Afghanistan; Operation Enduring Freedom Continues

President Barack Obama West Point Speech

During the 2008 Presidential Campaign then-candidate Barack Obama promised the mother a fallen American soldier to not only end the war in Iraq, but the war in Afghanistan as well. I am of the mind that now-president Barack Obama has not forgotten that promise. Many of my fellow Democrats are feeling disenfranchised by the recent official announcement of the decision to increase planned combat-troop levels to 30,000+ in Afghanistan I believe many in the party are taking a dangerously narrow view of militaristic policy.

I’ll simply cut the chase: you break a nation, you bought a nation.

The consequences of immediate withdrawal, in my view, far outweighs the alternative. Should we abandon this nation at this critical stage, after invading and attempting to remove the native opium crops, would be a tragic mistake that would incur even greater wrath upon the U.S. than this “end-game” measure of increased combat-troop involvement. We must not be blinded by political partisanship nor by strong personal feelings against war, that I personally share in this decision to prolong the war. This troop “surge” is accompanied with a clear strategy for withdrawal as well as some long since needed pressure upon the Karzai government in the form of this planned 2011 draw-down / transition of security responsibilities.

President Obama rebuked me in my comparison of Afghanistan and Vietnam. I agree with his statements that it is a “false reading of history,” upon review. But I disagree that what we are fighting in Afghanistan as being “not a popular insurgency.” The radical Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies are indeed a “popular insurgency” in some regions, while not in others. Afghanistan is a highly complex power structure and in every way different from the recent conflict in Iraq or the situation during the Vietnam War, but this is all the more reason to set attainable goals and prepare an exit strategy. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of counter-insurgency fighting endlessly in the Southern Provinces. We must shift to a counter-terrorism methods in Afghanistan and in order to this it is indeed true that “space” is required, bought with combat-troops of course. The ultimate goal being to seek a similar situation to what exists of involvement in Iraq as of today; a complete withdrawal of all combat-troops.

The sooner it is seen that no nation can “win,” or “lose,” in Afghanistan the sooner we can conduct sound policies in regards to our involvement therein. This is not the no-man’s-land that some make it out to be, much can be achieved with hard work, but we also should not delude ourselves into thinking we can remain troop committed indefinitely to a nation with practically no central government and huge population that is 80% illiterate.

Our humanitarian and intelligence-gathering operations must be secured for the time being and the politically unpopular troop surge is a means to this end. This is a changing in the “face” of this war and I personally hope that we can meet this 2011 time line for beginning combat-troop withdrawal and more importantly that is not simply an arbitrary line in the sand.

I urge people on the left against rush to judgments all is for naught in Afghanistan by value of the nation’s long history of failed attempts at conquering it. This new strategy is not “conquest” but rather supporting existing efforts and expanding upon the model of political solutions with regional leaders. An opportunity will be created in the next two years for Afghanistan to stabilize, but in the end the stand against terrorist tactics must come of the people. That much is out of our hands, it is true.

From GlobalSecurity.org:

Along with protecting local Afghans and reducing violence, new efforts are focused on cutting off the funding of the Taliban and other Afghan insurgents. US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke spoke of a new thinking on the issue during a June 2009 visit to Pakistan. Holbrooke said the long-held notion that Afghanistan’s illicit opium trade is the main source of funding for the insurgency is simply not true. And, he says US policy is going to reflect that reality. “If the drugs ended tomorrow, it would not have a major effect on the Taliban source of funding,” said Holbrooke. “And, that’s one of the reasons the United States is going to downgrade crop eradication as part of its policies in Afghanistan. We’re going to upgrade interdiction. We’re going to upgrade our efforts to go after the main drug traffickers. But we want to focus on where the money really comes from.”

According to PBS & independent news media this is indeed true, but mainly because the Taliban has moved toward kidnapping, extortion and money-laundering as opposed to opium-running.

I do not support actions that only needlessly escalate war, but this change in strategy is likely the only course of action that will bring our major operations inside Afghanistan to a timely close. The president spoke of “muddling through” in reference to the former policy and I would say the same of those promoting this policy of rapid withdrawal. It appears to me that many in my party and that I agree with on a host of other issues propose “muddling through” the careful process of timely and permanent withdrawal from these costly foreign incursions brought about under the George W. Bush Presidency.

Regardless of progress on the ground the generals will always ask for more troops and the person we charged with the responsibility over such matters has decided that the 30,000 troops in Afghanistan for the elections is going to stay and more will be deployed in months to come. Provided agencies like the UN are included more directly in solution-seeking and the model of focusing on political solutions as opposed to only military solutions to bring an end to the conflict there is no reason to scoff at the 2011 deadline for strategy review.

