Posts Tagged 'Afghanistan'

Reduce Debt? Cut Oil Wars, not Social Security!

Social Security Works, June 1, 2010

Save Social Security

President Obama May Cut Social Security Benefits, Report Says

Helen Thomas, Hearst White House columnist

WASHINGTON — Say it isn’t so, Mr. President. You surely are not going to make a deal with Republicans to cut Social Security benefits, are you?

Here’s word from The Nation Magazine: “The President intends to offer Social Security as a sacrificial lamb to entice conservative deficit hawks into a grand bipartisan compromise in which Democrats agree to cut Social Security benefits while Republicans accede to significant tax increases to reduce government red ink.”

The grand compromise would form the crux of the recommendations by the new 18-member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility that was set up to find ways to reduce the federal budget deficit. Commission co-chairs are former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff in the Clinton White House.

The panel’s recommendations are scheduled to be announced in December, safely after the November elections. A recommendation requires a minimum of 14 votes among the commissioners. If Obama agrees to ask Congress to cut Social Security benefits, it would amount to a sellout by a president of the same Democratic Party that embraced Franklin D. Roosevelt, the father of Social Security, back in 1935.

Social Security is not a charity. It is a trust fund created by contributions paid by workers and their employers, designed to assure a future livelihood, first for the elderly, then orphans, then the disabled. It’s a retirement savings plan — not a handout.

Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, headed a Social Security Commission in 1982 under the Reagan administration that recommended a modest increase in taxes which resolved worries that the New Deal program might go broke.

If Obama is worried about the federal budget deficit, he shouldn’t turn to Social Security. The solution to the deficit is staring him right in the face: Obama should cut our human and money losses by getting out of the impossible — and costly — wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Of course, we do have plans to leave Iraq this summer — if leaving 50,000 occupation troops there is really leaving. Why are we doing that? This was the war of choice — not of necessity — that former President George W. Bush got us into, based on wrong information. Our continuing occupation of Iraq merely compounds our tragic mistake of invading in the first place.

Somehow I doubt that the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission will have the courage to tell the president about a very cool way to cut federal spending: Get American troops out of wars where we have no business.

Get real, Mr. President, cutting Social Security would be a break of trust with the American people. Millions of Americans cannot live without their Social Security stipends. So don’t tamper with those monthly checks.

Social Security is so deeply rooted in our society that the American people protested loudly when Bush came up with a half-baked plan to privatize Social Security. Fortunately, American voters saw to it that his Wall Street boondoggle went nowhere.

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US to launch Fallujah-style attack in Afghanistan

World Socialist Web Site, February 6, 2010

US to launch Fallujah-style attack in Afghanistan

As US and British troops prepare to attack the town of Marjah in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, military commanders and the media are openly comparing the operation to the November 2004 siege of Fallujah, one of the bloodiest war crimes of the Iraq war.

The operation in central Helmand province, long an area of intense resistance to the US-led occupation, will constitute the largest military offensive since Washington invaded the country in October 2001. At least 15,000 troops are expected to lay siege to the Helmand river valley town, which has 80,000 inhabitants and is said by the US military to be a stronghold of the Taliban.

A total of 125,000 people live in the district around Marjah, which is an agricultural center 350 miles west of Kabul. The population has been swelled by Afghans fleeing villages occupied by US Marines last summer, following President Barack Obama’s order shortly after he took office to send 21,000 more troops into Afghanistan.

US Marines, frustrated and enraged over casualties suffered at the hands of an unseen enemy who is able to attack and then blend back into the local population, will be unleashed against the town in a violent military assault, with predictable results.

Brigadier General Larry Nicholson, commander of the US Marines in southern Afghanistan, spelled out the character of the upcoming offensive. Those found in Marjah would have three options. “One is to stay and fight and probably die,” he said. “The second one is to make peace with his government and reintegrate.” The third would be to attempt to escape, “In which case we’ll probably have some people out there waiting on them as well.”

“We’re going to go in big,” said Nicholson, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. “I’m not looking for a fair fight,” he added.

In a highly unusual move, the US command has publicly announced plans for the offensive. “It’s a little unconventional to do it this way, but it gives everybody a chance to think through what they’re going to do before suddenly in the dark of night they’re hit with an offensive,” said General Stanley McChrystal, the senior US commander in Afghanistan.

The stated intention of revealing the target of the upcoming offensive is to allow civilians to flee before the Marines move in. It also provides a preemptive alibi for the US offensive by painting those who fail to heed the warning as die-hard Taliban who deserve to be killed.

Stratfor, a military-intelligence web site with close ties to the US state apparatus, reported Thursday that “the assault is likely to include the cordoning off of the area, so many of the fighters dedicated to its defense will probably be forced to fight to the death or surrender.”

The article continued: “With assaults on Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq under their belts, the Marines are experienced with this sort of urban assault.”

What is the record of urban assaults of “this sort”?

The Marine assault on Fallujah in November 2004 reduced most of the city of 300,000 people to rubble, as warplanes dropped thousands of tons of explosives and helicopter gunships and battle tanks fired missiles into buildings and strafed the area with cannon fire.

The US military command claimed to have killed 2,000 “insurgents,” but the real death toll remains unknown. Civilians who remained in the town were subjected to the same bombardment. Some were shot to death during the door-to-door raids that followed, and others were killed while fleeing. Wounded fighters were summarily executed, and medical facilities were targeted for military attack. All those in the city were denied food, water and electricity for more than 10 days.

