Saturday, August 2, 2008

Afghanistan is Not the "Good War"

Is the war in Afghanistan any more justified than the occupation of Iraq? Not in my opinion. More civilians and soldiers are dying in Afghanistan recently than since the war began. Lately, American politicians are talking of withdrawing troops from Iraq to put them into Afghanistan. This is a bad idea for several reasons, the main one being that force and the use of the military is not the recommended way to fight terrorism. The most recent conclusion on this was reached by a RAND study that found:

"All terrorist groups eventually end. But how do they end? Answers to this question have enormous implications for counterterrorism efforts. The evidence since 1968 indicates that most groups have ended because (1) they joined the political process or (2) local police and intelligence agencies arrested or killed key members. Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory. This has significant implications for dealing with al Qa’ida and suggests fundamentally rethinking post-September 11 U.S. counterterrorism strategy.

So, increasing the amount of soldiers, death and destruction in Afghanistan is exactly the wrong way to fight the terrorism we supposedly are trying to eliminate. Yet the opposite is happening, and both major parties seem to favor this wrong approach. In addition, there has been a barrage of articles lately explaining how increasing the violence in Afghanistan is wrong and might even make things worse, despite the political and media concensus. The following is from one of the most recent articles, from
" . . the Taliban government did not attack the United States. Our old ally, Osama bin Laden, did. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are not the same organization (if one can really call al-Qaeda an "organization"), and no one seems to be listening to the Afghans. We should be.

A recent poll of Afghan sentiment found that, while the majority dislikes the Taliban, 74% want negotiations and 54% would support a coalition government that included the Taliban.

. . . . the Taliban appears to be evolving from a creation of the U.S., Saudi Arabian, and Pakistani intelligence agencies during Afghanistan's war with the Soviet Union, to a polyglot collection of dedicated Islamists to nationalists. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar told the Agence France Presse early this year, "We're fighting to free our country. We are not a threat to the world."

As our air and ground attacks increase, so do civilian deaths. We are not winning "hearts and minds" as this terrible outcome increases.

"As the United States steps up its air war, civilian casualties have climbed steadily over the past two years. Nearly 700 were killed in the first three months of 2008, a major increase over last year. In a recent incident, 47 members of a wedding party were killed in Helmand Province. In a society where clan, tribe, and blood feuds are a part of daily life, that single act sowed a generation of enmity."

It's hard to see any reason to continue this fiasco when things are just going from bad to worse and there is no progress being made. Let's hope our political candidates don't really mean what they are saying on this subject. To increase something disastrous only increases the disaster.

Read more of the article here.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Court overturns BAE-Saudi probe ruling

AFP: Court overturns BAE-Saudi probe ruling

LONDON (AFP) — The Serious Fraud Office won a legal appeal Wednesday against a ruling that it acted unlawfully by stopping a corruption probe into a huge arms deal between Saudi Arabia and BAE Systems.

The House of Lords, the country's highest court, overturned an earlier High Court finding over the investigation into the Al-Yamamah arms deal in 1985, worth 43 billion pounds.

One senior judge, Lord Thomas Bingham, said it was a "courageous decision" to drop the case by the Serious Fraud Office's then director Richard Alderman

"It may indeed be doubted whether a responsible decision-maker could, on the facts before the director, have decided otherwise," he added.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was investigating claims that BAE Systems, one of the world's biggest arms makers, ran a 60-million-pound slush fund for Saudi officials in a bid to attract contracts.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lost Unto This World

This is a video of what is happening to Iraqi girls in the year 2008. More information on these photos can be found on Faces of Grief blog.

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Real News: Is Iraq Ready To Explode?

