Saturday, December 19, 2009


Monday, December 28
6:30 pm
St. Joan of Arc Church
4537 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


The truth is that every morning war is declared afresh. And the men who wish to continue it are as guilty as the men who began it, more guilty perhaps, for the latter perhaps did not foresee all its horrors. -Marcel Proust, novelist (1871-1922)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Obama's war and peace plan

Dear Tim, It's time to strip the Obama sticker off my car.

Obama's escalation in Afghanistan is the last in a string of disappointments. His flip-flopping acceptance of the military coup in Honduras has squandered the trust of Latin America. His Wall Street bailout leaves the poor, the unemployed, the minorities, and the college students on their own. And now comes the Afghanistan-Pakistan decision to escalate the stalemate, which risks his domestic agenda, his Democratic base, and possibly even his presidency.

The expediency of his decision was transparent. Satisfy the generals by sending 30,000 more troops. Satisfy the public and peace movement with a timeline for beginning withdrawals of those same troops, with no timeline for completing a withdrawal.

Obama's timeline for the proposed Afghan military surge mirrors exactly the 18 month Petraeus timeline for the surge in Iraq.

We'll see. To be clear: I'll support Obama down the road against Sarah Palin, Lou Dobbs or any of the pitchfork carriers for the pre-Obama era. But no bumper sticker until the withdrawal strategy is fully carried out.

But for now, the fight is on.

This is not like the previous conflict with Bush and Cheney, who were easy to ridicule. Now this orphan of a war has a persuasive advocate, a formidable debater who will be arguing for support from the liberal center, one who wants to win back his Democratic base.

The anti-war movement will have to solidify support from the two-thirds of Democratic voters who so far question this war. Continuing analysis from The Nation and Robert Greenwald's videos at have a major role to play. Public opinion will have to become a growing factor in the mind of Congress, where Rep. Jim McGovern's resolution favoring an exit strategy [HR 2404] has 100 co-sponsors and Rep. Barbara Lee's tougher bill to prevent funding for escalation [HR 3699] now is at 23.

Key political questions in the immediate future are whether Rep. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, will oppose Afghanistan funding without a surtax is only bluffing, and whether Sen. Russ Feingold will step up with legislation for a withdrawal timetable.

Beyond public persuasion and pressuring Congress, activists are sure to be hitting the streets and precincts in the year ahead. The anti-war movement has a certain leverage based on the current doubt in the minds of voters and policy experts, and the potential dissent from within the Obama base. Democratic turnout increased 2.6 percent in 2008 over 2004, while Republican votes dropped by 1.3 percent. Twenty-two million more young people voted in 2008 than in 2004. The unprecedented energies of those young people who volunteered their time, money and hope could drain away by 2012, if not sooner.

In addition, the peace movement will be globalizing its reach as Obama seeks to extract more troop concessions from wary NATO countries. Opposition is particularly strong in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and France. When Obama accepts the Nobel Prize in Oslo on December 10, he may address as many as ten thousand protestors.

Adding 30-35,000 US troops will raise the US death toll by over 1,000 by 2011 on Obama's watch, in addition to the 750 who died under Bush. The numbers of US wounded are rising faster than ever, with 300 counted in the past three months. Civilian casualties are under-reported according to the UN mission in Afghanistan. The budgetary costs are growing to $75 billion annually, and could become another trillion-dollar war.

The albatross of the Karzai government will threaten any plans to rapidly expand the Afghan army and police, themselves divided along sectarian lines. In 2005, the Kabul regime ranked 117th on the list compiled by Transparency International; by this year it was 176th. [NYT Magazine, Aug. 9 2009]

There are alternatives. There is evidence that the Afghanistan Taliban are seeking a peace settlement without "havens" for al Qaeda (see my article in the LAT, "Why Die for Karzai?"). There also is an October 11 statement by Gulbaddin Hekmatyer of Hezb-I-Islam Afghanistan, a mujahadeen leader and former prime minister in the 1990s, once funded by the CIA. Never reported in the US media, the letter proposes an "honorable exit strategy", including

- relocation of Western troops from Afghan cities, plus a "logical and practical time schedule" for their withdrawal;
- transfer of power to an interim government independent of the parties currently fighting;
- new elections under an independent election commission;
- release of political prisoners;
- a possible peacekeeping force from neutral Islamic countries;
- and, more importantly for the Obama agenda, the document states: "Hezb-I-Islami is prepared to discuss the exit of ALL foreign fighters [non-Afghan, be it forces of the West, or embedded with the Mujahideen. We assure all sides that we agree that neither the embedded fighters with the Mujahideen nor foreign military forces be allowed to remain or to establish military bases or training camps in Afghanistan."

But instead of pursuing an Afghan-based political settlement without havens for al Qaeda, the US strategy is to pursue the same goal through more bloodshed, leaving Afghanistan somewhere between the Stone Age and ashes. What is obsessive about this approach is the fact that there is no longer an al Qaeda haven in Afghanistan, which means the US troops are fighting Afghan insurgents in their own country. But if your primary tool is a hammer, as the saying goes, all problems appear to be nails.

