Showing posts with label NATO. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NATO. Show all posts

29 May 2013

Harry Targ : Benghazi is the Perfect 'Scandal'

Political cartoon by Daryl Cagle / Cagle Cartoons.
Benghazi:
The perfect 'scandal'
The real 'scandal' is the cover-up of what the U.S. was doing in Libya.
By Harry Targ / The Rag Blog / May 30, 2013

On the night of September 11, 2012, an armed group attacked a diplomatic post in the city of Benghazi in eastern Libya. The next morning a CIA annex was attacked. Out of these two attacks four United States citizens were killed including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

According to a November 2012 Wall Street Journal article (quoted by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic, May 13, 2013):
The U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation, according to officials briefed on the intelligence. Of the more than 30 American officials evacuated from Benghazi following the deadly assault, only seven worked for the State Department. Nearly all the rest worked for the CIA, under diplomatic cover, which was a principal purpose of the consulate, these officials said.
On March 17, 2011, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1973 authorizing humanitarian intervention in Libya. It endorsed “Member States, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory...” Five Security Council members abstained from support of this resolution: Brazil, China, Germany, India, and Russia.

Passage of the resolution was followed by a NATO-led air war on targets in that country. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was established in 1949 as a military alliance to defend Europe from any possible aggression initiated by the Soviet Union. If words mattered, NATO should have dissolved when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The United States, so concerned for the human rights of people in the Persian Gulf and Middle East, including in Libya, was virtually silent as nonviolent revolutions overthrew dictatorial regimes in Tunisia and Egypt earlier in 2011.

The United States continued to support regimes in Bahrain and Yemen in the face of popular protest and violent response and remained the primary rock-solid supporter of the state of Israel as it continued to expand settlements in the West Bank and blockaded the transfer of goods to Palestinians in Gaza.

And, of course, in the face of growing ferment in the Middle East and Persian Gulf for democratization not a word was said by way of criticism of the monarchical system in Saudi Arabia.

So as the Gaddafi regime in Libya fought its last battles, leading ultimately to the capture and assassination of the Libyan dictator, the NATO alliance and the United States praised themselves for their support of movements for democratization in Libya.

What seemed obvious to observers except most journalists was the fact that the overthrow of the Libyan regime, for better or worse, could not have occurred without the massive bombing campaign against military and civilian targets throughout Libya carried out by NATO forces.

From the vantage point of the Benghazi crisis of September 11, 2012, humanitarian intervention, which in Benghazi included 23 (of some 30) U.S. representatives who were CIA operatives, suggests that the attacks on U.S. targets might have had something to do with the history of U.S interventionism in the country. Great powers, such as the United States, continue to interfere in the political life of small and poor countries. And, the mainstream media continues to provide a humanitarian narrative of imperialism at work.

The post-9/11 Benghazi story is one of Republicans irresponsibly focusing on inter-agency squabbles and so-called contradictory Obama “talking points” after the killings of the four U.S. representatives in Benghazi. They chose not to address the real issue of the United States pattern of interference in the internal affairs of Libya.

And the Obama Administration defends itself by denying its incompetence in the matter, desperately trying to avoid disclosing the real facts in the Benghazi story which might show that the CIA and the Ambassador’s staff were embedded in Benghazi to interfere in the political struggles going on between factions among the Libyan people.

As Alexander Cockburn put it well in reference to the war on Libya in The Nation in June 2011:
America’s clients in Bahrain and Riyadh can watch the undignified pantomime with a tranquil heart, welcoming this splendid demonstration that they have nothing to fear from Obama’s fine speeches or Clinton’s references to democratic aspirations, well aware that NATO’s warplanes and helicopters are operating under the usual double standard -- with the Western press furnishing all appropriate services.
If Cockburn were alive today he would have added that the Libyan operation was about U.S. covert interventionism, anger on the part of sectors of the Benghazi citizenship, and not about the United States encouraging “democratic aspirations” of the Libyan people.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats want to have a conversation about U.S. interventionism but prefer to debate about a “scandal.” The real “scandal” is the cover-up of what the U.S. was doing in Libya.

[Harry Targ is a professor of political science at Purdue University and is a member of the National Executive Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. He lives in West Lafayette, Indiana, and blogs at Diary of a Heartland Radical. Read more of Harry Targ's articles on The Rag Blog.]

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09 October 2012

Ron Jacobs : Turkey Plays Chicken for NATO

Turkish soldiers stand guard in Akcakale by the Turkish-Syria border. Photo by Bulent Kilic / AFP.

A page from Washington's book:
Turkey plays chicken for NATO
They manipulated an incident into an act of war much like the U.S. used questionable incidents to attack Northern Korea in 1950 and Northern Vietnam in 1964.
By Ron Jacobs / The Rag Blog / October 9, 2012

Turkey took a page from Washington’s play book on October 4, 2012. After an errant shell landed in Turkish territory and killed a family there, the Turkish legislature authorized the Turkish military to enter foreign lands.

In other words, they manipulated an incident into an act of war much like the U.S. used questionable incidents to attack Northern Korea in 1950 and  Northern Vietnam in 1964. By passing legislation giving the Turkish military permission to enter foreign territory, Ankara declared an undeclared war on Syria. Claiming that their intention is not war, the Turkish military stepped up its alert status and prepared for war.

Of course, Turkey’s status as a NATO member brought forth a barely concealed hope from Brussels that this might finally be the entry it has been looking for since the protests against the Assad regime started looking as if they might result in that regime’s fall.

I have a sister who has been a nurse working psychiatric wards for most of the past 45 years. Although she has misgivings about the use of psychotropic drugs in many instances, she has explained that they serve a useful purpose in that they create a predictable response for staff to deal with. In other words, once the drugs take effect, the medical staff can be pretty certain how the patient will behave.

When nations go to war they operate under a similar thought process. In other words, once a nation is attacked, it will fight back or surrender. The root causes of the conflict will not be resolved, but the behavior of the attacked nation becomes more predictable.

Of course, once the dogs of war are unleashed, anything can happen. However, like the fool who makes the same mistake over and over again, war-making nations act as if the next war they enter will end as predicted.

The case of Syria is a tough one. The Assad regime is quite authoritarian and, at this point, the word "murderous" also applies. However, the opposition as it currently exists does not seem to be much better. Indeed, the increasing role of radical Islamists with an apparently reactionary agenda in the rebel forces creates a scenario where both sides in this civil war are difficult, if not impossible, to support.

The element of the resistance that seemed to express popular hopes for a democratic secular government in Syria seems to have disappeared in the car bombs and aerial bombardments that tend to increasingly characterize this conflict. From where I sit, it appears the U.S. and its alliance are arming forces (by proxy) very similar to those it armed in Afghanistan, while the nation of Syria is looking more and more like Iraq circa 2007, when sectarian conflict split that nation into many small and dangerous combat zones. Neither aspect of this scenario is a positive.

As for NATO and Israel, it is important to remember that Syria has been one of several nations in the Middle East that Tel Aviv and DC have wanted to control for decades. Always a proponent of pan-Arabism and Arab nationalism, the Damascus government has been a constant threat to Israel’s dream of a Greater Israel and, simultaneously, to Washington’s plans to dominate the region.

A co-founder of the United Arab Republic and now Tehran’s greatest ally in the Middle East, Damascus has long been on Washington’s short list of nations needing a reformat into a friendlier state. Tel Aviv, of course, would rather just take over the whole place and make it their own as part of their dream of lebensraum for the Jewish people.

Since the protests turned bloody in Syria last winter, the western public has been shown numerous videos and images of mutilated bodies and destroyed dwellings. The historical context and the nature of the forces involved have been minimized while the human toll has been magnified.

Much of this destruction was caused by the Syrian military and associated paramilitaries. As the conflict turned into civil war, much of it has also been caused by the rebel forces. The images of the former were usually provided by freelance sources that often have an agenda to push -- that agenda involves the entry of foreign forces to support their side.

This is where the west comes in. It is also where the recent threat of military intervention from Ankara comes in. If Turkey does enter the fray, NATO will not be far behind. As part of the alliance, Ankara knows this and counts on it. Its opposition to the Assad regime has been present since the beginning of the resistance and the resistance’s turn to military conflict has been supported and propped up every inch of the way by Ankara.

There is no easy answer to the conflict in Syria. However, turning it into a regional war is definitely not the right one.

[Rag Blog contributor Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. He recently released a collection of essays and musings titled Tripping Through the American Night. His latest novel, The Co-Conspirator's Tale, is published by Fomite. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. Ron Jacobs can be reached at ronj1955@gmail.com. Find more articles by Ron Jacobs on The Rag Blog.]