July 29, 2008 - 3 min 10 sec - Scores killed by blasts in Baghdad and Kirkuk could be a forewarning as rival elites fight for power

Three female suicide bombers and a roadside bomb struck Shiite pilgrims taking part in a massive religious procession in Baghdad on Monday. Police said at least 32 people were killed and 102 wounded. The attacks occurred in quick succession in the early morning in the mainly Shiite Karradah district, as tens of thousands of Shiite worshippers streamed toward the pilgrimage site in Kazimiyah, northern Baghdad. Meanwhile at a Kurdish rally in the northern city of Kirkuk, A bomb blast killed at least 15 people and wounded 170 others. The attack occurred while demonstrators gathered to protest a provincial elections law being debated in Parliament. The law would limit the Kurds ability to control oil-rich Kirkuk which they consider to be part of their historical land. Last week Kurdish parties walked out of the Iraqi parliament in protest over the proposed law. Though the law was passed 127 to 13 it was later vetoed by President Jalal Talibani, who is also a Kurd. Though many reports claim violence in Iraq to be at its lowest point in three years, the political situation is still very volatile.
The Nation article by Robert Dreyfuss referred to in the video is Iraq on the Edge:
While everyone's looking at Iraq's effect on American politics -- and whether or not John McCain and Barack Obama are converging on a policy that combines a flexible timetable with a vague, and long-lasting, residual force -- let's take a look instead at Iraqi politics. The picture isn't pretty.

Despite the Optimism of the Neocons, which has pushed mainstream media coverage to be increasingly flowery about Iraq's political progress, in fact the country is poised to explode. Even before the November election. And for McCain and Obama, the problem is that Iran has many of the cards in its hands. Depending on its choosing, between now and November Iran can help stabilize the war in Iraq -- mostly by urging the Iraqi Shiites to behave themselves -- or it can make things a lot more violent.

There are at least three flashpoints for an explosion, any or all of which could blow up over the next couple of months. (Way to go, Surgin' Generals!) The first is the brewing crisis over Kirkuk, where the pushy Kurds are demanding control and Iraq's Arabs are resisting. The second is in the west, and Anbar, where the US-backed Sons of Iraq sahwa ("Awakening") movement is moving to take power against the Iraqi Islamic Party, a fundamentalist Sunni bloc. And third is the restive Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr, which is chafing at gains made by its Iranian-backed rival, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).
So Iraq is still poised to explode, and Iran may be in control. McCain's solution: provoke a showdown with Iran. Obama's solution: try to make a deal with Iran to stabilize Iraq. I'm not sure either "plan" will work.
So the "solution" favored by both U.S. presidential candidates remains: long term occupation of a country that has been trying for five years to free itself from American "liberation"...

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Monday, July 28, 2008

SBA questions Blackwater contracts

Santa Barbara News-Press

Joseph Neff McClatchy Newspapers

(MCT) RALEIGH, N.C. - A high-stakes dispute that flared Monday between Blackwater and the federal government boils down to a definition: Are the hundreds of Blackwater guards protecting diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan employees or contractors? By labeling them contractors, Blackwater and its affiliates qualified for federal small-business contracts worth nearly $110 million.

Those contracts and others were called into question Monday when the Small Business Administration's inspector general said Blackwater got dozens of the contracts even though the private security company may have exceeded size limits for a small business.

The audit was requested in March by Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Waxman also asked that the Internal Revenue Service investigate Blackwater. If the IRS determines that Blackwater's guards are employees, Blackwater could owe $50 million or more in unpaid Social Security and Medicare taxes, Waxman said.

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Bush approves execution of U.S. Army private

Bush approves execution of U.S. Army private | U.S. | ReutersPvt. Ronald Gray, seen here in 1988, has been on the military's death row for 20 years.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Monday approved the death sentence of an Army private convicted of murder and rape in 1988, becoming the first U.S. president to approve a military execution in 51 years.

Bush signed a request by the military that Ronald Gray be put to death following his court-martial conviction 20 years ago on multiple charges of murder and rape.

"While approving a sentence of death for a member of our armed services is a serious and difficult decision for a commander in chief, the president believes the facts of this case leave no doubt that the sentence is just and warranted," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said a statement.

Unlike the civilian court system, the U.S. military justice system dictates that a member of the armed forces cannot be executed until the president approves the death sentence.

Citing expected legal challenges, Perino declined further comment on what would be the first U.S. military execution since 1961, when a convicted child rapist was hanged after his sentence was approved by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957.

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