The war clearly is shifting to Pakistan, a far more clandestine and dangerous conflict fought by American secret operatives on the ground and drones from the sky. The targets are twofold: [1] to eliminate the Afghan Taliban from their enclave in Quetta instead of negotiating with them, and [2] using US advisers and drones to push Pakistan's army into a war against Pakistan's homegrown Taliban and other insurgents now in the tribal areas, impoverished and unrepresented in Pakistan's institutions. This approach so far has caused a sharp expansion of violent attacks and suicide bombings across the region. The fear of a destabilized Pakistan with scores of nuclear weapons may lead Obama's advisers to soon present the president with a more apocalyptic scenario than anything so far, if they have not already.

Tom Hayden

This article appeared in The Nation on December 1, 2009.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An Open Letter to President Obama from Michael Moore

Dear President Obama,
Do you really want to be the new “war president”? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do — destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they’ve always heard is true — that all politicians are alike. I simply can’t believe you’re about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn’t so.

It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That’s the way General Washington insisted it must be. That’s what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. “You’re fired!,” said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we f*#&in’ hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption).

So now you feel backed into a corner. 30 years ago this past Thursday (Thanksgiving) the Soviet generals had a cool idea — “Let’s invade Afghanistan!” Well, that turned out to be the final nail in the USSR coffin.

There’s a reason they don’t call Afghanistan the “Garden State” (though they probably should, seeing how the corrupt President Karzai, whom we back, has his brother in the heroin trade raising poppies). Afghanistan’s nickname is the “Graveyard of Empires.” If you don’t believe it, give the British a call. I’d have you call Genghis Khan but I lost his number. I do have Gorbachev’s number though. It’s + 41 22 789 1662. I’m sure he could give you an earful about the historic blunder you’re about to commit.

With our economic collapse still in full swing and our precious young men and women being sacrificed on the altar of arrogance and greed, the breakdown of this great civilization we call America will head, full throttle, into oblivion if you become the “war president.” Empires never think the end is near, until the end is here. Empires think that more evil will force the heathens to toe the line — and yet it never works. The heathens usually tear them to shreds.

Choose carefully, President Obama. You of all people know that it doesn’t have to be this way. You still have a few hours to listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking. You know that nothing good can come from sending more troops halfway around the world to a place neither you nor they understand, to achieve an objective that neither you nor they understand, in a country that does not want us there. You can feel it in your bones.

I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush’s Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it.

Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you’re doing it so you can “end the war”) will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you’ve said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone — and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout “tea bag!”

Choose carefully, Mr. President. Your corporate backers are going to abandon you as soon as it is clear you are a one-term president and that the nation will be safely back in the hands of the usual idiots who do their bidding. That could be Wednesday morning.

We the people still love you. We the people still have a sliver of hope. But we the people can’t take it anymore. We can’t take your caving in, over and over, when we elected you by a big, wide margin of millions to get in there and get the job done. What part of “landslide victory” don’t you understand?

Don’t be deceived into thinking that sending a few more troops into Afghanistan will make a difference, or earn you the respect of the haters. They will not stop until this country is torn asunder and every last dollar is extracted from the poor and soon-to-be poor. You could send a million troops over there and the crazy Right still wouldn’t be happy. You would still be the victim of their incessant venom on hate radio and television because no matter what you do, you can’t change the one thing about yourself that sends them over the edge.

The haters were not the ones who elected you, and they can’t be won over by abandoning the rest of us.

President Obama, it’s time to come home. Ask your neighbors in Chicago and the parents of the young men and women doing the fighting and dying if they want more billions and more troops sent to Afghanistan. Do you think they will say, “No, we don’t need health care, we don’t need jobs, we don’t need homes. You go on ahead, Mr. President, and send our wealth and our sons and daughters overseas, ’cause we don’t need them, either.”

What would Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would your grandmother do? Not send more poor people to kill other poor people who pose no threat to them, that’s what they’d do. Not spend billions and trillions to wage war while American children are sleeping on the streets and standing in bread lines.

All of us that voted and prayed for you and cried the night of your victory have endured an Orwellian hell of eight years of crimes committed in our name: torture, rendition, suspension of the bill of rights, invading nations who had not attacked us, blowing up neighborhoods that Saddam “might” be in (but never was), slaughtering wedding parties in Afghanistan. We watched as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were slaughtered and tens of thousands of our brave young men and women were killed, maimed, or endured mental anguish — the full terror of which we scarcely know.

When we elected you we didn’t expect miracles. We didn’t even expect much change. But we expected some. We thought you would stop the madness. Stop the killing. Stop the insane idea that men with guns can reorganize a nation that doesn’t even function as a nation and never, ever has.

Stop, stop, stop! For the sake of the lives of young Americans and Afghan civilians, stop. For the sake of your presidency, hope, and the future of our nation, stop. For God’s sake, stop.

Tonight we still have hope.

Tomorrow, we shall see. The ball is in your court. You DON’T have to do this. You can be a profile in courage. You can be your mother’s son.

We’re counting on you.

Yours, Michael Moore
P.S. There’s still time to have your voice heard. Call the White House at 202-456-1111 or email the President. Michael Moore is an activist, author, and filmmaker. See more of his work at his website