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17 May 2012

Harry Targ : NATO: From Fighting Socialism to Global Empire

The Big Three at Yalta, February 1545: Winston Churchill, prime minister of the United Kingdom; Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the United States; and Joseph Stalin, Premier of the Soviet Union. Image from U.S. Department of Defense / Wikimedia Commons.

NATO:
From fighting socialism to global empire
Leaders of the three states celebrated a post-war world order in which they would work through the new United Nations system to modulate conflict in the world.
By Harry Targ / The Rag Blog / May 17, 2012

During World War II an “unnatural alliance” was created between the United States, Great Britain, and the former Soviet Union. What brought the three countries together -- the emerging imperial giant, the declining capitalist power, and the first socialist state -- was the shared need to defeat fascism in Europe.

Rhetorically, the high point of collaboration was reflected in the agreements made at the Yalta Conference, in February 1945, three months before the German armies were defeated.

At Yalta, the great powers made decisions to facilitate democratization of former Nazi regimes in Eastern Europe, a “temporary” division of Germany for occupation purposes, and a schedule of future Soviet participation in the ongoing war against Japan.

Leaders of the three states returned to their respective countries celebrating the “spirit of Yalta,” what would be a post-war world order in which they would work through the new United Nations system to modulate conflict in the world.

Within two years, after conflicts over Iran with the Soviet Union, the Greek Civil War, the replacement of wartime President Franklin Roosevelt with Harry Truman, and growing challenges to corporate rule in the United States by militant labor, Truman declared in March, 1947 that the United States and its allies were going to be engaged in a long-term struggle against the forces of “International Communism.”

The post-war vision of cooperation was reframed as a struggle of the “free world” against “tyranny.”

In addition to Truman’s ideological crusade, his administration launched an economic program to rebuild parts of Europe, particularly what would become West Germany, as capitalist bastions against the ongoing popularity of Communist parties throughout the region.

Along with the significant program of reconstructing capitalism in Europe and linking it by trade, investment, finance, and debt to the United States, the U.S. with its new allies constructed a military alliance that would be ready to fight the Cold War against International Communism.

Representatives of Western European countries met in Brussels in 1948 to establish a program of common defense and one year later with the addition of the United States and Canada, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed. The new NATO charter, inspired largely by a prior Western Hemisphere alliance, the Rio Pact (1947), proclaimed that “an armed attack against one or more of them... shall be considered an attack against them all...” which would lead to an appropriate response.

The Charter called for cooperation and military preparedness among the 12 signatories. After the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb and the Korean War started, NATO pushed ahead with the development of a common military command structure with General Eisenhower as the first “Supreme Allied Commander.”

After the founding of NATO and its establishment as a military arm of the West, the Truman administration adopted the policy recommendations in National Security Council Document 68 (NSC 68) in 1950 which declared that military spending for the indefinite future would be the number one priority of every presidential administration.

As Western European economies reconstructed, Marshall Plan aid programs were shut down and military assistance to Europe was launched. Greece and Turkey joined NATO in 1952, and, fueling the flames of Cold War, West Germany was admitted to NATO in 1955. (This stimulated the Soviet Union to construct its own alliance system, the Warsaw Pact, with countries from Eastern Europe.)

During the Cold War NATO continued as the only unified Western military command structure against the “Soviet threat.”While forces and funds only represented a portion of the U.S. global military presence, the alliance constituted a “trip wire” signifying to the Soviets that any attack on targets in Western Europe would set off World War III. NATO thus provided the deterrent threat of “massive retaliation” in the face of first-strike attack.

With the collapse of the former Warsaw Pact regimes between 1989 and 1991, the tearing down of the symbolic Berlin Wall in 1989, and finally the collapse of the Soviet Union itself in 1991, the purpose for maintaining a NATO alliance presumably had passed. However, this was not to be.

In the next 20 years after the Soviet collapse, membership in the alliance doubled. New members included most of the former Warsaw Pact countries. The functions and activities of NATO were redefined.

NATO programs included air surveillance during the crises accompanying the Gulf War and the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. In 1995, NATO sent 60,000 troops to Bosnia and in 1998-99 it carried out brutal bombing campaigns in Serbia with 38,000 sorties. NATO forces became part of the U.S.-led military coalition that launched the war on Afghanistan in 2001. In 2011 a massive NATO air war on Libya played a critical role in the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime.

An official history of NATO described the changes in its mission: “In 1991 as in 1949, NATO was to be the foundation stone for a larger, pan-European security architecture.” The post-Cold War mission of NATO combines “military might, diplomacy, and post-conflict stabilization.”

The NATO history boldly concludes that the alliance was founded on defense in the 1950s and détente with the Soviet Union in the 1960s. With the collapse of Communism in the 1990s it became a “tool for the stabilization of Eastern Europe and Central Asia through incorporation of new Partners and Allies.”

The 21st century vision of NATO has expanded further: “extending peace through the strategic projection of security.” This new mission, the history said, was forced upon NATO because of the failure of nation-states and extremism.

Reviewing this brief history of NATO, observers can reasonably draw different conclusions about NATO’s role in the world than from those who celebrate its world role.

First, NATO’s mission to defend Europe from aggression against “International Communism” was completed with the “fall of Communism.” Second, the alliance was regional, that is pertaining to Europe and North America, and now it is global. Third, NATO was about security and defense. Now it is about global transformation.

Fourth, as its biggest supporter in terms of troops, supplies and budget (22-25%), NATO is an instrument of United States foreign policy. Fifth, as a creation of Europe and North America, it has become an enforcer of the interests of member countries against, what Vijay Prashad calls, the “darker nations” of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Sixth, NATO has become the 21st century military instrumentality of global imperialism.

And finally, there is growing evidence that larger and larger portions of the world’s people have begun to stand up against NATO.

[Harry Targ is a professor of political science at Purdue University who lives in West Lafayette, Indiana. He blogs at Diary of a Heartland Radical -- and that's also the name of his new book which can be found at Lulu.com. Read more of Harry Targ's articles on The Rag Blog.]

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26 April 2012

Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers : Why We Oppose NATO

Graphic from Left Turn :: Virage a Gauche.

Why we oppose NATO!
The new NATO is a secretive and costly instrument of war and aggression. It makes its own rules and confirms its own authority.
By Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers / The Rag Blog / April 26, 2012

The day after the 9/11 attacks the Bush administration took dozens of extreme, transformative actions, including invoking Article 5, the right to collective self defense, of NATO’s founding charter -- a first in NATO’s 50-year history.

This marked the fateful expansion of NATO’s mission into new geographical regions (such as Afghanistan) and novel functions, such as the initiation and rationalization of the use of preemptive attacks on sovereign states.

All of this was codified and consolidated over the next months in support of the U.S. “war on terror," crimes committed by non-nation state actors were reframed as “acts of war,” and NATO nations were now expected to join together and respond in kind, opening a door onto war without end, worldwide conflict, and the “long war.”

This is why groups of citizens in virtually every NATO nation have come together to press their governments to leave this deadly enterprise.

NATO has become part of the background noise that over time and with repetition we simply take for granted, an unexamined but passively accepted part of the given world: “NATO forces...” “NATO bombings...” “NATO casualties...” NATO becomes a familiar and entirely opaque presence in our lives. In reality NATO is anything but benign, and exposing the reality behind the mask is an urgent responsibility.

NATO is not a mutual self-defense organization; it is now plainly a global military alliance designed to engage in aggressive invasions and preemptive wars. A 2004 communiqué declared that “Defense against terrorism may include activities by NATO’s military forces, based on decisions by the North Atlantic Council [not the UN Security Council] to deter, disrupt, defend and protect against terrorist attacks, or threat of attacks, directed from abroad, against populations, territory, infrastructure and forces of any member state, including by acting against these terrorists and those who harbour them.”

NATO has collaborated with the U.S. CIA in a wide range of illegal activities, including detainee transfer operations called “renditions,” blanket over-flight clearances, and access to airfields for CIA operations -- in effect acting as partners in torture, abduction, and indefinite detention. Under cover of NATO, the U.S. has created an entirely unaccountable framework that enables it to evade both national and international law.

NATO has refused to address civilian casualties resulting from NATO bombings and drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. The U.S. continues to dominate NATO military strategy and weaponry, accounting for virtually all of the 7,700 bombs and missiles dropped or fired on Libya.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 prohibits nuclear weapon states from transferring nuclear weapons to non-nuclear states, and conversely prohibits non-nuclear states from receiving nuclear weapons from nuclear states. All NATO members are parties to the NPT. The five non-nuclear countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey) that maintain U.S. nuclear weapons on their territory, and the U.S. itself, are all in violation of the NPT.