The operation was a vicious exercise in collective punishment against the population of Fallujah for the killing there of four Blackwater mercenaries and the city’s protracted resistance to foreign occupation. It embodied the criminality of the entire war and was characterized by multiple and gross violations of the laws of war.

If American military commanders are to be believed, a similar operation is being prepared in Afghanistan, and for similar reasons. The town of Marjah is to be turned into a killing field.

As in Fallujah, vengeance plays a role. US military forces have seen a steady escalation in casualties over the past year, while the CIA suffered a humiliating attack at the end of December that left seven of its operatives dead on the Afghan border.

In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, the US military command sees value in making an example of a population center known as a center of resistance to occupation, sending a message to the entire country that such resistance is futile and will be met with slaughter and destruction.

This bloodletting is officially justified in the name of a never-ending struggle against terrorism. Behind the propaganda, the driving force of the war in Afghanistan, like the war in Iraq, is the attempt by America’s ruling elite to counter the crisis of US capitalism through the use of force and the seizure of strategic positions in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, both centers of vast energy reserves.

A year ago, when Barack Obama entered the White House, there existed hope among broad layers of the American people that his inauguration would turn such words as Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, Blackwater, torture and rendition into the lexicon of a dark and shameful, but closed, chapter in US history.

The preparation of the Marjah offensive only underscores that, far from being ended, the crimes of the Bush administration are continuing and escalating under the Democratic president.

Today there are more US troops deployed abroad in colonial-style wars and occupations than under Bush, and the killing has spread from Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan and Yemen. The Obama administration is seeking $322 billion for the two ongoing wars and occupations, a figure that will doubtless be swelled by further demands for “supplemental” funding.

The supposed candidate of “hope” and “change” has emerged ever more clearly as the hand-picked agent of sections of the political establishment and military-intelligence complex that wanted to effect certain tactical changes in policy, while continuing to employ militarism abroad and wage a relentless assault on the working class at home.

American working people cannot accept a new round of war crimes carried out in their name. The demand for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US and other foreign troops from Afghanistan must be joined with a political offensive against the Obama administration and the financial oligarchy that it defends.

Bill Van Auken

The author also recommends:

The siege of Fallujah: America on a killing spree
[18 November, 2004]

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Pakistan, at crossroads of rivalry between Russia, China, and the US, refuses to satisfy US demands on Taliban and Afghanistan

Pakistan, at crossroads of rivalry between  Russia, China, and the US, refuses to satisfy US demands on Taliban and Afghanistan.  US support for India also a factor.

The New York Times December 15 article, “Rebuffing U.S., Pakistan Balks at Crackdown” emphasizes a geo-political importance of Pakistan beyond its hosting pipelines bring Central Asia’s oil and gas to Western and/or Chinese capitalists:

Demands by the United States for Pakistan to crack down on the strongest Taliban warrior in Afghanistan, Siraj Haqqani, whose fighters pose the biggest threat to American forces, have been rebuffed by the Pakistani military, according to Pakistani military officials and diplomats.

The core reason for Pakistan’s imperviousness is its scant faith in the Obama troop surge, and what Pakistan sees as the need to position itself for a regional realignment in Afghanistan once American forces begin to leave.

It considers Mr. Haqqani and his control of large areas of Afghan territory vital to Pakistan in the jostling for influence that will pit Pakistan, India, Russia, China and Iran against one another in the post-American Afghan arena, the Pakistani officials said.

Pakistan is particularly eager to counter the growing influence of its archenemy, India, which is pouring $1.2 billion in aid into Afghanistan. “If America walks away, Pakistan is very worried that it will have India on its eastern border and India on its western border in Afghanistan,” said Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who is pro-American in his views.

In the 1980s, Jalaluddin Haqqani (Siraj’s father) received money and arms from the C.I.A. routed through Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, to fight the Soviets, according to Ahmed Rashid, an expert on the Afghan Taliban and the author of “Descent Into Chaos.” In the 1990s, when the Taliban ran Afghanistan, Jalaluddin Haqqani served as governor of Paktia Province. The relationship between the Haqqanis and Osama bin Laden dates back to the war against the Soviets in the 1980s, according to Kamran Bokhari, the South Asia director for Stratfor, a geopolitical risk analysis company.

When the Taliban government collapsed at the end of 2001 and Qaeda operatives fled from Tora Bora to Pakistan, the Haqqanis relocated their command structure to North Waziristan and welcomed Al Qaeda, Mr. Bokhari said.

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Public health in Afghanistan to be subordinated to US military and political goals

Summary: The health of the Afghan people caught up in America’s 8-year war is America’s responsibility.  Afghan life expectancy is 47 years, and nearly 1/5 of children die by age 5.  Since 2002, however, there has been an improvement in primary care services provided by the Afghan Public Health Ministry, which has been comparatively free of corruption and has been directly funded by western powers and allowed to develop its own programs.  This will all change under the US military surge, which will include a heavy civilian component where provision of health and other services will be directly tied to “quick impact” projects to achieve US military and political goals.  Set against a background of US war crimes in the area, the prospects are dim.  (US health workers cannot escape the parallels with post-9/11 US, when the US public health system, in shambles from years of cuts, was infused with billions to fight to supposedly fight bio-terrorism and promote hysteria.  See 2003 American Public Health Association resolution on Public Health and Bioterrorism below.)