This was a mishandled war left by the previous president and one does not clean up a rotten pile of eggs by screaming at it; you get a shovel.

My heart still cries out: “Come home, America!”

But this is very similar to my views on the aftermath of the U.S.-Iraq Invasion: rapid withdrawal has serious consequences not to be ignored but it is equally important to note that keeping the pressure on our representatives to set clear goals and bring the U.S. involvement to an eventual close as quickly as humanly possible is the responsibility of citizens that fund these conflicts.

To leave now is folly.

This was a predictable “middle-option” and under the current circumstances I believe it was the best possible choice available to the president and the true value of this decision is yet to be seen.

Post 9/11

In October 2001, in response to the Taliban regime’s protection of al Qaeda terrorists who attacked the United States, coalition forces forcibly removed the regime from Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban’s ouster in late 2001, remnants of the regime have sheltered in remote reaches of Afghanistan’s mountains, mainly in the south. While they stood little chance of retaking power while the US-led coalition remains in Afghanistan, rogue Taliban members appeared to be regrouping.

Evidence mounted by early 2003 in the southern regions of Afghanistan that the Taliban was reorganizing and has found an ally in rebel commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, labeled a terrorist and hunted by US troops,” the Associated Press reported in early April. The evidence included the discovery by coalition forces of around 60 Taliban fighters holed up near the village of Sikai Lashki, 25 miles north of the southeastern village of Spinboldak. Further indication came from the killings in southern Afghanistan of a Red Cross worker and, separately, of two U.S. troops in an ambush, as well as allegations that Taliban leaders had found safe havens in private homes in neighboring Pakistan’s Quetta province.

While no reliable estimates existed of the number of Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan, the Associated Press said in late March that it is believed that “many” Taliban are holed up in the southern mountains.

While a multinational force helped keep the peace in Kabul and surrounding areas, contributing countries have declined to extend the force’s mandate to other parts of the country. Remnants of the Taliban and rogue warlords sometimes threatened, robbed, attacked, and occasionally killed local villagers, political opponents, and prisoners.

This is what I spoke of before on this blog.

Our target was al-Qaeda and we should have handled the matter as a militaristic police force instead of “forcibly removing” this Taliban regime in 2001. This is the very nature of the trap of nation-building and these recent changes in war policy are a reflection of the situation as it is now and how to combat the elements are indeed a threat to national security while avoiding the pitfalls of unilateral nation-building. This is a policy that will hopefully provide enough security to focus on counter-terrorism efforts along with regional stabilization so that our exit from the region does not serve to only further destabilize a volatile situation.

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Come Home, America


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew well of what he spoke when he addressed a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4  (1967) in regards to the Vietnam Conflict:

“Come home, America.”

In Harper’s Magazine, Andrew J. Bacevich made the connection between Dr. King’s words and the current war in Afghanistan. I wholeheartedly agree, and would press further this point by taking a look at the heading-titles from the speech itself:

1. “The Importance of Vietnam [Afghanistan]

I believe it well past the point in terms of the expenditure of American Treasure to the nation of Afghanistan to set a clear withdrawal strategy, and then hold to it.

2. “Strange Liberators

We are not the nation to spread liberty and justice for all across the Mid-East. Whatever preconceptions one may have, the fact remains that stabilization efforts that operate outside U.S. Military influence remain intact while U.S. facilities are destroyed and rebuilt in a constant cycle within Afghanistan.

3. “This Madness Must Cease

We cannot afford to throw lives and money into a nation with no clear estimation on how long it will take to achieve this lofty goal of a “terrorist safe-bed” being prevented from being formed. The bottom line is we are pointlessly infrastructure-building and policing Afghanistan, and this madness must cease. Sooner rather than later.

4. “Protesting The War

At this stage, in November of 2009, I do not believe there is a valid anti-war protest platform to take. President Obama is weighing the decisions carefully. However, should his decision-to-come be something to nature of huge troop increases with no time line for withdrawal I believe the voice of the people should be known in the streets.

5. “The People Are Important

The people of Afghanistan are who are important in this issue. The constant fighting takes more and more innocent lives every day. Without a time line and an attainable mission statement, the continued occupation of Afghanistan is nothing but a quagmire. A quagmire that not only costs American lives, but the lives of those caught in the crossfire.

If truly we seek to build up nations that have systemic problems that may effect our national security agenda then as Bacevich reminded us the nation of Mexico would be of primary interest to those in Washington D.C.