The new NATO is a secretive and costly instrument of war and aggression. It makes its own rules and confirms its own authority. As a tool of global intervention NATO undermines democracy and constricts citizen participation on issues of war and peace. It has no place in a democracy, and an authentic democracy should have no business with NATO.

[William Ayers is Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Bernardine Dohrn is Clinical Associate Professor of Law and Director and founder of the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University. Both Ayers and Dohrn were leaders in SDS and the New Left, and were founders of Weatherman and the Weather Underground. Find more articles by and about Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn on The Rag Blog.]

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13 July 2011

David McReynolds : Libya, NATO, and International Law

Political cartoon by Gianfranco Uber / Cartoon Movement.

Bombs away:
Libya, NATO, and international law


By David McReynolds / The Rag Blog / July 13, 2011

The original UN resolution, pressed for by France, Great Britain, and the U.S. (all three led by men who have never been in armed combat) was to use such force as was needed to protect the civilian population of Libya. It was explicit that the NATO operation was not designed to force a regime change -- though Obama has since made it clear that in his view Gaddafi must leave.

The events in Libya are tragic because they are a civil war, not part of the North African Spring. Far more violence has been used in Syria, with no word of NATO intervention. At last report Saudi Arabia had over a thousand troops "loaned" to Bahrain, with no hint of NATO intervention. What makes Libya different? It has oil.

I'm not writing a brief for or against Gaddafi. I am saying that NATO has violated the UN Resolution, that it should cease combat, and accept any of several offers put forward by other countries for an immediate cease fire. In particular the use of air attacks in a transparent effort to murder Gadaffi are completely indefensible.


But it is NATO which I want to look at first, and this carries us back to the early days of the Cold War. There have been books written on the origins of the Cold War but we have time only for a sketch. When WW II ended in 1945, it was won, in Europe, by the extraordinary losses of life by the Soviet Union. From the Western side there was a fear of the masses of Soviet troops and tanks and the reality of the mass Communist Parties in France and Italy.

The Soviet theory, at that time, not to be revised until Khruschev became the Soviet leader, was that conflict (and by this one assumed war) between capitalism and communism was inevitable. The one ace in the hole of the West was the nuclear bomb, and the speed with which the U.S. surrounded the Soviet Union with air bases which would make possible nuclear strikes deep in Soviet territory.

From the Soviet side, their massed troops were exhausted, the lines of communication made any serious attack on the West impossible. What the Soviets did want -- what would have been true of any government in Moscow, regardless of its politics -- was a buffer zone between Russia and Western Europe.

Russia has no natural defenses, no oceans, no rivers, no mountains. It had suffered from the Napoleonic invasion in the 19th century and from two German invasions in the 20th century. The Soviets sought at first to gain security through getting a U.S. and British agreement to a neutral Germany, along the lines that had been worked out with Austria and Finland. But in the climate of 1948 when nerves were raw on both sides and at a time when, possibly, wiser heads on either side might have changed the course of events, the Soviets moved to take control of Czechoslovakia, bringing it into the East European Bloc.

(There was an unintended tragedy here -- in the last free elections in Czechoslovakia, the Communist Party had a strong share of the vote -- the Soviet moves to bring it into the Soviet Bloc was a death blow to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia).

The same year saw the raw testing of nerves when the Soviet Union cut off the land route from West Germany into Berlin, and the West responded with the Berlin Airlift.

Western Europe, essentially under the control of the U.S. (though a much gentler control than Eastern Europe faced from Moscow) responded to events in Czechoslovakia and the Berlin crisis by establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) -- a military defensive shield. That was in 1949.

The Soviets established the Warsaw Pact in 1955, several years after the founding of NATO. The Soviets had waited, still hoping for some kind of demilitarization of Germany, but this hope was ended when West German military forces were admitted to NATO in 1954.

In theory (and in the eyes of almost everyone in Europe), the two military pacts were "mutually defensive pacts." But it was Professor Johan Galtung, a Norwegian academic (and pacifist -- who served time in prison rather than doing military service) who advanced a theory I think proved more accurate.

Galtung felt that the NATO and WARSAW pacts were never intended to protect from outside forces (ie., the West realized Moscow was in no position to send forces into Western Europe, while the NATO forces knew that massive public opposition would make it untenable to invade the Warsaw Bloc). Rather, Prof. Galtung suggested, the two pacts were designed for "vertical control."

If one goes back to that period there is a great deal of evidence of plans by the U.S., and by the military and police forces in France and Italy, to prevent even a free election of the Communist Parties in those countries, and to use NATO forces to achieve this -- ie., a "vertical control"

Looking to the East the examples abound. On June 17, 1953, there was a major workers' uprising in East Germany, put down with Soviet military forces, with at least 125 killed. In Poznan, Poland, in 1956 there were substantial working class riots, put down with Soviet forces, with something close to 200 people killed. Finally, and most dramatically, in Hungary, in October of 1956, there was a revolution which overthrew the government.

The Soviets at first agreed to withdraw and permit the formation of a new government, but then sent in troops. It is estimated that at least 700 Soviet troops and 2500 Hungarian were killed. (Matters were not helped by the fact that in October, 1956, when the world should have been focused on Hungary, Britian, France, and Israel invaded Egypt to seize control of the Suez Canal -- a lesson reminding us that workers should never look to imperial powers for help at a time of need!).

It was at this moment when, if more rational minds were in control in the West, the leaders of NATO would have put through a call to Moscow saying "Look, it is obvious that the Warsaw Pact cannot possibly attack us -- you can't even control the countries in your own bloc. So we are now, unilaterally, dissolving NATO and we urge you to join us, and together see if we can work out some plans for genuine demilitarization of Europe."

But rational minds were not in control. Even when the Soviet Union itself collapsed in a remarkable series on nonviolent revolutions, the West did not say, "Hey, we don't need NATO anymore -- the Warsaw Pact has dissolved, and our only excuse for existing dissolved with it."

No, the "realistic" political minds in Washington, Paris, London, and Bonn began to talk of ways of finding new functions for NATO, admitting the nations that had been under Soviet control, and pushing the Western military machine closer to Russia's borders. Part of this is the fulfillment of the sociological law that no organization goes quietly into the night.

When the March of Dimes realized it had won the fight against polio, it didn't dissolve -- why dissolve when so many people had jobs? They just found a new disease. NATO provides all kind of jobs for Generals and for ordinary bureaucrats in Brussels. To dissolve NATO might threaten the survival of Brussels itself.

And so NATO found new purposes. It deployed military forces to Afghanistan! A most remarkable deployment, since not one of the countries in NATO (with the exception of the earlier ill-fated British Mission) had ever even been to Afghanistan. A new war! A new purpose! No need for generals to find honest work! The bureaucrats at Brussels were safe!

So in this sense it is not surprising that NATO, finding itself firmly locked out of events in North Africa, not invited to play a key role in Tunisia or Egypt or Bahrain, decided it could play a role in Libya, and at least Libya had oil!

My first point has been that NATO -- an organization which probably should never have been formed, and which in any case was formed entirely in relation to tensions in the middle of the 20th century -- should be dissolved now. It should have been dissolved long ago. "Out of NATO" should be the slogan of every socialist and peace group in the NATO bloc.

The second point is international law, which has surfaced since the European courts issued a writ for the arrest of Gadaffi. I do not know if Gaddafi qualifies for the writ -- there is much that I don't know. But I do know that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair qualifies for such a writ, as does the former President of the United States, George Bush. I write this not because I have a special dislike for Blair or Bush, but because the force of law must carry with it some element of logic.

I am very glad that some of the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge are being brought to trial. But even in that case I am worried over the process by which the international courts selected who should be prosecuted. All scholars who have followed the deep tragedy of Cambodia know that both China and the United States maintained support for the Khmer Rouge long after the Vietnamese Army had driven it from the cities. Scholars of events in Indochina know that it was the CIA action in installing Lon Nol in Cambodia, which in the process, drove the King from his throne, and opened the door to the Khmer Rouge. Again, scholars know the the heavy air attacks on Cambodia, ordered by Kissinger and Nixon, gave the Khmer Rouge a legitimacy. Nixon, of course, is gone, But Henry Kissinger still makes guest appearances on TV shows. He is still a paid consultant for at least one network.

In no way am I trying to excuse the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge from their day in court -- Cambodia deserves no less. I have been to Cambodia. I have seen the death pits, the skulls with the bullet holes. I want justice.