Z-Net, December 14, 2009 By Seiji Yamada

Health Workers and the Afghanistan-Pakistan War

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President Obama has set our nation on the course of escalation of our war in Afghanistan-Pakistan. What should be the concerns of health workers in this current juncture? As health workers, we should concern ourselves with the health and human rights implications of the war that our nation is conducting. For one, we should care about what happens to the Afghan people, whose life expectancy is 45 years for women and 47 years for men, and 191 out of 1000 children die before they are 5 years old (1). It is our responsibility as Americans to care about what happens to Afghan people in the course of this war that our nation has been waging since October 2001, particularly when they are injured or killed by our dint of American arms. The effects of war extends to consequences of war, such as the collapse of health services, lack of access to water and food, and damage to infrastructure, economies, and societies. We should keep in mind that Afghanistan is a country that has had ongoing conflict and civil turmoil since 1979.

As noted by Rubenstein and Newbrander, primary care services ensured by the Afghan Ministry of Public Health have improved since 2002.

[T]he number of health facilities has doubled and the number of trained midwives quadrupled. The share of health facilities with at least one female health worker has climbed to 83 percent. The number of children dying in infancy or before age 5 has declined nearly 25 percent, which translates into nearly 100,000 fewer infants and children dying this year, compared with 2002.

These initiatives have strengthened the foundations of a state that can serve its people. Rather than providing or contracting for services directly, USAID, the World Bank and the European Commission have strengthened the capacity of the Ministry of Public Health to develop and implement health policies, oversee programs, manage resources, engage communities and control the delivery of services. In contrast to the corruption obvious elsewhere, the health ministry has shown a level of transparency and accountability that allows U.S. funds to flow directly to the government for the provision of basic health services. (2)

The Ministry of Public Health defined a basic package of health services such as immunization, prenatal and obstetrical care, family planning, and care for childhood illnesses. The Ministry contracts with NGOs, 27% of which are international NGOs, to deliver the basic package to a specified geographic area. (3)

In an October 5 CNN joint interview, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton call for an increase in the proportion of American civilians to military involved in Afghanistan. (4) It is evident that they envision using agencies such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID) essentially as a “force multiplier” or the “hearts and minds” component of their military objectives in Afghanistan. The proposed director of the USAID Rajiv Shah, a physician, tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “If confirmed, I look forward to working with this Committee and my colleagues at USAID and the State Department to assess USAID’s contribution to counterinsurgency and stabilization operations.” (5)

Rubenstein and Newbrander note that the Washington is planning to divert USAID funding to “quick-impact” projects such as building health facilities or providing medical equipment in direct support of military operations.

Yet there is no evidence that expensive “quick impact” health projects that are not integrated into a larger strategy, or that do not actively engage locals, either contribute to security or wean populations from the enemy.

Quick-impact projects, such as clinic construction or the provision of new medical equipment, are rarely sustainable and seldom based on the community engagement needed for long-term effects. These simplistic and immediate interventions have been known to backfire. One military health analyst has criticized “drive-by” health interventions as “Band-Aid” operations that raise — and then crush — local expectations and ultimately lead to greater dissatisfaction and distrust. Moreover, as resources are diverted from the Afghan-led effort to build a system of effective and responsive primary care services, the emergence of a legitimate state will be compromised. (6)

Health workers should resist such attempts to co-opt the humanitarian community. Association with the military gives people the impression that humanitarian workers are furthering military objectives or U.S. foreign policy – threatening the security of aid workers and those that they are trying to assist. (7) Furthermore, health workers should refuse to participate in counterinsurgency.

On October 18, the New York Times Magazine ran a sympathetic story on General Stanley McChrystal’s plans for turning the war around in Afghanistan. (8) Under the rubric of counterinsurgency, the plans are to clear areas of Taliban by force of arms, then maintain control long enough (on the order of years) to reconstruct so-called “civil society.” By this is meant the elimination of corruption, the establishment of good governance, the rebuilding of infrastructure, schools, health care, economic development, the elimination of poppy cultivation, and so on.

While McChrystal’s role in Iraq was as commander of Joint Special Operations, that is, overseeing Delta Force and Navy SEALs in covert ops such as the successful killing of the leader of al Qai’da in Iraq al-Zarqawi by bomb strike – in Afghanistan, McChrystal now upbraids a subordinate European general for bombing a target that might cause harm to civilians. Indeed, limiting the use of artillery and airstrikes reflects a recognition that they alienate the populace. As Vietnam, winning the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan population is the current logic.

But watching General Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency principles on display in the Frontline episode, Obama’s War, (9) where Marines are shown trying to convince villagers in Helmand Province to come shop at a market under U.S. control, it is evident that they are making little headway. Well-meaning they may be, but it is painful to watch Marines try to be goodwill ambassadors. Retired Marine John Bernard is critical of the rules of engagement that he believes led to the death of his son, Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard on August 14 in Helmand Province. John Bernard notes that Marines are not trained to be police officers and nation-builders, but rather “kill people and break things.” (10)

Indeed, by July 2006, three years into the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the best estimates for deaths among Iraqis are those of the July 2006 survey that reported 655,000 deaths as a consequence of war. (11) Our recent experience in Iraq should make it abundantly evident that the U.S. military is not adept at reconstructing civil society.

