Saturday, September 12, 2009

Let's Raise some Hell

September 10, 2009

Dear Tim,

CODEPINK has never flagged in opposing the Afghanistan war and now public opinion is finally catching up. With 70 percent of Democrats opposing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, President Obama is making a fateful choice. If he escalates, the quagmire deepens and he loses more support among his base. If he refuses to send more troops he will be attacked by the Republicans for losing the war on terror.

CODEPINK and the peace movement are calling for an exit strategy that includes NATO/American troop withdrawal, all party talks, regional diplomacy, and continued aid for reconstruction, medical care, education and development, but your voice is not represented in Congress. But we have a proven ability to set off a storm in their districts that makes a difference. We affected the election outcomes in 2006 and 2008, and we must continue to raise hell until they listen and act.

Please read, sign and
circulate this petition.

Double your numbers. Widen your support. Become the margin of difference. Bring down the Predators. Bring home the troops.

--Tom Hayden

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A message from Ramsey Clark: 'A free people will not permit torture'

Dear Tim,

"The U.S. is treaty bound to prosecute all persons, high and low, who have authorized, condoned or committed torture if our word in the international community is to mean anything."

- Ramsey Clark
A free people will not permit torture. Throughout history, torture has always been an instrument of tyranny. The very purpose of the Grand Inquisitor was to compel absolute obedience to authority. Torture was the weapon he used in the struggle to force freedom to submit to authority.

Fear is the principal element in both public acceptance of torture and individual submission to it. The frightened public is persuaded that only torture can force confessions essential to prevent catastrophic acts—terrorism in the present context. The frightened victim is persuaded torture will be unbearable, or be his death.

Franklin Roosevelt spoke truth when he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Justice Black warned wisely, "We must not be afraid to be free," dissenting in America. Anastaplo was a law school classmate of mine who refused to take a non-Communist oath, a requirement for admission to the Illinois bar at the time. We have failed to follow this wisdom, a failure of faith urged by Lincoln at the then Cooper Institute: "Let us have faith that right makes might and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

At stake is our cultural insistence that America has faith in freedom, that America is, or aspires to be, the land of the free and the home of the brave. At risk is the image of America, which might become Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and rendition to torture chambers in client States.

Now we are confronted by the brutish and brazen mentality of Dick Cheney, only one of George W. Bush’s many vices. Having concealed truth by refusing to release records and after the destruction of evidence, Cheney proclaims, "I am very proud of what we did"—a war of aggression that has devastated and fragmented Iraq and Afghanistan, and created a danger to peace in Pakistan and beyond. The same wars that have left 5,000 U.S. soldiers dead and maybe 30,000 with impaired lives, spread corruption within the Bush administration, politics in prosecutors offices, the worst recession in 70 years caused by the failure to police his greedy friends and supporters, boasting of torture by any other name.

Cheney wants us to believe "enhanced interrogation techniques," the phrase he prefers to torture, "were absolutely essential" in successfully stopping another terrorist attack on the U.S. after 9/11. This is utterly false, a matter of indifference to Cheney who may be getting desperate. These "enhanced interrogation techniques" were, however, torture as defined in Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture of 1984, an international treaty ratified by 184 nations, including the United States a decade late in 1994. The Convention, which is part of the supreme law of the land under the U.S. Constitution, recognizes "the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world," and "that these rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person."

Thus, the U.S. is treaty bound to prosecute all persons, high and low, who have authorized, condoned or committed torture if our word in the international community is to mean anything.

The Convention requires each signatory to ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law. It requires prosecution, or under specific conditions, extradition to another nation for prosecution of alleged torturers.

Former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan is only one of the key U.S. intelligence and investigative officials directly involved in the key interrogations who have publicly condemned the "enhanced interrogation techniques." He has explained how the practice not only failed to obtain reliable or new information, but was also harmful. He concluded an op-ed article in the New York Times on Sept. 6, which stated that "the professionals in the field are relieved that an ineffective, unreliable, unnecessary and destructive program, one that may have given Al Qaeda a second wind and damaged our country’s reputation is finished."