But the "trick" of international law is that if it is too obviously selective -- in the case of Cambodia we have only four Cambodians on trial -- we are surely mocking the dead, and in the process, using that trial to mock the law itself.

And if -- with the memory of Iraq on our minds, and knowing all that we know about it, knowing all the civilians in Iraq who were killed, all our own men and women who were killed, or who bear injuries that will twist their minds to the final days -- if, given those realties, we bring in a writ only against Gadaffi, does this not turn international law on its head?


Turning to Libya. To admit I do not know enough about Libya, is not to say I know nothing about it. Sheila Cooper, a friend of mine and a woman who liked secretarial work, had been secretary to Peggy Duff, also a good friend, and a leader in the British (and international) peace movement. Of Peggy, Noam Chomsky said she was "one of those heroes who is completely unknown, because she did too much... she should have won the Nobel Peace Prize about 20 times."

When Peggy died in 1981, Sheila took a secretarial job in Libya. The pay was good and she hoped to make enough to retire. I was in touch with Sheila about Libya, she never conveyed a sense of living in a dictatorship, she chatted about the differences among the Libyans depending on what part of Libya they were from. Sheila, sadly, died of cancer before her retirement, but on the one occasion when I visited her in London, while she was on leave, she did not express any sense of horror or dismay about Libya.

Most of us who are old enough to remember World War II know of Libya from the surge of Allied or Nazi tank battles across the desert, or from an old Humphrey Bogart film set in Libya. What we don't know is that the Nazis, Italians, British, and American armies left vast numbers of land mines behind, but never gave the Libyans the maps which could make possible finding the mines. As a result, even when I visited Libya in 1989 there were still farmers being blown up somewhere in Libya almost every week.

Nor do most of us have any idea of the patriotic struggle of the Libyans against Italy. We may be aware that the name of Libya's leader, Gaddafi, is spelled several different ways. The Libya we know today came into being in 1969, when Muammar Gaddafi took power in a coup, overthrowing the monarchy. But already oil had been discovered and Libya, which had not held much interest to other countries (the exception would be the U.S., which had a major air force base at Wheelus, Libya), was suddenly very much "on the map of world politics."

(This was not the first contact the U.S. had with Libya -- in fact, the first U.S. foreign military action was in 1805 in Tripoli against the "Barbary Pirates.")

One of the first things Gaddafi did was to expel the U.S. from Wheelus -- something for which I don't think the U.S. has ever forgiven him. Libya, under Gaddafi, entered world politics in ways that are confusing. I have a good friend who thinks he is insane. Certainly, with his strange ways of dressing, it is obvious he is not your ordinary political leader. He holds no title, and while he is considered a dictator by his opponents, I think our problem is trying to find some way to think about Libya and Gaddafi -- and it is hard.

Shortly after taking power he changed the name of Libya to "Jamahiriya," an Arabic term generally translated as "state of the masses." Gaddafi did not line up, politically, with either the Soviet Union or the Peoples Republic of China. Instead, he wrote the Green Book, of which I had a copy at one time but found close to incomprehensible and have (I think) lost it.

Remember, he was only 26 when he took power, he found himself in charge of a country which had, almost overnight, moved from being one of the poorest to being one of the most wealthy. He used that wealth to build universities, housing, medical centers. The form of government was -- in theory -- to be based on "direct democracy" without any political parties, governed through local popular councils named "Basic People's Congresses."

Clearly he had to have had considerable charisma to hold things together, and he seems to have hoped that his views, as set forth in his Green Book, would be a guide for the Third World. The best we can do in trying to translate "Jamahiriya" into English is to say it can be rendered as "Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahirya." And that really leaves us more confused than before!

Gaddafi's foreign policy has been, at best, erratic. He has extended financial aid to a wide range of groups, acted as a friend to people such as Idi Amin, given aid to the Irish Republican Army, supported armed Islamic rebels in the Philippines, etc.

At some point in the early 1980's (I don't have exact notes) I got an invitation to a conference on Peace and Liberation to be held at Malta. I checked with my friend Sheila Cooper, and she said the Libyans had asked her for any names that she could think of -- and she had sort of turned over her address book. In addition to me and Daniel Ellsberg, there was an old friend from the independent left movement in Japan, a woman from Yugoslavia, two people from the Fellowship of Reconciliation in the U.S. -- perhaps two dozen in all.

My guess that Libyan money was behind it was true enough -- we had to raise the air fare to get to Rome, but from there we had tickets to Malta, and our costs in Malta were covered. The one real give-away was the huge table with Gaddafi's Green Book.

There were only about four Libyans present for the conference, they did not "guide us" to any conclusions. I was interested that there were no representatives from the World Peace Council -- the Soviet Union's front group. It was clear that this was an experiment in trying to reach out beyond the usual group. My own feeling was that the money spent on us was at least not spent on Irish terrorists.

In 1989 the Fellowship of Reconciliation sent a team, including myself, Virginia Baron, an academic -- Dirk Vandewalle -- and a half dozen others for a week to take a look at Libya. Having Prof. Vandewalle with us was very helpful, as he could give us what clearly Obama needs and doesn't have -- a short course in the history of Libya.

We did not meet Gaddafi, but we met with pretty much all the key people in government. But even to say that is tricky. I realize much has changed since 1989, but there were no civil associations as we would know them, no trade unions, no lawyers associations, no political parties. The question of "how" decisions were made was not clear.

None of us found the political climate oppressive. Our hosts were frank and easy in their talks with us, we visited Tripoli without any "minders," and had a chance to see some of the real wonders of the ancient history of Tripoli. And of course we saw the home of Gaddafi, which was hit, on orders from Reagan, in revenge for Libya's alleged involvement in a bombing in Berlin.

Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah, March 20, 2011 Photo by Goran Tomasevic / Reuters.

(Proof of that involvement is sketchy -- but the impact of the U.S. bombing was very clear. Not only had one of his daughters been killed, but we saw a part of the French Embassy which had been hit, and an apartment building in a clearly residential neighborhood which had been totally destroyed, along with everyone in it.)

The only contact I had had since was indirect. Someone I've been in email contact with, an American, had gone to Libya recently for a job, and then when the "troubles" began early this year, she had to leave, but in her notes to me after she left she expressed no sense of horror at Gaddafi -- nor any great love for the man. She said that he probably had a fair amount of popular support, wryly noting that even Nixon won two free elections.

The most painful link to Libya was the Lockerbie bombing, since two good friends of mine lost their daughter -- their only child -- who was on the plane when it was destroyed. There are arguments about whether the Lockerbie bombing was actually the responsibility of Libya but the fact is that Libya had been the source of funds for terrorism (or, if you look at it from the Libyan standpoint, the source of funds for various struggles for national liberation). There is also no question that Libya had, on at least one occasion, sent out hit squads to silence Libyans who had left Libya but remained openly critical of Gaddafi

One does need to remember that the late Soviet Union did the same thing, Israel has done this, and I'm afraid the U.S. has also had a hand in this miserable game.

What is interesting is that in recent years Libya seemed to have made a major change in policy, settling British claims over the Lockerebie bombing, agreeing to end any further research into nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction. It is this most recent period that I know so little about -- but how strange that Gaddafi and Libya would now have moved to the top of a hit list.

Two things are clear. This is not a revolution but a Civil War. I don't know what forces are involved among the "rebels" but how little real support they have is provided by the fact that months after the French, British, and Americans have destroyed any Libyan air force, and after the murder of one of Gaddafi sons, and repeated attacks on his various compounds, Gaddafi is still there, he has been seen in public, he has received foreign guests, and Tripoli remains in his hands.

It is not surprising that various officials have "defected" since I think any of us might consider defecting as we realized guided missiles are being sent to track down key officials. This is less an appeal to a moral reason to leave the government, than an urgent sense of survival.

The other thing which is clear is that the rebels have also killed people. In one case (documented from press reports) the rebels admitted to having killed a number of prisoners of war they had captured "because they were black and we assumed they were hired killers."

Civil wars are very nasty things. We lost more men in our Civil War than were killed in almost all our wars combined -- WW I, WW II, and the Korean War -- until late in the Vietnam War the total military dead was greater. We lost those men from a much smaller population. Civil wars are not civil. This one is tragic and we should be urging the European forces to rush to the negotiating table.

Certainly the Libyan adventure is one very good reason not to leave NATO in existence -- it is a weapon that has already killed many in Afghanistan and may yet kill many more in Libya.