Secondly, let us consider unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan the FATA. The CIA is conducting a program targeting Al-Qaeda leaders and enemies of the Pakistani government with missiles launched from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with names such as Predator and Reaper. (12) Together with the surge of troops in Afghanistan, the Obama administration is stepping up these attacks. Although an unnamed U.S. government official claims that only 20 or so civilians have been killed (13), Pakistani sources report that of 701 people killed in 60 attacks between January 2008 and April 2009, only 14 were suspected militants (14). To assassinate Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud on August 5, 2009, sixteen missiles were launched over fourteen months, resulting in between 207 and 321 additional deaths. (15)

Why are such air attacks on civilians not considered war crimes? Air attacks are not as accurate as they are portrayed. Non-combatants, including women and children, are often killed by air attacks. Homes and neighborhoods, shelter, water and sanitation, people’s livelihoods are destroyed. In the military parlance, this is called merely “collateral damage.” We should also recognize that bombing from the air, turn people against those responsible. (16) If we turn back to drone attacks on Pakistani borderland with Afghanistan, an August 2009 Gallup poll revealed that 59% of Pakistanis perceive the U.S. as the biggest threat to Pakistan, compared to 18% who named that India and 11% who named the Taliban. (17) The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports that Peshawar residents hold the U.S. responsible for bombings that the Pakistani government attributes to the Taliban. (18)

Finally, we still have not seem to have realized that we live in an empire. I was taken by the title: In the Graveyard of Empires. (19) The author urges caution in Afghanistan, where the Alexander the Great and the British and Soviet Empires met ignominious fates. But a number of chapters into the book, I realized that the author did not think of the U.S. as being an empire. The RAND political scientist has a plan for the U.S. to conduct counterinsurgency more effectively.

Politically, in some respects, the U.S. remains one nation among many, such as in the UN General Assembly. In the economic realm, it competes with Europe and Asia. In the military realm, however, it reigns supreme. The tendency is thus for the U.S. to “lead with its strength,” choosing to resolve conflicts by military threat or attack.

In the words of Afghan women leading a recent protest against government corruption, “The innocent and oppressed people will be the victims of American air and ground attacks.” (20) This is a central problem for health workers in the U.S. As Americans, we are responsible for our nation’s actions around the globe. As health workers, we must uphold the cause of health worldwide. What should be our role be?

1. Substantial Improvements Achieved in Afghanistan’s Health Sector. http://www.jhsph.edu/publichealthnews/press_releases/2007/Burnham_afghanistan.html

2. Rubenstein LS, Newbrander W. Undermining Afghan health care. Washington Post, Nov 29, 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/27/AR2009112702454_pf.html

3. Loevinsohn B, Sayed GD. Lessons from the health sector in Afghanistan. JAMA 2008;300:724-726.

4. Gates R, Clinton H. Interview. CNN, Oct 5, 2009. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0910/06/ampr.01.html

5. Questions for the Record Submitted for the Nomination of Rajiv Shah to be USAID Administrator by Senator John F. Kerry (#1) Senate Foreign Relations Committee. http://www.usglc.org/USGLCdocs/Shah_Responses_to_Kerry_QFR.pdf

6. Rubenstein & Newbrander.

7. Bristol N. Military incursions into aid work anger humanitarian groups. Lancet 2006;367:384- 386.

8. Filkins D. Stanley McChrystal’s Long War. New York Times Magazine, Oct 18, 2009.

9. Gaviria M, Smith M. Obama’s War. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/obamaswar/

10. Sharp D. Marine’s dad speaks out. Honolulu Advertiser, Oct 18, 2009.

11. Burnham G, Lafta R, Docey S, Roberts L. Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey. Lancet. 2006; 368: 1421-28.

12. Mayer J. The predator war. New Yorker, Oct 26, 2009. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/26/091026fa_fact_mayer

13. Shane S. C.I.A. to expand use of drones in Pakistan. New York Times. Dec. 4, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/world/asia/04drones.html?hp

14. Ahmad MI. Pakistan creates its own enemy. Le Monde Diplomatique. Nov 2009. http://mondediplo.com/2009/11/02pakistan

15. Mayer J.

16. Young M, Sprey P. (Interview). Bill Moyers Journal. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01302009/watch.html

17. Ahmad MI.

18. Bombings, drone attacks fuel anti-US sentiment in Pakistan. Dawn. Dec 7, 2009. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/07-bombings-drone-attacks-fuel-anti-us-sentiment-in-pakistan-ha-02

19. Jones S. In the graveyard of empires. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009.

20. Perry T. Afghan women lead protest against government corruption. LA Times. Dec 10, 2009.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fg-afghanistan-protest11-2009dec11,0,320839.story

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American Public Health Association Resolution 2003-23

Strengthening the Fiscal Viability and Independence of Public Health While Responding to Terrorism

Observing that in times of national crisis public health programs have suffered as government funds are diverted to national defense and fighting terrorism,1,2 and away from solving existing problems, such as contaminated food and water3 and breakdown in immunization rates4; and

While acknowledging that the American Public Health Association has long supported improved communication between those agencies of government charged with responding to emergencies5,6 we nevertheless recognize that some current proposals advocate such extensive integration between public health departments and police, security agencies and the military,7 that public health infrastructure and personnel could be diverted primarily to providing defense against terrorist attacks8; and

Noting that public health and security entities have different mandates, methodologies and philosophical foundations; and Noting the limited effectiveness of secondary and tertiary prevention strategies for defending against terrorist attacks,3 especially when compared to the primary prevention strategies advocated in earlier APHA policy opposing war, in particular wars over natural resources9,10; and

Noting that the argument for the shift of domestic funding priorities is predicated on the inevitability of terrorist attacks on the United States, when in fact further attacks are most likely if the United States pursues a policy of pre-emptive war, and might be averted by alternative approaches to international policy; 8,10 and

Asserting that all efforts to improve U.S. homeland defenses must protect the civil liberties and human rights of every person in the United States, in particular public employees.