The struggle to prosecute torture by U.S. agents is related to the struggle over health care legislation and troop increases in Afghanistan. Real health care reform would end the theft of major national resources by the insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and the wealth seeking medical profession at the expense of the lives and health of the poor and middle class.

We should remember that a decade before he gave us "What is good for General Motors is good tor the nation," Charles E. Wilson, once President of General Motors, and later Secretary of Defense under President Eisenhower, wrote in the Army Ordinance Journal in 1944: "War has been inevitable in our human affairs as an evolutionary force ... Let us make the three-way partnership (industry, government, army) permanent." Notice what comes first for Wilson, whose credo was "Let us have faith that might makes right."

President Obama faces all three of these challenges, torture in our name, health care and Afghanistan at once. If he fails to insist on full investigation of torture and prosecution of all persons found to have authorized, directed or committed it, including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, he will lose all three, because his adversaries in each are the same.
The announcement that a Special Prosecutor has been appointed to investigate the crimes committed during the Bush administration is a critical step. It was the action taken by you and people all around the country that made this possible. Now we will build on this momentum. The voice of the people must and will be heard.
Ramsey Clark

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dahr Jamail | Art as Resistance

Monday 07 September 2009
Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have tough truths to tell, and it has been well demonstrated that the establishment media does not want to broadcast these. Given the lack of an outlet for anti-war voices in the corporate media, many contemporary veterans and active-duty soldiers have embraced the arts as a tool for resistance, communication and healing. They have made use of a wide range of visual and performing arts - through theater, poetry, painting, writing, and other creative expression - to affirm their own opposition to the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq."

Friday, September 4, 2009

At Least 90 Killed In US Attack

Posted by sakerfa on September 4, 2009

Afghanistan – The stench of burnt flesh hung over the banks of the Kunduz river in the early hours of Friday, the ground scattered with the body parts of villagers who just wanted something for free.

Helping yourself to the spoils of hijacked military convoys is nothing new in Afghanistan and the payload of two fuel tankers destined for Nato-led forces seemed as good as any.

But the overnight bonanza soon turned to horror when Nato jets launched an airstrike before 3am (22.30GMT), strafing the tankers and igniting an inferno that officials said killed between 50 and 90 people.

“Nobody was in one piece. Hands, legs and body parts were scattered everywhere. Those who were away from the fuel tanker were badly burnt,” said 32-year-old Mohammad Daud, depicting a scene from hell.

The burned-out shells of the tankers, still smoking in marooned wrecks on the riverbank, were surrounded by the charred-meat remains of villagers from Chahar Dara district in Kunduz province, near the Tajik border.

Dr Farid Rahid, a spokesperson in Kabul for the ministry of health, said up to 250 villagers had been near the tankers when the airstrike was called in.

Officials said about 55 Taliban were killed and more than 10 wounded, but witness accounts of civilian deaths are yet to be officially confirmed.

Witnesses told Agence France-Presse that villagers, including children, gathered around one of the tankers that had stalled in the shallows of the river to help themselves to fuel.

Taliban insurgents hijacked the trucks late Thursday, the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) under Nato said, and were trying to drive them across the river when one got bogged down.

Witnesses said the insurgents called on villagers living nearby to help themselves to the fuel — probably to lighten the load and make the stranded truck easier to move.

“Villagers rushed to the fuel tanker with any available container that they had, including water buckets and pots for cooking oil,” said Daud.

Some farmers even brought their tractors to fill up, he said, and as they did, 10 to 15 Taliban gunmen stood on top of the tanker watching the free-for-all.

“This was when they were bombed,” Daud said. “Everyone around the fuel tanker died.”

Shoes, an AK-47 rifle, swatches of burned clothing, the carcass of a donkey with a woven saddle cloth still tied across its flanks, yellow plastic jerry cans with red screwtops — all lay scattered across the pebbled banks.