[David McReynolds is a former chair of War Resisters International, and was the Socialist Party candidate for President in 1980 and 2000. He was recently the subject, along with Barbara Deming, of a dual biography by Martin Duberman titled A Saving Remnant. He is retired and lives with two cats on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He posts at Edge Left and can be reached at dmcreynolds@nyc.rr.com. Read more articles by David McReynolds on The Rag Blog.]

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21 December 2010

Ted McLaughlin : Republicans Play Political Football With START Treaty

Political cartoon by Matson / Roll Call.
UPDATE: December 22, 2010 -- The New START arms control treaty with Russia was ratified by the Senate today by a 71-26 vote, with 13 Republicans crossing the aisle to support it. But they did so in defiance of the Republican leadership which opposed the treaty to the end -- after making unsuccessful attempts to sabotage it with amendments that would have made the treaty unacceptable to the Russians.
The Republicans, the START Treaty,
and the "No" game
Congressional Republicans are treating the issue like another political football.
By Ted McLaughlin / The Rag Blog / December 21, 2010

It looks like the Republicans are still playing the "No" game, where they try to delay or stop anything President Obama tries to accomplish. The difference this time is that their obstructionism will make life more dangerous -- both for Americans and for those living in other countries. That's because this time their little game may determine whether the number of nuclear weapons in the world is reduced or increased.

Last April the United States and Russia agreed, after serious negotiations, on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The new treaty, signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev, would reduce the strategic nuclear weapons of both countries by an additional 30%. There is little doubt that the Russians will confirm the treaty, since Putin gets whatever he wants from the Russian Duma (legislature). The only doubt is whether the U.S. Senate will ratify the treaty.

It takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate to ratify a treaty with another country, and although a clear majority of the Senate is in favor of ratification, it remains to be seen whether the magic number of 67 can be reached. That's because many Republicans, including the party leadership in the Senate, have come out against approving the treaty. One senator even had the temerity to suggest there is no reason to rush into approving the treaty -- although voting on the treaty eight MONTHS after both presidents signed it can hardly be called a rush to judgment.

The Republicans have tried to give the impression over and over again that the treaty was unverifiable and would put the United States at a disadvantage somehow. Both of those charges are ridiculous. The fact is that all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Military are enthusiastically in favor of the START treaty. I can't believe they would be in favor of any treaty that disadvantaged the United States or weakened our defenses.

In addition, all of the former (and the current) Secretary of States (including the ones who served in Republican administrations) have come out in favor of the treaty. And all of our NATO allies (who are probably in more danger from Russian weapons than we are) are in favor of the treaty. In fact, it seems that the only opponents of the START treaty are some Congressional Republicans, and they're treating the issue like another political football. They just don't want to let President Obama have any kind of accomplishment -- even one that makes the world a little safer place.

The Republicans seem to think they can kill the treaty (showing their fringe right-wing base how anti-Obama they are) and nothing will really change with the world balance of power. Unfortunately, that's just not true. The Republicans have tried to amend the treaty, but that is just an effort to kill it. Any amendment would mean the two countries would have to go back and negotiate all over again, and the Russians are in no mood to do that.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "The START agreement, which was drafted on the basis of strict parity, completely meets the national interests of both Russia and the United States. It cannot be reopened, becoming the subject of new negotiations." Putin, the real power in Russia, went even further. He said the failure to ratify the treaty would be "dumb," and would most likely be the start of a new arms race -- he said Russia would have to take some kind of action in response.

So things are not going to stay the same no matter what the Senate does. If they ratify the treaty, nuclear arms will be reduced by a significant 30%. If they don't, the Russians are likely to increase their nuclear weapons total (and we would probably do the same) -- putting the Doomsday clock a few minutes closer to midnight. And I couldn't really blame the Russians if they reacted in that way.

Why should they trust us if we refuse to ratify a reduction in nuclear weapons? Remember, we are the only nation on Earth that has ever used nuclear weapons. We are also the only nation that has refused to guarantee that we won't launch a first strike of nuclear weapons. Those two facts together make us look like a very dangerous foe -- a foe that may not be trustworthy.

It is extremely important that the United States ratify this treaty, especially after all the international relations that were seriously damaged by the Bush administration. It is critical that President Obama be viewed by the world as restoring the United States as a trustworthy partner in establishing world peace (and that he be viewed as having the internal power to do that). If the Republicans are able to kill the treaty it will damage our relations abroad -- among our friends and our enemies.

It looks like the vote will be close [though things are looking better as of this writing]. All of the Republican's "poison pill" amendments have been easily defeated, but not by two-thirds votes (like the treaty would need for ratification). The Democrats say they have 57 votes from their own caucus (55 Democrats and both independents -- Sanders and Lieberman). Wyden (Oregon) is absent because he just had cancer surgery. That means 10 Republican votes will be necessary for ratification.

According to Sen. Schumer (New York), there are currently five Republicans who say they will vote for the START treaty -- Cochran (Mississippi), Collins (Maine), Snowe (Maine), Voinovich (Ohio), and Lugar (Indiana). That means five more Republican votes will be needed, and it's anyone's guess as to who they will be or whether it's even possible.

Even though I think it's bad politics, I can sort of understand the Republican desire to obstruct President Obama from accomplishing anything. But this time they've stepped over the line. This time they're playing a dangerous game of international political chicken. I wonder if they know that -- or even care.

[Rag Blog contributor Ted McLaughlin also posts at jobsanger.]

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03 January 2010

Tom Hayden : Afghanistan and a Reluctant NATO

Cartoon from Florida Times-Union / Netizen News Brief.

The Peace Exchange:
NATO and the Afghan War


By Tom Hayden / The Rag Blog / January 3, 2010

The White House and Pentagon are lobbying hard for an increased NATO troop commitment for the Afghanistan escalation, as public opinion in America, Canada and Europe -- and Afghanistan -- is increasingly skeptical.

Placing pressure on the U.S. and NATO governments from the bottom up, country by country, will be necessary to reverse the unsustainable dynamic towards militarism and empire.
  • In Afghanistan itself, "nearly everyone agrees that the Afghan government must negotiate with the insurgents," according to the New York Times [11/6/09]. Even the discredited Afghan president Hamid Karzhai complains that the U.S. is blocking his efforts to talk with the Taliban [see my earlier post in the LA Times], and continues to condemn U.S.-inflicted civilian casualties. In Pakistan, a powerful 64 percent regards the U.S. as their enemy and 72 percent want the American forces out of Afghanistan (here).

    In the United States, President Obama is competing with his critics to win back his Democratic base. So far he has succeeded in winning back about 10 percent, but still depends on Republicans to support his escalation. An AP Dec. 10-14 poll showed 57 percent of Americans opposed overall, while an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll also in mid-December (11-14) found 41 percent against the current Afghanistan approach, and with 44 percent in favor.

  • In Europe and Canada, opposition to the escalation runs highest, with 69 percent of Germans opposed, 66 percent of Canadians, 58 percent of Italians, and 56 percent in the United Kingdom.

  • Troop withdrawals currently are scheduled for Canada [2,800 troops by 2011], the Netherlands [1,770 troops by 2010], while Switzerland has already pulled their 31 troops.
In summary, there are three political battlegrounds of public opinion in addition to the secretive military ones being invaded by foreign troops, Special Ops and drones. The fight against the war is also a fight for democracy and majority rule against the elite global planning for a Long War. [See Hayden on Kilcullen in The Nation.]

The Obama administration's diplomatic offensive to cement greater NATO support is being under-reported. The British and German governments are planning a late January European conference to "set a timetable for transferring security responsibilities to Afghan forces" at a date uncertain. [Reuters, Nov. 16, 2009]

Like Obama's two-pronged approach to escalation/de-escalation, the British-German formula is likely to result in short-term escalation of at least 7,000 troops combined with an ambiguous timetable for departure, enough to placate restive public opinion.

In response, the UK's Stop the War Coalition is sponsoring an anti-war demonstration in London on January 28.

Already the Obama lobbying effort is being hampered by the pressure of public opinion. The U.S. is seeking a commitment of 7,000 new troops from the Europeans, but it appears that 1,500 are those sent to Afghanistan to guard the presidential election this year, and who will not be withdrawn. The 5,000 scheduled by Canada and the Netherlands for withdrawal in the next two years may leave the net numbers approximately the same, but barely increased. The likely increases are from Britain [500], Poland [1000], Italy [600], Spain [400], and smaller nations. Pressure is being applied to Germany and France for another 3,500 [NYT, Dec. 17, 2009]

The logic behind British support for Afghan escalation was expressed recently by the British defense minister, Robert Ainsworth, who offered a domino theory, as follows: "If Afghanistan is not secure, then Pakistan is not secure, and if Pakistan is not secure, Britain is not secure." [NYT, Nov. 5, 2009] Many European security experts, like Peter Neumann of the Center for Defense Studies at King's College, claim a "broad agreement" that Europe is a "nerve center for the global jihad." [Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla, p. 247] Europe and Canada's human rights laws, they say, create "legislative safe havens" for terrorists to plot and strike.