Therefore, APHA

1. Calls on Congress and the President to abandon any plans to integrate administrations of public health entities with police, intelligence or security agencies.

2. Calls on Congress and the President to substantially increase core funding for public health infrastructure and personnel to strengthen the capacity of primary public health services as well as balance and strengthen the capacity to react swiftly to any sudden emergency, natural or manmade.

3. Calls for the passage of legislation at the federal and state levels to protect public health workers from recriminations for refusal to carry out military, police or intelligence tasks which are not properly part of the practice of public health.

References

1. Weiss R, Nakashima E. Restoration of broken public health system is best preparation, experts say. Washington Post, September 22, 2001.

2. APHA Policy Number: LB02-4. Protecting Essential Public Health Functions Amidst State Economic Downturns.

3. Sidel VW, Cohen HW, Gould RM. Good intentions and the road to bioterrorism preparedness. Am J Public Health 2001;91:716-8.

4. Brown D. Severe vaccine shortages termed ‘unprecedented;’ Kids’ defenses affected. Washington Post, April 20, 2002, p A01.

5. APHA Policy Number 9116: Health Professionals and Disaster Preparedness

6. APHA Policy Number 200016: Prevention, Response, and Training for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases, including Bioterrorism.

7. Hart G, Rudman W, eds. Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change. The Phase III Report of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century. The United States Commission on National Security/ 21st Century, February 15, 2001, http://www.nssg.gov, accessed Oct. 3, 2001.

8. Young J. Bioterrorism Readiness More Urgent Than Addressing Uninsured. F-D-C Reports, Vol. 14, No. 207, October 25, 2002. “Bioterrorism preparedness and public health infrastructure strengthening have overtaken the uninsured as America’s top health care priority, former Vice President Al Gore said in remarks at the George Washington University School of Public Health & Health Services Oct. 24. … Gore underscored the threat of bioterrorist attack, which he suggested would increase with an invasion of Iraq, and described the public health system as flawed.”

9. Policy Number: 9923 WARFARE Opposing War in the Middle East.

10. Policy Number: 2002-11 Opposing War in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

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California Democratic Party to says to Obama, Get Out of Afghanistan

Common Dreams,  November 16, 2009

Biggest State Party to Obama: Get Out of Afghanistan

By Norman Soloman

This week begins with a significant new straw in the political wind for President Obama to consider. The California Democratic Party has just sent him a formal and clear message: Stop making war in Afghanistan.

Overwhelmingly approved on Sunday by the California Democratic Party’s 300-member statewide executive board, the resolution is titled “End the U.S. Occupation and Air War in Afghanistan.”

The resolution supports “a timetable for withdrawal of our military personnel” and calls for “an end to the use of mercenary contractors as well as an end to air strikes that cause heavy civilian casualties.” Advocating multiparty talks inside Afghanistan, the resolution also urges Obama “to oversee a redirection of our funding and resources to include an increase in humanitarian and developmental aid.”

While Obama weighs Afghanistan policy options, the California Democratic Party’s adoption of the resolution is the most tangible indicator yet that escalation of the U.S. war effort can only fuel opposition within the president’s own party — opposition that has already begun to erode his political base.

Participating in a long-haul struggle for progressive principles inside the party, I co-authored the resolution with savvy longtime activists Karen Bernal of Sacramento and Marcy Winograd of Los Angeles.

Bernal, the chair of the state party’s Progressive Caucus, said on Sunday night: “Today’s vote formalized and amplified what had been, up to now, an unspoken but profoundly understood reality — that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. What’s more, the vote signified an acceptance of what is sure to be a continued and growing culture of resistance to current administration policies on the matter within the party. This is absolutely huge. Now, there can be no disputing the fact that the overwhelming majority of California Democrats are not only saying no to escalation, but no to our continued military presence in Afghanistan, period. The California Democratic Party has spoken, and we want the rest of the country to know.”

Winograd, who is running hard as a grassroots candidate in a primary race against pro-war incumbent Rep. Jane Harman, had this to say: “We need progressives in every state Democratic Party to pass a similar resolution calling for an end to the U.S. occupation and air war in Afghanistan. Bring the veterans to the table, bring our young into the room, and demand an end to this occupation that only destabilizes the region. There is no military solution, only a diplomatic one that requires we cease our role as occupiers if we want our voices to be heard. Yes, this is about Afghanistan — but it’s also about our role in the world at large. Do we want to be global occupiers seizing scarce resources or global partners in shared prosperity? I would argue a partnership is not only the humane choice, but also the choice that grants us the greatest security.”