Turbaned men, one holding a GI doll in a blue uniform, and Afghan security forces in desert boots and green berets strode around the tankers as dawn segued into a blue-sky day.

At a funeral ceremony, village men and boys stood silent along the edge of a mass grave as a tractor opposite shoved earth over the shrouded bodies below.

And at a hospital in Kunduz city, the provincial capital, the wounded were brought in on carpet-covered stretchers, their skin burned away from red-raw wounds, many too dazed and in too much pain to even cry, witnesses said.

Around eight bodies were in a terrible condition — the skin burnt black and peeling off to expose raw red muscle. Others arrived with their clothes burnt on to their skin.

The hospital was filled with the smell of burnt flesh, with even the corridors occupied by the wounded, said an Agence France-Presse reporter. — AFP

Source: Information Clearing House

Thursday, September 3, 2009

March Forward! veterans oppose Afghanistan escalation

Dear supporter of the ANSWER Coalition,

October 7, 2009 marks the start of the ninth year of the invasion of Afghanistan. On that day, there will be anti-war actions in cities and towns throughout the country. There will also be anti-war actions on Monday, October 5, and Saturday, October 17.

We encourage everyone to read and pass along to their friends the statement below, released yesterday by March Forward!March Forward! veterans speak out against Gen. McChrystal's report
"All foreign forces should leave Afghanistan now!"
March Forward! is a group of anti-war veterans affiliated with the ANSWER Coalition formed In January 2009 by veterans and active-duty service members who had been seasoned activists and leaders in the movement against the Iraq war. Their goal was to unite those who have served and who are currently serving in the U.S. military.

March Forward! was created in response to the pressing issues facing veterans and service members: the forced participation in these horrible imperialist wars, as well as economic hardship, inadequate care, and a lack of access to resources before, during and after military service, with the view that only grassroots organizing and a mass people's movement can solve these problems. March Forward! will be organizing against the war in Afghanistan, encouraging troops to refuse to fight, and building the struggle against all manifestations of the U.S. war machine.

The war in Afghanistan, like the one we were sent to fight in Iraq, is based on lies and false rationales. Instead of expanding the war, all foreign troops should leave Afghanistan immediately.

March Forward! supporter Ron Kovic eloquently stated: "As a United States Marine Corps Sergeant who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, and was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down in 1968, I strongly disagree with General McChrystal. The war in Afghanistan is a huge mistake, another Vietnam disaster in the making. I want to encourage every member of our military, every veteran, and citizen, to raise your voices against this war, to protest, to demonstrate, to do all that you can before more lives are lost."

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, top commander of the Afghanistan war, has submitted his assessment report to the president. The report is another case of official double-speak. McChrystal essentially admits that the previous eight-year strategy has been catastrophic and an abysmal failure.

Yet he announced in a statement on Aug. 31 that "success is achievable and [the war] demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort."

As a politician/salesman in uniform, Gen. McChrystal is selling the country a bill of goods. He asks us to genuflect before the war machine and "trust" the generals.

Deciphering McChrystal’s real message is important for every member of the armed forces. In short he is saying: all we have to do is be prepared to send several thousand more US servicemembers to their graves while they try to kill tens of thousands more Afghans and then, or perhaps then, the US will have established a stable puppet government in Kabul.

It's worth remembering Gen. McChrystal stated in April 2003 in a nationally televised Pentagon briefing on the operations in Iraq, "I would anticipate that the major combat engagements are over." The general is either a professional pitchman or a professional liar, or both.

To read the full March Forward! statement, click here.

We encourage veterans and active duty service members to join March Forward! and become a part of the anti-war movement.

AFSC Toward Peace & Justice September 2009

Dear Tim,

Millions of students around the country are returning to school this month.