This argument may gain currency with the recent anxiety over the successful penetration of Western defenses by a 23-year old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up an airliner flying through Amsterdam to Detroit.

But instead of arguing that bombing Afghanistan and Pakistan, and restricting human rights laws, will make Westerners safe, homeland security officials need to examine once again the institutional incompetence that in this case permitted travel by someone whose own father, a top Nigerian banker, warned American officials that his son had taken a violent and dangerous turn.

After Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano claimed that "the system worked" in the airline bombing attempt, saying the passengers had played an "important" and "appropriate" role, she could have been forced to resign. Napolitano, a captive of her bureaucracy, was repeating the infamous role of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice who denied the relevance of a CIA memo warning of al Qaeda attacks shortly before September 11, 2001. As a result, the Obama White House was put on the defensive by the Republican hawks responsible for loopholes in airline security made possible by either incompetence or an ideological commitment to air travel.

There is another explanation for the zealous American lobbying to keep NATO in Afghanistan which is never mentioned. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the glue that holds NATO and the "Western alliance" together and that create incentives for increased militarization in countries like Canada, Germany, and even non-NATO nations like Sweden and Japan. Why, after all, is an armed entity called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invading and occupying South Asia? The reason was given by Obama's national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, in 2007, when he previously commanded NATO forces:
In committing the alliance to sustained ground combat operations in Afghanistan...NATO has bet its future. If NATO were to fail, alliance cohesion would be at grave risk. A moribund or unraveled NATO would have a profoundly negative geostrategic impact." [in Ahmed Rashid, Descent into Chaos, p. 373]
Approvingly, the influential Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, writes that in Afghanistan NATO "would find meaning for its continued existence and recreate the unity that Western Europe showed during the Cold War." [Rashid, ibid., 372]

This same alarm is voiced by Zbigniew Brzezinski in the current [Jan.-Feb. 2010] issue of Foreign Affairs:
Nothing would be worse for NATO if one part of the alliance [Western Europe] left the other part [the United States] alone in Afghanistan. Such a fissure over NATO's first campaign initially based on Article 5, the collective defense provision, would probably spell the end of the alliance.
Democracy and domestic priorities will be the casualties in the United States, Canada and Europe if the US-NATO military expansion holds sway.

[A political activist for more than four decades, Tom Hayden is director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center . A founder of SDS and a former California State Senator, Hayden is the author of The Long Sixties (Paradigm, 2009).]

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03 April 2009

Blowing It in Afghanistan, Just the Same As in Iraq


Top Ten Ways the US is Turning Afghanistan into Iraq
By Juan Cole / April 3, 2009

1. Exaggerating the threat. An Afghan army foot patrol was attacked by guerrillas in Helmand Province on Wednesday, according to AP. US and Afghan soldiers responded, engaging in a firefight. Then the US military called in an air strike on the Taliban, killing 20 of them. On Tuesday, a similar airstrike had taken out 30 guerrillas.

It is this sort of thing that makes me wonder why the Taliban (or whoever these guys in Helmand were) are considered such a big threat that the full might of NATO is needed to deal with them. They have no air force, no artillery, no tanks. They are just small bands, apparently operating in platoons, who, whenever they mass in large enough numbers to stand and fight, can just be turned into red mist from the air.

2. The US has actually only managed to install a fundamentalist government in Afghanistan, which is rolling back rights of women and prosecuting blasphemy cases. In a play for the Shiite vote (22% or so of the population), President Hamid Karzai put through civilly legislated Shiite personal status law, which affects Shiite women in that country. The wife will need the husband's permission to go out of the house, and can't refuse a demand for sex. (Since the 1990s there has been a movement in 50 or more countries to abandon the idea that spouses cannot rape one another, though admittedly this idea is new and was rejected in US law until recently).

No one seems to have noted that the Shiite regime in Baghdad is more or less doing the same thing. In Iraq, the US switched out the secular Baath Party for Shiite fundamentalist parties. Everyone keeps saying the US improved the status of women in both countries. Actually, in Iraq the US invasion set women back about 30 years. In Afghanistan, the socialist government of the 1980s, for all its brutality in other spheres, did implement policies substantially improving women's rights, including aiming at universal education, making a place for them in the professions, and so forth. There were socialist Afghan women soldiers fighting the Muslim fundamentalist guerrillas that Reagan called "freedom fighters" and to whom he gave billions to turn the country into a conservative theocracy. I can never get American audiences to concede that Afghan women had it way better in the 1980s, and that it has been downhill ever since, mainly because of US favoritism toward patriarchal and anti-progressive forces.

3. The US is building a mass of hardened bases costing over $1 bn. in Afghanistan. That's about the annual budget of the Afghanistan government.

4. It begins. The US is creating local militias in Wardak called the Afghan Public Protection Force. You wonder how long it will be before the Karzai government is engaged in firefights with them (cf. Fadl in Baghdad earlier this week).

5. Now thousands of private security contractors (i.e. mercenaries) will be hired in Afghanistan. But they won't be Americans for the most part. Children, can you say "Hessians"?

I don't understand the concept of paying someone $200,000 a year to guard armed GIs being paid a fraction of that. Wouldn't it be better to expand the size of the army if you need more troops? Wouldn't it be more efficient to have one line of command? Aren't these essentially high-priced MPs?

6. The secretary of defense is predicting that the US military will be in Afghanistan indefinitely and will only achieve limited goals there. (!)

I ask myself, "why?"

7. An attempt by officials in the Obama administration to replace Guantanamo with Bagram in Afghanistan has been shot down by a Federal judge. The government actually argued that the three men (2 Yemenis and a Tunisian) did not have habaeus corpus rights because they are in a war zone.

Why are they in a war zone? Because the US government transported them there!

8. The president is corralling a coalition of the reluctant for troop contributions in Afghanistan.

9. While militaries spend tens of billions on fighting disgruntled Pashtun tribesmen, a fifth of pregnant women or women with newborns are malnourished in Afghanistan. In Iraq, as well, public health crises took a back seat while hundreds of billions were spent on weapons and warfare.

10. A new Friedman unit. It was always the "next six months" that would be "crucial" for Iraq. It is now "this year" that is crucial for Afghanistan. By the math of Friedman units, does this mean the Afghanistan occupation will last twice as long as the Iraq one?

Source / Informed Comment

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28 February 2009

NATO Has Developed a Strict Scenario to Convey Its Positive Message

A US soldier poses with a dead Afghani man in the hills of Afghanistan.

Truth in Reporting: Meaningless to NATO in Afghanistan
By Richard Jehn / The Rag Blog / February 28, 2009

Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know with certainty that the truth about what's happening militarily in Afghanistan does not matter to NATO and the US military. What matters is that we understand what they believe they are trying to do there. Also important is that we recognize that everything they are trying to do there is honourable.

I still recall as a child the derision with which we viewed the Soviet Union, Pravda, and everything else communist. It is astounding to see, in retrospect, that the US has been nearly as controlling of its media as the Soviets ever were, particularly in the past 40 years or so.

Here is what Wikileaks has to say about the documents they discovered:

Wikileaks cracks NATO's Master Narrative for Afghanistan
February 27, 2009

Wikileaks has cracked the encryption to a key document relating to the war in Afghanistan. The document, titled "NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative", details the "story" NATO representatives are to give to, and to avoid giving to, journalists.

The encrypted document, which is dated October 6, and believed to be current, can be found on the Pentagon Central Command (CENTCOM) website oneteam.centcom.mil. [UPDATE: Fri Feb 27 15:18:38 GMT 2009, the entire Pentagon site is now down--probably in response to this editorial.]

The encryption password is progress, which perhaps reflects the Pentagon's desire to stay on-message, even to itself.

Among the revelations, which we encourage the press to review in detail, is Jordan's presense as secret member of the US lead occupation force, the ISAF.