Speaking to the resolutions committee of the state party on Saturday, former Marine Corporal Rick Reyes movingly described his experiences as a warrior in Afghanistan that led him to question and then oppose what he now considers to be an illegitimate U.S. occupation of that country.

Another voice of disillusionment reached party delegates when Bernal distributed a copy of the recent resignation letter from senior U.S. diplomat Matthew Hoh, sent after five months of work on the ground in Afghanistan. “I find specious the reasons we ask for bloodshed and sacrifice from our young men and women in Afghanistan,” he wrote. “If honest, our stated strategy of securing Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaeda resurgence or regrouping would require us to additionally invade and occupy western Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, etc. Our presence in Afghanistan has only increased destabilization and insurgency in Pakistan where we rightly fear a toppled or weakened Pakistani government may lose control of its nuclear weapons.”

Hoh’s letter added that “I do not believe any military force has ever been tasked with such a complex, opaque and Sisyphean mission as the U.S. military has received in Afghanistan.” And he wrote: “Thousands of our men and women have returned home with physical and mental wounds, some that will never heal or will only worsen with time. The dead return only in bodily form to be received by families who must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy of futures lost, love vanished, and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence such assurances can anymore be made.”

From their own vantage points, many of the California Democratic Party leaders who voted to approve the out-of-Afghanistan resolution on Nov. 15 have gone through a similar process. They’ve come to see the touted reasons for the U.S. war effort as specious, the mission as Sisyphean and the consequences as profoundly unacceptable.

Sometime in the next few days, President Obama is likely to learn that the California Democratic Party has approved an official resolution titled “End the U.S. Occupation and Air War in Afghanistan.” But will he really get the message?

Norman Solomon is a journalist, historian, and progressive activist. His book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death has been adapted into a documentary film of the same name. His most recent book is “Made Love, Got War. ” He is a national co-chair of the Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign. In California, he is co-chair of the Commission on a Green New Deal for the North Bay; http://www.GreenNewDeal.info .

CIA, Heroin Still Rule Day in Afghanistan

RAWA: Since 2001 the opium cultivation increased over 4,400%. Under the US/NATO, Afghanistan became world largest opium producer, which produces 93% of world opium.

RAWA News, November 24, 2008

CIA, Heroin Still Rule Day in Afghanistan

“U.S. Army planes leave Afghanistan carrying coffins empty of bodies, but filled with drugs.”

By Victor Thorn

Opium fields in Afghanistan

Afghanistan now supplies over 90 percent of the world’s heroin, generating nearly $200 billion in revenue. Since the U.S. invasion on Oct. 7, 2001, opium output has increased 33-fold (to over 8,250 metric tons a year).

The U.S. has been in Afghanistan for over seven years, has spent $177 billion in that country alone, and has the most powerful and technologically advanced military on Earth. GPS tracking devices can locate any spot imaginable by simply pushing a few buttons.

Still, bumper crops keep flourishing year after year, even though heroin production is a laborious, intricate process. The poppies must be planted, grown and harvested; then after the morphine is extracted it has to be cooked, refined, packaged into bricks and transported from rural locales across national borders. To make heroin from morphine requires another 12-14 hours of laborious chemical reactions. Thousands of people are involved, yet—despite the massive resources at our disposal—heroin keeps flowing at record levels.

Common sense suggests that such prolific trade over an extended period of time is no accident, especially when the history of what has transpired in that region is considered. While the CIA ran its operations during the Vietnam War, the Golden Triangle supplied the world with most of its heroin. After that war ended in 1975, an intriguing event took place in 1979 when Zbigniew Brzezinski covertly manipulated the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan.Behind the scenes, the CIA, along with Pakistan’s ISI, were secretly funding Afghanistan’s mujahideen to fight their Russian foes. Prior to this war, opium production in Afghanistan was minimal. But according to historian Alfred McCoy, an expert on the subject, a shift in focus took place. “Within two years of the onslaught of the CIA operation in Afghanistan, the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world’s top heroin producer.”   (Read Wikipedia on Alfred McCoy.)

Soon, as Professor Michel Chossudovsky notes, “CIA assets again controlled the heroin trade. As the mujahideen guerrillas seized territory inside Afghanistan, they ordered peasants to plant poppies as a revolutionary tax. Across the border in Pakistan, Afghan leaders and local syndicates under the protection of Pakistan intelligence operated hundreds of heroin laboratories.

Eventually, the Soviet Union was defeated (their version of Vietnam), and ultimately lost the Cold War. The aftermath, however, proved to be an entirely new can of worms. During his research, McCoy discovered that “the CIA supported various Afghan drug lords, for instance Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The CIA did not handle heroin, but it did provide its drug lord allies with transport, arms, and political protection.”

By 1994, a new force emerged in the region—the Taliban—that took over the drug trade. Chossudovsky again discovered that “the Americans had secretly, and through the Pakistanis [specifically the ISI], supported the Taliban’s assumption of power.”

These strange bedfellows endured a rocky relationship until July 2000 when Taliban leaders banned the planting of poppies. This alarming development, along with other disagreements over proposed oil pipelines through Eurasia, posed a serious problem for power centers in the West. Without heroin money at their disposal, billions of dollars could not be funneled into various CIA black budget projects. Already sensing trouble in this volatile region, 18 influential neo-cons signed a letter in 1998 which became a blueprint for war—the infamous Project for a New American Century (PNAC).