But now there’s a new R in addition to the three old ones: Recruitment. By law, schools must give recruiters access to students, and the military often targets teens from poor neighborhoods young people who may not know what their alternatives are.

The conscientious objectors who founded the American Friends Service Committee during World War I believed there were peaceful, honorable alternatives to military service. We still believe that today.

That’s why I’m eager this month to share stories about our work to broaden the dialogue in schools across the country to include peace.

With violence in Afghanistan escalating and military leaders calling for more troops, our peace work with teenagers has gained renewed importance. We’ve had victories in Georgia and North Carolina and have brought together teens from many cities to learn how to refute recruiters’ claims and share the truth about military service with their peers.

Perhaps William Penn said it best: “Force may make hypocrites, but it can never make converts.” This month, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating our victories over military might.

Peace, Mary Ellen McNish,
General Secretary,
American Friends Service Committee

Living in a Culture of Cruelty: Democracy as Spectacle

Henry A. Giroux, Truthout: "Under the Bush administration, a seeping, sometimes galloping, authoritarianism began to reach into every vestige of the culture, giving free rein to those anti-democratic forces in which religious, market, military and political fundamentalism thrived, casting an ominous shadow over the fate of United States democracy. During the Bush-Cheney regime, power became an instrument of retribution and punishment connected to and fueled by a repressive state, a bullying rhetoric of war, a ruthless consolidation of economic forces and an all-embracing free-market apparatus and media-driven pedagogy of fear that supported and sustained a distinct culture of cruelty and inequality in the United States."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

US Deaths in Afghanistan

Highest-Ever Monthly Total of 49 Americans Killed in Afghanistan in August,
American Death Rate Under Obama Could Exceed 1,000 by 2011

By Tom Hayden
For the Huffington Post

August was the cruelest month for American forces in Afghanistan, with at least 49 killed, not including possible last-minute reports. The August numbers exceeded the previous high of 43 in July, as a result of the new escalation of fighting approved by President Obama.

The President is expected to approve another troop increase shortly, which will inevitably increase American casualty rates in the 18-24 months of "hard fighting" forecast by the Pentagon.

At a rate of 45 American deaths per month, the toll on Obama's watch would be 1,080 additional American deaths through 2011, as the President heads into a re-election.

The total American deaths in Afghanistan since the beginning of the war are approximately 800. The number officially listed as wounded in action is 3,722, with 2,314 never redeployed to the war zone.

The numbers are understated, for example, by not including hundreds of private contractors, many of them American citizens, killed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Others killed during special operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan may not be included either.

Deaths among US-dominated Coalition forces overall now total 1,293, including 210 from the UK and 126 from Canada.

The real number of Afghanistan civilian casualties is obscured in the fog of war, but have risen to a record high as the US has escalated this year, with the UN Aid Mission figures growing from 684 in the first six months of 2007, to 818 in the first six months of 2008, to 1,013 in January-June this year. The July UNAM bulletin's appendix noted that "there is a significant possibility that UNAMA is under-reporting civilian casualties." [p. 16] Because the Pentagon frequently casts doubt on whether Afghan victims are truly civilian, the frequent result is, as UNAM notes, "if the non-combatant status of one or more victims remains under significant doubt, such deaths are not included in the overall number of civilian casualties." #

U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy

Dear Friends and Colleagues of the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy,

The passing of Senator Edward Kennedy has brought great sadness and mourning to all who knew and admired this great public servant. Our nation has been inspired by the abundance of eulogies that exemplify and celebrate the Senator’s life and devotion to public service. His commitment to social issues and the belief that all Americans should have the opportunity to succeed, are vividly demonstrated by his decades in the Senate.

Today, as our nation returns to our daily tasks of living, the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy would like to share with you Senator Kennedy’s dedication to strengthen America through its relationship to the world. From advocating peace in Northern Ireland to creating a program that brings students from predominantly Muslim countries to the U.S., Senator Kennedy was a champion of peace, cross-cultural understanding, and bridging gaps to ensure people around the world could know the country he served and loved with a passion.