Jordan is a middle eastern monarchy, backed by the US, and historically the CIA's closest partner in its extraordinary rendition program. "the practice of torture is routine" in the country, according to a January 2007 report by UN special investigator for torture, Manfred Nowak.1

The document states NATO spokespersons are to keep Jordan's involvement secret. Publicly, Jordan withdrew in 2001 and the country does not appear on this month's public list of ISAF member states.2

Some other notes on matters to treat delicately are:

* Any decision on the end date/end state will be taken by the respective national and/or Alliance political committee. Under no circumstances should the mission end-date be a topic for speculation in public by any NATO/ISAF spokespeople.
* The term "compensation" is inappropriate and should not be used because it brings with it legal implications that do not apply.
* Any talk of stationing or deploying Russian military assets in Afghanistan is out of the question and has never been the subject of any considerations.
* Only if pressed: ISAF forces are frequently fired at from inside Pakistan, very close to the border. In some cases defensive fire is required, against specific threats. Wherever possible, such fire is pre-coordinated with the Pakistani military.


Altogether four classified or restricted NATO documents on the Pentagon Central Command (CENTCOM) site were discovered to share the 'progress' password. Wikileaks has decrypted the documents and released them in full:

* NATO Media Operations Centre: NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative, 6 Oct 2008
* ISAF Afghanistan Theatre Strategic Communications Strategy, 25 Oct 2008
* NATO-ISAF Afghanistan Strategic Communications External Linkages, 20 Oct 2008
* NATO-ISAF Strategic Communications Ends, Ways and Means, slide, 20 Oct 2008

Now that's progress.

Notes

1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/30/AR2007113002484_pf.html
2. http://www.nato.int/isaf/docu/epub/pdf/isaf_placemat.pdf

H/t Juan Cole / The Rag Blog

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09 December 2008

Winning the War on Terror: Not in Afghanistan

An Afghan policeman destroys poppies in March. ICOS proposes using the poppies for medicine.

Report: Taliban 'noose' around Kabul
December 9, 2008

LONDON, England -- The Taliban insurgency is widening its presence in Afghanistan and "closing a noose around Kabul," an international think tank report says.

The report (PDF) -- issued Monday by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) -- said the Taliban movement "now holds a permanent presence in 72 percent of Afghanistan, up from 54 percent a year ago."

NATO, which commands about 50,000 troops in the country, disputes the figures.

Titled "Struggle for Kabul: The Taliban Advance," the report said the international community must ramp up grass-roots economic and humanitarian relief to stop the Taliban, the group that once ruled Afghanistan and harbored the al Qaeda terror network when it attacked the United States in 2001.

"It's a very scary situation," said Gabrielle Archer, ICOS manager of development policy. "There's been a dramatic increase in just one year."

The report said the Taliban have expanded from the country's southern region to the western and northwestern provinces and near Kabul, "where three out of the four main highways into Kabul are now compromised by Taliban activity."



Legend:


Dark Pink: Permanent Taliban Presence (72% in 2008) = Average of one or more insurgent attacks per week, according to public record of attacks. It is highly likely that many attacks are not publicly known.

Light Pink: Substantial Taliban Presence (21% in 2008) = Based on number of attacks and local perceptions (Frequency of Taliban sightings)

Grey Areas: Light Taliban Presence (7% in 2008) = Based on number of attacks and local perceptions (Frequency of Taliban sightings)

The colour coded dots on the map represent civilian, military or insurgent fatalities since January 2008

Red = civilian fatalities

Green = military fatalities

Yellow = insurgent fatalities


"Confident in their expansion beyond the rural south, the Taliban are at the gates of the capital and infiltrating the city at will," according to the ICOS report.

Archer explained the report's methodology, saying that "permanent presence" is established when there has been one more or insurgent attacks per week in a province.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai, speaking Monday in a BBC radio interview, argued the methodology was faulty. He also said that while the state of affairs "is not exactly at a tipping point of success," it's not as bad as the report suggests.

But ICOS' Archer says the evidence shows that the "Taliban are calling the shots, politically and militarily."

The report says there has been "talk of reconciliation and power sharing" between moderate Taliban and elected officials nationally. It says the Taliban have filled a governance void locally.

ICOS says military "intervention and intelligence" should continue to be supported, and it wants the number of troops under NATO command increased to 80,000. But military action alone isn't the answer, it said.

The report urges "closer collaboration between military and development efforts" and says job creation, health care, shelter, effective counter-narcotics policies, literacy, the rule of law, and a free media should also be viewed as "key security instruments."

Archer also echoed the report's assertion that even after seven years in the country, the international community hasn't been able to make sure that every Afghan citizen has access to food and water and that there has been a "lack of effective aid and development" in the country.

ICOS said the Taliban use strong recruitment and propaganda efforts to make inroads among local Afghans -- many of whom are disappointed by the failure of the West to eliminate grinding poverty and angered by civilian casualties caused by Western airstrikes targeting insurgents.

"They can move at will and blend into the country at will," Archer said, emphasizing that the many young, impoverished and jobless Afghans who are listening to the Taliban "are getting angrier and angrier and angrier."

The report calls for alternatives to fighting the Afghan drug trade, which helps fund Islamic militants and has a long reach into Western cities.

It said that "forced poppy eradication and chemical spraying" to combat the production has served to aggravate "the security situation in Afghanistan, precluding the very reconstruction and development necessary to remove Afghan farmers' need to cultivate poppy."

It says the poppy crop should be used for medical purposes in an effort to bring "illegal poppy cultivation under control" and to address the lack of alternatives communities have to the income provided by opium farming.

"In this process, all economic profits from medicine sales remain in the rural community, allowing for economic diversification. The 'fair trade' brand of Afghan morphine generated by the scheme would also provide emerging and transitional economies with access to affordable essential painkilling medicines," the report said.

President-elect Barack Obama has said Afghanistan is the central front in the war on terror and wants to deploy more troops to the country.

Archer said the report notes that the international community can't just wait for Obama to come up with a plan to deal with problems there; it must act now.

"The longevity of a plan for Afghanistan should not be contingent upon the U.S. electoral cycle and it is wrong for any actor to simply wait for President-elect Obama's Afghan plan," ICOS said.

NATO's Appathurai said the Taliban insurgency has been intensifying its activities in areas where it already has been based -- the south and the east, but it doesn't hold territory in any areas where the Afghan and international forces can go.

He also said one of the problems with the report is that it conflates Taliban activity with criminal activity. He said the problems near the capital will be addressed by 3,000 or so U.S. troops to be arriving there soon.

Source / CNN/Asia

Thanks to Axis of Logic and Les Blough for the map and legend / The Rag Blog

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17 November 2008

Afghanistan: Breaking from BushCo Policy and Catastrophe to a Viable Future

The Afghan government says that at least 70 people including women and children were killed in the 'careless' attack by US forces on Azizabad village in northwest Afghanistan. Photo: AP.

Operation Enduring Disaster: Breaking with Afghan Policy
By Tariq Ali / November 16, 2008

Afghanistan has been almost continuously at war for 30 years, longer than both World Wars and the American war in Vietnam combined. Each occupation of the country has mimicked its predecessor. A tiny interval between wars saw the imposition of a malignant social order, the Taliban, with the help of the Pakistani military and the late Benazir Bhutto, the prime minister who approved the Taliban takeover in Kabul.

Over the last two years, the U.S./NATO occupation of that country has run into serious military problems. Given a severe global economic crisis and the election of a new American president -- a man separated in style, intellect, and temperament from his predecessor -- the possibility of a serious discussion about an exit strategy from the Afghan disaster hovers on the horizon. The predicament the U.S. and its allies find themselves in is not an inescapable one, but a change in policy, if it is to matter, cannot be of the cosmetic variety.

Washington's hawks will argue that, while bad, the military situation is, in fact, still salvageable. This may be technically accurate, but it would require the carpet-bombing of southern Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, the destruction of scores of villages and small towns, the killing of untold numbers of Pashtuns and the dispatch to the region of at least 200,000 more troops with all their attendant equipment, air, and logistical support. The political consequences of such a course are so dire that even Dick Cheney, the closest thing to Dr. Strangelove that Washington has yet produced, has been uncharacteristically cautious when it comes to suggesting a military solution to the conflict.

It has, by now, become obvious to the Pentagon that Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his family cannot deliver what is required and yet it is probably far too late to replace him with UN ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. On his part, fighting for his political (and probably physical) existence, Karzai continues to protect his brother Ahmad Wali Karzai, accused of being involved in the country's staggering drug trade, but has belatedly sacked Hamidullah Qadri, his transport minister, for corruption.

Qadri was taking massive kickbacks from a company flying pilgrims to Mecca. Is nothing sacred?