Fifteen days after 9-11, CIA Director George Tenet sent his top-secret Special Operations Group (SOG) into Afghanistan. One of the biggest revelations in Tenet’s book, At the Center of the Storm, was that CIA forces directed the Afghanistan invasion, not the Pentagon.

In the Jan. 26, 2003, issue of Time magazine, Douglas Waller describes Donald Rumsfeld’s reaction to this development. “When aides told Rumsfeld that his Army Green Beret A-Teams couldn’t go into Afghanistan until the CIA contingent had lain the groundwork with local warlords, he erupted, ‘I have all these guys under arms, and we’ve got to wait like little birds in a nest for the CIA to let us go in?’”

ARMITAGE A MAJOR PLAYER

But the real operator in Afghanistan was Richard Armitage, a man whose legend includes being the biggest heroin trafficker in Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War; director of the State Department’s Foreign Narcotics Control Office (a front for CIA drug dealing); head of the Far East Company (used to funnel drug money out of the Golden Triangle); a close liaison with Oliver North during the Iran-Contra cocaine-for-guns scandal; a primary Pentagon official in the terror and covert ops field under George Bush the Elder; one of the original signatories of the infamous PNAC document; and the man who helped CIA Director William Casey run weapons to the mujahideen during their war against the Soviet Union. Armitage was also stationed in Iran during the mid-1970s right before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the shah. Armitage may well be the greatest covert operator in U.S. history.

On Sept. 10, 2001, Armitage met with the UK’s national security advisor, Sir David Manning. Was Armitage “passing on specific intelligence information about the impending terrorist attacks”? The scenario is plausible because one day later—on 9-11—Dick Cheney directly called for Armitage’s presence down in his bunker. Immediately after WTC 2 was struck, Armitage told BBC Radio, “I was told to go to the operations center [where] I spent the rest of the day in the ops center with the vice president.”

These two share a long history together. Not only was Armitage employed by Cheney’s former company Halliburton (via Brown & Root), he was also a deputy when Cheney was secretary of defense under Bush the Elder. More importantly, Cheney and Armitage had joint business and consulting interests in the Central Asian pipeline which had been contracted by Unocal. The only problem standing between them and the Caspian Sea’s vast energy reserves was the Taliban.

Since the 1980s, Armitage amassed a huge roster of allies in Pakistan’s ISI. He was also one of the “Vulcans”—along with Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Rabbi Dov Zakheim—who coordinated Bush’s geo-strategic foreign policy initiatives. Then, after 9-11, he negotiated with the Pakistanis prior to our invasion of Afghanistan, while also becoming Bush’s deputy secretary of state stationed in Afghanistan.

Our “enemy,” or course, was the Taliban “terrorists.” But George Tenet, Colin Powell, Porter Goss, and Armitage had developed a close relationship with Pakistan’s military head of the ISI—General Mahmoud Ahmad— who was cited in a Sept. 2001 FBI report as “supporting and financing the alleged 9-11 terrorists, as well as having links to al Qaeda and the Taliban.”

The line between friend and foe gets even murkier. Afghan President Hamid Karzai not only collaborated with the Taliban, but he was also on Unocal’s payroll in the mid-1990s. He is also described by Saudi Arabia’s Al-Watan newspaper as being “a Central Intelligence Agency covert operator since the 1980s that collaborated with the CIA in funding U.S. aid to the Taliban.”

Capturing a new, abundant source for heroin was an integral part of the U.S. “war on terror.” Hamid Karzai is a puppet ruler of the CIA; Afghanistan is a full-fledged narco-state; and the poppies that flourish there have yet to be eradicated, as was proven in 2003 when the Bush administration refused to destroy the crops, despite having the chance to do so. Major drug dealers are rarely arrested, smugglers enjoy carte blanche immunity, and Nushin Arbabzadah, writing for The Guardian, theorized that “U.S. Army planes leave Afghanistan carrying coffins empty of bodies, but filled with drugs.” Is that why the military protested so vehemently when reporters tried to photograph returning caskets?

America’s drug crisis and Afghanistan: where the US goes, the drug trade soon follows

CounterPunch, October 28, 2009

Brought to You by the CIA

America’s Drug Crisis

By DAVE LINDORFF

Next time you see a junkie sprawled at the curb in the downtown of your nearest city, or read about someone who died of a heroin overdose, just imagine a big yellow sign posted next to him or her saying: “Your Federal Tax Dollars at Work.”

Kudos to the New York Times, and to reporters Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen, for their lead article today reporting that Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghanistan’s stunningly corrupt President Hamid Karzai, a leading drug lord in the world’s major opium-producing nation, has for eight years been on the CIA payroll.

Okay, the article was lacking much historical perspective (more on that later), and the dead hand of top editors was evident in the overly cautious tone (I loved the third paragraph, which stated that “The financial ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency and Mr. Karzai raises significant questions about America’s war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.” Well, duh! It should be raising questions about why we are even in Afghanistan, about who should be going to jail at the CIA, and about how can the government explain this to the over 1000 soldiers and Marines who have died supposedly helping to build a new Afghanistan). But that said, the newspaper that helped cheerlead us into the pointless and criminal Iraq invasion in 2003, and that prevented journalist Risen from running his exposé of the Bush/Cheney administration’s massive warrantless National Security Agency electronic spying operation until after the 2004 presidential election, this time gave a critically important story full play, and even, appropriately, included a teaser in the same front-page story about October being the most deadly month yet for the US in Afghanistan.