The U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy wishes to acknowledge and celebrate his contributions to international relations as well as his work with civil rights, education, health care, and immigration. Senator Kennedy is a beacon of light that will continue to shine for years to come and reverberate for generations. He was a true leader and visionary.

May we all remember his work toward creating a more peaceful world and rededicate ourselves to this important task in the days, months, and years ahead.


Ann Olsen Schodde

President & CEO

U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy

Senator Kennedy International Affairs Timeline.

1965 – Immigration Act: Kennedy became a strong advocate for immigration rights and reform. This was his first major bill upon entering the Senate. Continued to promote immigration up until his death.

1968 – Bilingual Education Act

1971 – Senate Resolution calling for the withdrawal of British troops in N. Ireland

1974 – Foreign Aid bill: first time Congress ended military aid to another country

1981 – Started “Friends of Ireland” organization in Congress

1982 – Nuclear Freeze Resolution to halt the nuclear arms race

1985 – Anti-Apartheid Act: imposed economic sanctions on South Africa to pressure them to racial segregation

1986 – Visit to Soviet Union: Gorbachev stated he would sign a treaty to prevent the basing of nuclear missiles in Europe – signed a year later

1993 – Senate Joint Resolution to designate the week of April 18, 1993, through April 24, 1993, as "International Student Awareness Week" (cosponsor)
-Senate Joint Resolution designating the week beginning October 25, 1993, as "World Population Awareness Day" (cosponsor)
-Senate Joint Resolution to designate the weeks of April 25 through May 2, 1993, and April 10 through 17, 1994, as "Jewish Heritage Week" (cosponor)

1994 – Instrumental in the issuance of a visa for Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to visit the U.S., months later the IRA called a cease-fire
-Senate Resolution expressing the sense of the Senate regarding the tragic humanitarian and political catastrophe in Rwanda (cosponsor)

1996 – Stop Sweatshops Act
-Travel and Tourism Partnership Act (cosponsor)

1997 - Education for the 21st Century Act (cosponsor)

1998 - Africa: Seeds of Hope Act (cosponsor)

1999 - S Visa and Refugee Assistance Authorization Act

2000 – Senate Resolution expressing the respect to the peace process in Northern Ireland
-Global Health Act of 2000 (cosponsor)
-Global AIDS Prevention Act of 2000 (cosponsor)

2001 – No Child Left Behind Act – Kennedy was a champion for educational reform and instrumental in starting educational institutions on the path to become globally competitive
-Bridges to the Cuban People Act

2002 – Cultural Bridges Act: established a program with Sen. Lugar to bring secondary school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to the U.S. and enabling them to live with U.S. host families
-Peace Corps Charter for the 21st Century Act (cosponsor)

2003 – Senate Resolution encouraging the protection of the rights of refugees
-Senate Resolution designating the years 2004 and 2005 as "Years of Foreign Language Study" (cosponsor)
-Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act (cosponsor)
-Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act

2004 – Senate Resolution People-to-People Engagement in World Affairs Resolution

2006 -Peace in Darfur Act (cosponsor)
-Senate Resolution designating April 21, 2006, as "National and Global Youth Service Day", and for other purposes (cosponsor)
-Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Act (cosponsor)

2007 – Held the first committee hearing on Iraqi refugees which lead to legislation Kennedy sponsored that granted special immigration visas to Iraqis who worked with U.S. forces.
-Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act (cosponsor)
-Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Closure Act (cosponsor)
-Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act (cosponsor)

2008 – Advancing Americas Priorities Act – included the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act (cosponsor)
-Restoring America's Integrity Act (cosponsor)
-America COMPETES Act: invest in innovation and education to make the U.S. competitive in the global economy (cosponsor)

2009 - Peace Corps Improvement and Expansion Act (cosponsor)
-Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act (cosponsor)
- Travel Promotion Act (cosponsor)