A Deteriorating Situation

Of course, axing one minister is like whistling in the wind, given the levels of corruption reported in Karzai's government, which, in any case, controls little of the country. The Afghan president parries Washington's thrusts by blaming the U.S. military for killing too many civilians from the air. The bombing of the village of Azizabad in Herat province last August, which led to 91 civilian deaths (of which 60 were children), was only the most extreme of such recent acts. Karzai's men, hurriedly dispatched to distribute sweets and supplies to the survivors, were stoned by angry villagers.

Given the thousands of Afghans killed in recent years, small wonder that support for the neo-Taliban is increasing, even in non-Pashtun areas of the country. Many Afghans hostile to the old Taliban still support the resistance simply to make it clear that they are against the helicopters and missile-armed unmanned aerial drones that destroy homes, and to "Big Daddy" who wipes out villages, and to the flames that devour children.

Last February, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell presented a bleak survey of the situation on the ground to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:
"Afghan leaders must deal with the endemic corruption and pervasive poppy cultivation and drug trafficking. Ultimately, defeating the insurgency will depend heavily on the government's ability to improve security, deliver services, and expand development for economic opportunity.

"Although the international forces and the Afghan National Army continue to score tactical victories over the Taliban, the security situation has deteriorated in some areas in the south and Taliban forces have expanded their operations into previously peaceful areas of the west and around Kabul. The Taliban insurgency has expanded in scope despite operational disruption caused by the ISAF [NATO forces] and Operation Enduring Freedom operations. The death or capture of three top Taliban leaders last year -- their first high level losses -- does not yet appear to have significantly disrupted insurgent operations."

Since then the situation has only deteriorated further, leading to calls for sending in yet more American and NATO troops -- and creating ever deeper divisions inside NATO itself. In recent months, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British Ambassador to Kabul, wrote a French colleague (in a leaked memo) that the war was lost and more troops were not a solution, a view reiterated recently by Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the British Defense Chief, who came out in public against a one-for-one transfer of troops withdrawn from Iraq to Kabul. He put it this way:
"I think we would all take some persuading that there would have to be a much larger British contingent there… So we also have to get ourselves back into balance; it's crucial that we reduce the operational tempo for our armed forces, so it cannot be, even if the situation demanded it, just a one for one transfer from Iraq to Afghanistan, we have to reduce that tempo."

The Spanish government is considering an Afghan withdrawal and there is serious dissent within the German and Norwegian foreign policy elites. The Canadian foreign minister has already announced that his country will not extend its Afghan commitment beyond 2011. And even if the debates in the Pentagon have not been aired in public, it's becoming obvious that, in Washington, too, some see the war as unwinnable.

Enter former Iraq commander General David Petraeus, center stage as the new CentCom commander. Ever since the "success" of "the surge" he oversaw in Iraq (a process designed to create temporary stability in that ravaged land by buying off the opposition and, among other things, the selective use of death squads), Petraeus sounds, and behaves, more and more like Lazarus on returning from the dead -- and before his body could be closely inspected.

The situation in Iraq was so dire that even a modest reduction in casualties was seen as a massive leap forward. With increasing outbreaks of violence in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, however, the talk of success sounds ever hollower. To launch a new "surge" in Afghanistan now by sending more troops there will simply not work, not even as a public relations triumph. Perhaps some of the 100 advisers that General Petraeus has just appointed will point this out to him in forceful terms.

Flight Path to Disaster

Obama would be foolish to imagine that Petraeus can work a miracle cure in Afghanistan. The cancer has spread too far and is affecting U.S. troops as well. If the American media chose to interview active-duty soldiers in Afghanistan (on promise of anonymity), they might get a more accurate picture of what is happening inside the U.S. Army there.

I learned a great deal from Jules, a 20-year old American soldier I met recently in Canada. He became so disenchanted with the war that he decided to go AWOL, proving -- at least to himself -- that the Afghan situation was not an inescapable predicament. Many of his fellow soldiers, he claims, felt similarly, hating a war that dehumanized both them and the Afghans. "We just couldn't bring ourselves to accept that bombing Afghans was no different from bombing the landscape" was the way he summed up the situation.

Morale inside the Army there is low, he told me. The aggression unleashed against Afghan civilians often hides a deep depression. He does not, however, encourage others to follow in his footsteps. As he sees it, each soldier must make that choice for himself, accepting with it the responsibility that going AWOL permanently entails. Jules was convinced, however, that the war could not be won and did not want to see any more of his friends die. That's why he was wearing an "Obama out of Afghanistan" t-shirt.

Before he revealed his identity, I mistook this young soldier -- a Filipino-American born in southern California -- for an Afghan. His features reminded me of the Hazara tribesmen he must have encountered in Kabul. Trained as a mortar gunner and paratrooper from Fort Benning, Georgia, he was later assigned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg. Here is part of the account he offered me:
"I deployed to Southeastern Afghanistan in January 2007. We controlled everything from Jalalabad down to the northernmost areas of Kandahar province in Regional Command East. My unit had the job of pacifying the insurgency in Paktika, Paktia, and Khost provinces -- areas that had received no aid, but had been devastated during the initial invasion. Operation Anaconda [in 2002] was supposed to have wiped out the Taliban. That was the boast of the military leaders, but ridiculed by everyone else with a brain."

He spoke also of how impossible he found it to treat the Afghans as subhumans:
"I swear I could not for a second view these people as anything but human. The best way to fashion a young hard dick like myself -- dick being an acronym for 'dedicated infantry combat killer' -- is simple and the effect of racist indoctrination. Take an empty shell off the streets of L.A. or Brooklyn, or maybe from some Podunk town in Tennessee… and these days America isn't in short supply… I was one of those no-child-left-behind products…

"Anyway, you take this empty vessel and you scare the living shit out of him, break him down to nothing, cultivate a brotherhood and camaraderie with those he suffers with, and fill his head with racist nonsense like all Arabs, Iraqis, Afghans are Hajj. Hajj hates you. Hajj wants to hurt your family. Hajj children are the worst because they beg all the time. Just some of the most hurtful and ridiculous propaganda, but you'd be amazed at how effective it's been in fostering my generation of soldiers."

As this young man spoke to me, I felt he should be testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The effect of the war on those carrying out the orders is leaving scars just as deep as the imprints of previous imperial wars. Change we can believe in must include the end of this, which means, among other things, a withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In my latest book, The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power, I have written of the necessity of involving Afghanistan's neighbors in a political solution that ends the war, preserves the peace, and reconstructs the country. Iran, Russia, India, and China, as well as Pakistan, need to be engaged in the search for a political solution that would sustain a genuine national government for a decade after the withdrawal of the Americans, NATO, and their quisling regime. However, such a solution is not possible within the context of the plans proposed by both present Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and President-elect Barack Obama, which focus on a new surge of American troops in Afghanistan.

The main task at hand should be to create a social infrastructure and thus preserve the peace, something that the West and its horde of attendant non-governmental organizations have failed to do. School buildings constructed, often for outrageous sums, by foreign companies that lack furniture, teachers, and kids are part of the surreal presence of the West, which cannot last.

Whether you are a policymaker in the next administration or an AWOL veteran of the Afghan War in Canada, Operation Enduring Freedom of 2001 has visibly become Operation Enduring Disaster. Less clear is whether an Obama administration can truly break from past policy or will just create a military-plus add-on to it. Only a total break from the catastrophe that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld created in Afghanistan will offer pathways to a viable future.

For this to happen, both external and domestic pressures will probably be needed. China is known to be completely opposed to a NATO presence on, or near, its borders, but while Beijing has proved willing to exert economic pressure to force policy changes in Washington -- as it did when the Bank of China "cut its exposure to agency debt last summer," leaving U.S. Treasury Secretary Paulson with little option but to functionally nationalize the mortgage giants -- it has yet to use its diplomatic muscle in the region.

But don't think that will last forever. Why wait until then? Another external pressure will certainly prove to be the already evident destabilizing effects of the Afghan war on neighboring Pakistan, a country in a precarious economic state, with a military facing growing internal tensions.

Domestic pressure in the U.S. to pull out of Afghanistan remains weak, but could grow rapidly as the extent of the debacle becomes clearer and NATO allies refuse to supply the shock-troops for the future surge.

In the meantime, they're predicting a famine in Afghanistan this winter.

Tariq Ali, writer, journalist, filmmaker, contributes regularly to a range of publications including the Guardian, the Nation, and the London Review of Books. His most recent book, just published, is The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power (Scribner, 2008). In a two-part video, released by TomDispatch.com, he offers critical commentary on Barack Obama's plans for Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as on the tangled U.S.-Pakistani relationship.

Copyright 2008 Tariq Ali

Source / TomDispatch

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