Thursday, July 8, 2010

Losing in Afghanistan

I have been neglecting this blog. Not because I don't care about Peace any longer, but the action that was started in Ashland over 4 years ago has ended and I don't live there anymore. I moved away and the people stopped standing for Peace.
Not much I could do about that situation. I live in another part of the state now and I haven't started a similar action here where I live, yet.

Currently, I'm about to start a support group to help returning Veterans readjust to life away from a war zone. A tall order, bnut I am glad to attempt to do something.

I came across this Huffington Post article and decided to post it. Make up your own mind, but the bottom line for me is there is still war being waged by our government and it needs to stop now, no matter which party is in office. I am sad that the changes that seemed to have been promised from the Obama administration about ending the war(s) didn't happen and sound like they won't happen very soon.

Might have to start that Standing for Peace vigil here in River Falls, WI after all. Anyone interested in joining me in spirit or otherwise?

Let me know if you are. In the meantime, read this, then write letters everyday to the President, your Senators and Congress representatives. Tell them you want the wars to end immediately.

Peace to all.

Losing in Afghanistan

By Marjorie Cohn

Huffington Post

July 6, 2010

Here is the article from the Huffington Postblog.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted 215-210 for $33 billion

to fund Barack Obama’s troop increase in Afghanistan. But there was

considerable opposition to giving the President a blank check. One

hundred sixty-two House members supported an amendment that would have

tied the funding to a withdrawal timetable. One hundred members voted

for another amendment that would have rejected the $33 billion for the

30,000 new troops already on their way to Afghanistan; that amendment

would have required that the money be spent to redeploy our troops out

of Afghanistan. Democrats voting for the second amendment included

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and nine Republicans. Both amendments

failed to pass.

The new appropriation is in addition to the $130 billion Congress has

already approved for Iraq and Afghanistan this year. And the 2010

Pentagon budget is $693 billion, more than all other discretionary

spending programs combined.

Our economic crisis is directly tied to the cost of the war. We are in

desperate need of money for education and health care. The $1 million

per year it costs to maintain a single soldier in Afghanistan could

pay for 20 green jobs.

Not only is the war bankrupting us, it has come at a tragic cost in

lives. June was the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In

addition to the 1,149 American soldiers killed in Afghanistan, untold

numbers of Afghan civilians have died from the war - untold because

the Defense Department refuses to maintain statistics of anyone except

U.S. personnel. After all, Donald Rumsfeld quipped in 2005, “death has

a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war.”

There are other “depressing” aspects of this war as well. As Gen.

Stanley McChrystal reported just days before he got the axe, there is

a “resilient and growing insurgency” with high levels of violence and

corruption within the Karzai government. McChrystal’s remarks were

considered “off message” by the White House, which was also irked by

the general’s criticisms of Obama officials in a Rolling Stone

article. McChrystal believes that you can’t kill your way out of

Afghanistan. “The Russians killed 1 million Afghans and that didn’t


He and his successor, Gen. David Petraeus, likely disagree on the need

to prevent civilian casualties (known as “Civ Cas”). McChrystal

instituted some of the most stringent rules of engagement the U.S.

military has had in a war zone: “Patrol only in areas that you are

reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with

lethal force.” Commanders cannot fire on buildings or other places if

they have reason to believe civilians might be present unless their

own forces are in imminent danger of being overrun. And they must end

engagements and withdraw rather than risk harming noncombatants.

McChrystal knows that for every innocent person you kill, you create

new enemies; he calls it “insurgent math.” According to the Los

Angeles Times, McChrystal “was credited with bringing about a

substantial drop in the proportion of civilian casualties suffered at

the hands of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and its

Afghan allies.”

While testifying in Congress before he was confirmed to take

McChrystal’s place, Petraeus told senators that some U.S. soldiers had

complained about the former’s rules of engagement aimed at preventing

civilian casualties.

According to the Rolling Stone article, Obama capitulated to

McChrystal’s insistence that more troops were needed in Afghanistan.

In his December 1 speech at West Point, the article says, “the

president laid out all the reasons why fighting the war in Afghanistan

is a bad idea: It’s expensive; we’re in an economic crisis; a

decade-long commitment would sap American power; Al Qaeda has shifted

its base of operations to Pakistan. Then,” the article continued,

“without ever using the words ‘victory’ or ‘win,’ Obama announced that

he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, almost as

many as McChrystal had requested.”

Both Obama and Petraeus no longer speak of “victory” over the Taliban;

they both hold open the possibility of settlement with the Taliban.

Indeed, Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, chief of operations for McChrystal,

told Rolling Stone, “It’s not going to look like a win, smell like a

win or taste like a win.”

The majority of Americans now oppose the war in Afghanistan. Fareed

Zakaria had some harsh words for the war on his CNN show, saying that

“the whole enterprise in Afghanistan feels disproportionate, a very

expensive solution to what is turning out to be a small but real

problem.” Noting that CIA director Leon Panetta admitted that the

number of Al Qaeda left in Afghanistan may be 50 to 100, Zakaria

asked, “why are we fighting a major war” there? “Last month alone

there were more than 100 NATO troops killed in Afghanistan,” he said.

“That’s more than one allied death for each living Al Qaeda member in

the country in just one month.” Citing estimates that the war will

cost more than $100 billion in 2010 alone, Zakaria observed, “That’s a

billion dollars for every member of Al Qaeda thought to be living in

Afghanistan in one year.” He queried, “Why are we investing so much

time, energy, and effort when Al Qaeda is so weak?” And Zakaria

responded to the argument that we should continue fighting the Taliban

because they are allied with Al Qaeda by saying, “this would be like

fighting Italy in World War II after Hitler’s regime had collapsed and

Berlin was in flames just because Italy had been allied with Germany.”

There is also division in the Republican ranks over the war.

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele made some gutsy

comments about the war in Afghanistan, saying it is not winnable and

calling it a “war of Obama’s choosing.” (Even though George W. Bush

first invaded Afghanistan, Obama made the escalation of U.S.

involvement a centerpiece of his campaign.) Steele said that if Obama

is “such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know,

that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in

Afghanistan? Everyone who has tried, over 1,000 years of history, has

failed.” Interestingly, Republicans Lindsey Graham and John McCain

slammed Steele and jumped to Obama’s defense. Rep. Ron Paul, however,

agreed with Steele, saying, “Michael Steele has it right, and

Republicans should stick by him.”

Obama will likely persist with his failed war. He appears to be

stumbling along the same path that Lyndon Johnson followed. Johnson

lost his vision for a “Great Society” when he became convinced that

his legacy depended on winning the Vietnam War. It appears that Obama

has similarly lost his way.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is

immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy

secretary general of the International Association of Democratic

Lawyers. She is co-author (with Kathleen Gilberd) of Rules of

Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent.


Marjorie Cohn

Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Posted: July 6, 2010 07:58 PM

Again, I offer Peace.

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