The U.S. could take part in other “humanitarian invasions” under these same circumstances.

The entire concept that we can “fix” another nation with increased troops and increased involvement is absurd.

Andrew J. Bacevich:

Fixing Afghanistan is both unnecessary and impossible. Rather, we should be erecting and maintaining a robust defense.

I find it rare to find people willing to make the pro-defensive military argument. I applaud Bacevich for this recent article in Harper’s. Worthy of your attention, to be sure.

In Defense Of All Life (Abortion)

Lila Rose is the President of an anti-abortion group called Live Action.

Watch the video of Lila speaking here.

If I could insist that as long as bombings of innocent civilians are legal in the US that we show the results of these campaigns to the public through the imagery of the dead children and the dead bodies of unarmed civilians published in newspapers and televised in the media.

Until we were so sick and tired of seeing the injustice that we would do away with it altogether.

Maybe then we might value all life, like we value American life.

Maybe then we might hear angels signing as we dismantle our blood-soaked war machine.

My request is illegal in the US.

You cannot show the bodies of the dead in US media.

I am convinced that if we changed that law, and had a free press in a country that grants Freedom of The Press, we would see an end to war-profiteering and an end to American Imperialism.

But that life doesn’t matter to Lila Rose.

All the corpses of those killed in the name of finding WMDs don’t matter more than dirt to her.

All those murdered by contractors and tortured by interrogators don’t matter more than spit to her.

The only life these sort of people care to protect is unborn life. And in the process they want to harm, imprison and in some cases kill anyone who does anything but resoundingly agree with them.

Lila has since launched several successful undercover investigations exposing racism and statutory rape cover-up at Planned Parenthood. Her brave work has revealed new evidence to build a strong case against the abortion industry and lobby.

In other words she has waged a slander campaign like that of the one James O’Keefe waged against ACORN. Most likely she lied to people and targeted this group that she personally feels animosity toward until she found what she wanted to find. Exactly like the false campaign on ACORN. These people are nothing but McCarthyists and propagandists.

And there is no such thing as the “abortion industry” nor the “abortion lobby”. That’s just political spin to make it sound like groups that are Pro-Choice are in fact pro-abortion.

An outright lie.

The Secrets of The Lockheed-Martin Fire

1.fire-31.Fire rages on Eureka4

My area has been struck with wildfires burning unchecked for a few days that have finally come under control thanks to no small effort from statewide firefighting services called unto the task. The Lockheed-Martin Fire has reached a high level of containment at long last and residents have been allowed to return to their homes. The danger is still present, but the blaze has become more manageable after intense firefighting into the late hours of the night.

I recently spoke with three firefighters called in to help from the Central Valley and they had a rather interesting story to tell about their experiences while working on this call.

As you may or may not know the private military contractor Lockheed-Martin holds a rather large facility up in the Bonny Doon Hills just north of Santa Cruz City. Three firefighters were telling me that they and the rest of their units were charged with guarding five buildings inside the Lockheed-Martin property after the staff of the facility had been  evacuated.

These men knew nothing of the area and were specifically called in to guard specifically this area, presumably because they are not from Santa Cruz area and would not have much reason to share their stories with locals in the area. On top of that, who is going to believe a bunch of “valley boys?”

They claim to have been guarding one building that was just a big cement bunker with a large diesel generator on the side that held a huge yellow sign saying:

“Danger! No Less Than 11,000 Pounds of Explosives Present!”

They explained to me that in a normal situation in firefighting that if the flames overtook you one need only to pull out a kind of “fire tent“, that is more a large silver-blanket, and wait inside that covering until the flames passed over you.

In this case, they were informed that if these buildings were to catch fire that they would have to evacuate the area immediately but at the same time they were also told that these building simply “could not go up.”

So they were in a position where they had to simply fight the fire no matter what with no idea whatsoever exactly what they were guarding.

One of the younger firefighters was saying that one of the buildings was nothing but a shell of a building with walls falling apart and they received an order to protect that building as if it was the building marked with high-explosive storage labels.

They were apparently told: “if that goes, we all go.” With no further explanation beyond that.

Apparently there is a light and siren system up there. A yellow light means caution and danger is present. A red light means danger is real and you should be getting ready to evacuate. A red light with a siren means you have about 30 seconds to get the heck out of the area with no room for error. They all said that when they saw a red light go off they were about to lose their nerve thinking about hearing a siren all of a sudden.

I have no idea how true it was but they claimed that Lockheed-Martin is working on some kind of new explosive material and that was the reason why the “top brass” in the Pentagon were quite intent on protecting the facility at all costs. It’s possible that’s just hearsay and rumor.