What the article didn’t mention at all is that there is a clear historical pattern here. During the Vietnam War, the CIA, and its Air America airline front-company, were neck deep in the Southeast Asian heroin trade. At the time, it was Southeast Asia, not Afghanistan, that was the leading producer and exporter of opium, mostly to the US, where there was a heroin epidemic.

A decade later, in the 1980s, during the Reagan administration, as the late investigative journalist Gary Webb so brilliantly documented first in a series titled “Dark Alliance” in the San Jose Mercury newspaper, and later in a book by that same name, the CIA was deeply involved in the development of and smuggling of cocaine into the US, which was soon engulfed in a crack cocaine epidemic—one that continues to destroy African American and other poor communities across the country. (The Times role here was sordid—it and other leading papers, including the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times—did despicable hit pieces on Webb shamelessly trashing his work and his career, and ultimately driving him to suicide, though his facts have held up. For the whole sordid tale, read Alex Cockburn’s and Jeffrey St. Clair’s Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press) In this case, Webb showed that the Agency was actually using the drugs as a way to fund arms, which it could use its own planes to ferry down to the Contra forces it was backing to subvert the Sandinista government in Nicaragua at a time Congress had barred the US from supporting the Contras.

And now we have Afghanistan, once a sleepy backwater of the world with little connection to drugs (the Taliban, before their overthrow by US forces in 20001, had, according to the UN, virtually eliminated opium production there), but now responsible for as much as 80 percent of the world’s opium production—this at a time that the US effectively finances and runs the place, with an occupying army that, together with Afghan government forces that it controls, outnumbers the Taliban 12-1 according to a recent AP story.

The real story here is that where the US goes, the drug trade soon follows, and the leading role in developing and nurturing that trade appears to be played by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Your tax dollars at work.

The issue at this point should not be how many troops the US should add to its total in Afghanistan. It shouldn’t even be over whether the US should up the ante or scale back to a more limited goal of hunting terrorists. It should be about how quickly the US can extricate its forces from Afghanistan, how soon the Congress can start hearings into corruption and drug pushing by the CIA, and how soon the Attorney General’s office will impanel a grand jury to probe CIA drug dealing.

Americans, who for years have supported a stupid, blundering and ineffective “War on Drugs” in this country, and who mindlessly back “zero-tolerance” policies towards drugs in schools and on the job, should demand a “zero-tolerance” policy toward drugs and dealing with drug pushers in government and foreign policy, including the CIA.

For years we have been fed the story that the Taliban are being financed by their taxes on opium farmers. That may be partly true, but recently we’ve been learning that it’s not the real story. Taliban forces in Afghanistan, it turns out, have been heavily subsidized by protection money paid to them by civilian aid organizations, including even American government-funded aid programs, and even, reportedly, by the military forces of some of America’s NATO allies (there is currently a scandal in Italy concerning such payments by Italian forces). But beyond that, the opium industry, far from being controlled by the Taliban, has been, to a great extent, controlled by the very warlords with which the US has allied itself, and, as the Times now reports, by Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s own brother.

Karzai, we are also told by Filkins, Mazzetti and Risen, was a key player in producing hundreds of thousands of fraudulent ballots for his brother’s election theft earlier this year. Left unsaid is whether the CIA might have played a role in that scam too. In a country where finding printing presses is sure to be difficult, and where transporting bales of counterfeit ballots is risky, you have to wonder whether an agency like the CIA, which has ready access to printers and to helicopters, might have had a hand in keeping its assets in control in Kabul.

Sure that’s idle speculation on my part, but when you learn that America’s spook agency has been keeping not just Karzai, but lots of other unsavory Afghani warlords, on its payroll, such speculation is only logical.

The real attitude of the CIA here was best illustrated by an anonymous quote in the Filkins, Mazzetti and Risen piece, where a “former CIA officer with experience in Afghanistan,” explaining the agency’s backing of Karzai, said, “Virtually every significant Afghan figure has had brushes with the drug trade. If you are looking for Mother Teresa, she doesn’t live in Afghanistan.”

“The end justifies the means” is America’s foreign policy and military motto, clearly.

The Times article exposing the CIA link to Afghanistan’s drug-kingpin presidential brother should be the last straw for Americans. President Obama’s “necessary” war in Afghanistan is nothing but a sick joke.

The opium, and resulting heroin, that is flooding into Europe and America thanks to the CIA’s active support of the industry and its owners in Afghanistan are doing far more grave damage to our societies than any turbaned terrorists armed with suicide bomb vests could hope to inflict.

The Afghanistan War has to be ended now.

Let the prosecution of America’s government drug pushers begin.

A note about Sen. John Kerry: Kerry (D-MA), who went to Afghanistan to press, for the Obama administration, to get his “good friend” President Karzai to agree to a run-off election after Karzai’s earlier theft of the first round, has played a shameful role here. Once, back when he still had an ounce of the principle that he had back when he was a Vietnam vet speaking out against the Indochina War, Kerry held hearings on the CIA’s cocaine-for-arms operation in Central America. Now he’s hugging the CIA’s drug connections.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at dlindorff@mindspring.com


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