad killed 77 people and wounded 420 on one of Iraq's bloodiest days this year, renewing doubt over Iraqi forces' ability to maintain security after U.S. troops pulled out of urban areas."

Rethink Afghanistan (Part 6): Security

Watch the video. The world has become more dangerous. Violence begets violence.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blackwater Still Armed in Iraq

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."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Afghanistan War Resister Sentenced

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."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Exit strategy for Afghanistan


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![[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,

John Burton
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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Endless War: The Suicide of the United States

Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "Sergio Kochergin, back home from his second deployment in Iraq, held a gun in his mouth, trying to muster the courage to pull the trigger. Untreated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and accompanying nightmares and insomnia, heavy substance abuse, and several failed attempts at self-medication had taken their toll on him."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sotomayor Confirmed to Supreme Court

Seth Stern, Congressional Quarterly: "A little more than three months after Justice David H. Souter announced his intention to retire, the Senate on Thursday confirmed Sonia Sotomayor to become the Supreme Court's first Hispanic justice. The vote was 68-31. The outcome had been foretold for weeks, given the Democrats' overwhelming margin in the Senate and Sotomayor's competent but cautious performance during her four-day confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee in July."

Saturday, August 1, 2009


By tom hayden
Huffington post

Forty-two American soldiers were killed in July, the first month of the surge in southern Afghanistan, one-third of the year’s toll of 128 thus far. With Pentagon strategists forecasting 18-24 months of hard fighting in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, the current mortality rate could mean an additional one thousand American deaths by summer 2011.

The total number of Americans killed in Afghanistan since 2002 is now 756.

Even with the Afghan war crowded out of media coverage by the economic crisis, March 2009 polling showed that 42 percent of Americans think the Afghanistan venture is a mistake, up from 30 percent in February. Those trend lines will continue as American casualties rise. “It is what we expected”, a Pentagon official told the Los Angeles Times [7/07/09]

Meanwhile, a leading military strategist, Stephen Biddle, writes that a new antiwar movement will be harder for President Obama to overcome than the opposition to the Bush Administration wars. [see The American Interest, July/August 2009]. According to Biddle,

“[Obama] heads a Democratic Party that is already divided on the Afghan war and likely to grow more so over time...Obama could face a situation in which a bipartisan antiwar coalition threatens the majority he will need to maintain funding for an increasingly unpopular war [since] votes on many budgets over several years will be needed to bring this war to a successful conclusion.”

The war is a “hard sell”, Biddle emphasizes, because “the strongest part of the Administration’s case for war, the link between Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, is ultimately indirect.” Beltway wags already are pointing out that the 9/11 attacks were launched from a safe haven in Hamburg, Germany, not from a cave in the Hindu Kush. With no al-Qaeda visible in Afghanistan, the US military strategy is focused on fighting the Taliban and other insurgents, which is tipping the conflict into “a popular revolt in some parts of southern Afghanistan”, where “villagers in some districts have taken up arms against foreign troops to protect their homes or in anger after losing relatives in airstrikes”, according to the NY Times’ Carlotta Gall. [7/03/09]

By many accounts, the generals in Afghanistan soon will be asking for an escalation of more US troops for this fight against the popular revolt.

In Pakistan, where al-Qaeda and more than one Taliban exist, the US-supported offensive in the Swat Valley has sputtered towards a dangerous quagmire. The wealthy landowning class is unwilling to return, causing a “significant blow to the Pakistani military’s campaign to restore Swat as a stable, prosperous part of Pakistan.” [NYT, 7/29/09]. Ironically, American aid officials have been “almost completely neutered” in their efforts to win the hearts and minds of uprooted Pakistanis in refugee camps where, instead, Islamist and jihadist groups “openly work the camps”, according to the Times’ eyewitness account.

Meanwhile, the US is between Iraq and a hard place, as plans creep forward to withdraw 80,000 US troops in the coming year, and all 130,000 by 2011. Violence has been sharply reduced as a result of the 2007-2008 troop surge, subsidized payments to 90,000 Sunni insurgents paid not to shoot at American troops, and a strategic decision by the governing Shi’a coalition to play to nationalist opinion favoring the end to occupation. As American troops leave in the next years, underlying conflicts could expand violently, creating an unpredictable political embarrassment for the Pentagon and the Obama presidency.

This week a leaked Pentagon memo advised the US to “declare victory and go home.” [NYT, 7/31/09]. Such a projection is a superpower fantasy, since there is unlikely to be any “victory” at all in Iraq. With American troops indeed going home or transitioning rapidly to Afghanistan, what troops will Obama deploy if there is a meltdown in Iraq? Or will those who caused the Iraq war exploit the opportunity to lay the blame for “losing Iraq” on Obama?

The Congressional Budget Office has projected the additional war costs for the next decade [FY 2009-FY 2018] as high as $865 billion, ten years being the projected length of a counterinsurgency campaign. The budgetary cost of Iraq, Afghanistan and the so-called Global War on Terror was projected by the CBO to be as high as $1.7 trillion in direct costs by 2018. #


Playing For Change: Peace Through Music is a story of hope, struggle, perseverance and joy. Directors Mark Johnson and Jonathan Walls, along with the Playing For Change team, traveled the globe with a single minded passion to connect the world through music. Their ambitious journey took them from post-apartheid South Africa, through the ancient sites of the Middle East, to the remote beauty of the Himalayas and beyond. Using innovative mobile technology, they filmed and recorded more than 100 musicians, largely outdoors in parks, plazas and promenades, in doorways, on cobblestone streets and amid hilly pueblos. Each captured performance creates a new mix in which essentially the artists are all performing together, albeit hundreds or thousands of miles apart. Playing For Change: Peace Through Music is the story of this unparalleled international musical collaboration and its remarkable power of redemption. As we move closer to becoming a global village. We must affirm this is OUR Planet.