But the facts are solid and absolute that our proud and brave California Firefighters have saved the day once again. We suffered no massive explosions in the hills and the smoke blowing through the city is hardly the same kind of damage that could have been wrought if the explosive storage and possible nuclear facilities within Lockheed-Martin were to have become inflamed.

We all know that there is underground facilities in Lockheed-Martin and some question could certainly be raised as to just how much danger their was of explosive outbreaks from the tiny bunkers catching fire. But I myself am grateful for the firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect unnamed and secret bunkers full of military secrets.

As to what started the fire there is some talk as of today that trespassers on an area we call “The Moon Rocks” are to blame. I myself blame the facility full of explosive equipment before I blame some random visitors to one of our local spots to see and enjoy.

But no conclusive evidence is available to answer the causal question at this time.

Exception to Torture

18 US Code 2340 — Exception to Torture

“Torture means an act of a person acting under color of law to inflict severe physical and mental pain other than pain and suffering to lawful sanctions upon another person under lawful physical custody or control.”

This statute combined with the Justice Department memos seeking to define ‘enhanced interrogation’ as legal sanction are the method by which the Bush administration violated the US Constitution through the approval of cruel and unusual punishment on military detainees as part of lawful sanctions.

Many who use the word ‘torture’ on both sides of the argument fail to recognize this statute in it’s existence. I do not. Those who committed acts of torture as defined by US Legal Code should face prosecution for their acts no matter if they belong to an agency of US origin or not. The Nuremberg Defense is invalid. If your commanding officer orders you to commit torture you are bound by law to resign rather than accept the orders.

The US Supreme Court has rejected the argument that holding military detainees indefinitely is constitutional, stating that habeas corpus (the right to speedy trial) must be granted to terrorism suspects.

The United States Constitution applies as to persons and not exclusively to citizens nor exclusively within our borders. Wherever America goes, the Constitution follows.

Ours was the nation that defined specifically waterboarding as torture to be banned by the Geneva Convention, we proposed that their were to be no exceptions under the law for this method of interrogation to be lawful sanction. This nation once stood against the tactics of the communists who oppress freedom of opinion with fear and propaganda. When politically expedient such a review of history is rejected for the failed logic of ’enhanced interrogation’ being successful and vital to national security. All available credible information on the matter says otherwise and the FBI has warned of a ’blow-back factor’ from using such tactics from the beginning.

Not only do tactics like waterboarding endanger national security but they degrade our ability to conduct ourselves as a credible nation to other nations whom engage in human rights violations and nuclear proliferation. We have no weight in our stance while we allow illegalities to go unpunished within our own government and our own military.

Now somehow in these dark days we have a portion of the country who believe in using the very tactics of the communists that we rallied against so many years ago in a new battle where following this ideology will undoubtedly lead to yet another terrorist attack on the homeland and further the goals of global terrorism abroad. I contend if we listen to the perspective of former Vice-President Richard Cheney on the matter that we will provoke the national security situation to an irreparable state.

 

Panetta versus Cheney

leon_panetta_informal_photo

CIA Director Leon Panetta is quoted as saying in regards to the recent Cheney media appearances:

“It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”

dick-cheney

Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has responded by saying he hopes Panetta was misquoted in claiming his wish for an attack.

Panetta is absolutely right. The shameful, hawkish media-tour to promote torture policy and degrade the Obama presidency should be met with even more harsh words than these of Panetta’s. But they will do for the time being.

Cheney Deserves His Day in Court

“When just one single piece of information could prevent a nuclear-armed terrorist [we can‘t take any chances.]”

Former-Vice President Dick Cheney continues to spread the myth that inhumane torture tactics, mislabeled as ’enhanced interrogation,’ are necessary to protect the nation from extremist violence. His continued use of fear-tactics by insinuation of nuclear attack on American soil is a throw-back to the selling of the Iraq War to the American People, which ultimately was proven to be based on bad intelligence. The use of these tactics will only produce more bad intelligence and not to mention legal ramifications of using techniques that are clearly ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’

I could only speculate if he is a man bereft of all humanity or simply a man of very strong and very flawed convictions, but the fact remains that putting our nation in danger and violating the US Constitution are all that is accomplished in following this destructive version of course of action proposed by both Cheney and Bush.

I continue to advocate investigation and prosecution based on any evidence gathered that can meet the standards of a courtroom. If sufficient evidence to convict Dick Cheney of war crimes exists then, we the American people, deserve to hear the facts out before a jury of his peers.