Archive for Afghanistan

US troops in the tens of thousands while Al Qaeda numbers a few hundred

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace with tags , , , , on July 1, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

It is estimated that there are about 300 Al Qaeda members in Pakistan and only 50-100 in Afghanistan.  But the war(s) continue.  We still have tens of thousands of troops stationed in Iraq.  And believe it or not, there are more troops in Afghanistan than in Iraq.  And Special Forces troops are operating in many other countries.  At the beginning on of 2009, they were deployed in about 60 countries, but that number is up to 75 today.  Places like Somalia and Yemen might be understandable (if unfortunate) but places like the Philippines or Colombia are less understandable.

The United States continues its imperial machinations all over the world and yet we wonder why there are people out there that want to do us harm.  Do they really hate us for our freedom?  Or is it because we try to limit their own?

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Casting doubt on Afghanistan policy

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace with tags , , on May 6, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

I have to say that I love McClatchy’s reporting.  Here is an article about a new GAO (the independent Government Accountability Office) report calling into question the efficacy of the new policy by the Obama administration toward Afghanistan.  And it includes a link to the report itself!  (I hate news reports that don’t include a link to the report itself.)

Obama wants to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, from 87,000 currently to about 98,000 by the end of the summer.  And then he will supposedly call for a draw down of those troops next summer.  We will accomplish very little in terms of making the lives of the Afghan people any better no matter how many troops we have there.  And we can expect more innocent people to die and more resentment from Afghans and those around the Middle East (hell, around the world) for continuing the occupation.

We need to get out of Afghanistan (and Iraq).  And the sooner we do, the better we will all be.

And here is the GAO report.

Seven years on…

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace with tags , on March 19, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

Believe it or not, but the Iraq War started 7 years ago today.  Actually it was the beginning of the occupation of Iraq.  Because in reality this was merely the continuation of the war that began in 1990.  That year, Iraq invaded Kuwait.  And the US, led by George Bush’s father, George H. W. Bush, defended Kuwait with an attack on Iraq.  But our combat forces left in 1991, less than 6 months after we went into Iraq.  Unfortunately for Iraq this was not the end of their problems.  As our ground forces left, we put two things in place: sanctions against Iraq (through the UN) that put major restrictions on what could be imported into Iraq and no-fly zones in the northern and southern areas of the country.  Iraq was divided into roughly thirds and the northern and southern third were patrolled by US and British air forces so that no aircraft were allowed to fly in those areas.  In addition, these sorties would attack Iraq’s air defenses in those regions.  This continued from 1991 until 2003.  On 19 March 2003, the US started its “Shock and Awe” campaign against Iraq.  And the invasion began.

This war was started under false pretenses and has caused hundreds of thousands of casualties.  We must not forget that US forces are still occupying Iraq.  They have moved out of the cities, but they have not left the country.  In February of 2009, Obama said that we would pull out by August of this year.  But even then, we will leave a “transitional force” of 50,000 troops to train Iraqis.  And these troops would leave sometime in 2011.

We have waited long enough.  The Iraqi people have suffered under occupation long enough.  It is time to bring the troops home now.

This weekend there will protests all over the country (and probably in other countries as well).  We need to get active and get involved.  We need to put pressure on the Obama administration and tell them that enough is enough.  We don’t see the embedded reporters anymore.  We don’t see the troops or the fighting, so it is easy to forget.  Not to mention that the little attention that we have for war has shifted to Afghanistan.  Until every single troop is out of Iraq we must not forget that we are occupying this country.

We need to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The only thing we should be sending to Iraq and Afghanistan is aid.

Bring ALL the troops home NOW!

Time for rebirth of the antiwar movement (from Common Dreams)

ANSWER LA (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism – Los Angeles)

International Action Center

Join us!  Let the powers that be know that we haven’t forgotten.  Let them know that we won’t stop until they do.

Stop the Occupations!  Stop the Wars!

Obama and Afghanistan

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace with tags , on December 11, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

This goes along with my other piece, “Change We Can Believe In?”  but I thought it was important enough for its own post.  This is an excellent collection of articles about Afghanistan from the Socialist Worker magazine.

US official resigns over Afghan war

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace with tags , , on October 27, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

I think this is an extremely important story.  And more people need to do things like this to protest what is going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In years past, we have seen a number of books come out from people in the Bush administration that said things like, “I didn’t think this was a good idea at the time but I went along with it… blah blah blah.”  Well, if they had resigned it would have really made others think about what we were doing and what we continue to do.  If everyone who was against the war in Afghanistan or Iraq (this guy can’t be the only one) were to resign, then the Obama administration would be forced to rethink its policies, especially at a time when it looks increasingly likely that Obama will increase the amount of troops in Afghanistan.  This is exactly the wrong thing to do.  We need to get our troops out of there, not bring more in.

Here is the Washington Post story on that US official (he worked for the State Department, and before that he was a Marine).  We need a lot more people like Matthew Hoh, even if he is not a “peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love.”

Afghanistan has been called the place where empires go to die.  Hopefully, we can get out before it’s too late.

Fighting for Freedom?

Posted in War and Peace with tags , , on July 13, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

This is something that I probably shouldn’t even write about.  I have never been in any kind of war or combat situation.  I haven’t even been in the military.  So I suppose you can criticize me for that, but be that as it may, I felt the need to say something.

I got an email from someone at work.  He knows how I feel about politics and the war(s), and I think he likes to send me stuff like this just to irritate me.  Here is most of what it said:

We all came together,
Both young and old
To fight for our freedom,
To stand and be bold.

In the midst of all evil,
We stand our ground,
And we protect our country
From all terror around.

Peace and not war,
Is what some people say.
But I’ll give my life,
So you can live the American way.

I give you the right
To talk of your peace.
To stand in your groups,
and protest in our streets.

But still I fight on,
I don’t fuss, I don’t whine.
I’m just one of the people
Who is doing your time.

I’m harder than nails,
Stronger than any machine.
I’m the immortal soldier,
I’m a U.S. MARINE!

So stand in my shoes,
And leave from your home.
Fight for the people who hate you,
With the protests they’ve shown.

Fight for the stranger,
Fight for the young.
So they all may have,
The greatest freedom you’ve won.

Fight for the sick,
Fight for the poor
Fight for the cripple,
Who lives next door.

But when your time comes,
Do what I’ve done.
For if you stand up for freedom,
You’ll stand when the fight’s done.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad that there are people who are willing to put their lives on the line for something they believe in.  I would hope if the cause were right and just, I would do the same.  And that is exactly the problem.  The cause is almost never right and just.  We like to delude ourselves into thinking that when we go to war it is always a good reason.  We are fighting for freedom.  We have to fight to defend our way of lives.  And on and on.  But is that what we are really fighting for?

We’re fighting for freedom because we’re fighting the terrorists.  But if we are making more terrorists than we kill, are we really doing anything to help ourselves?  And when we go into a country under false pretenses (anyone remember weapons of mass destruction?) are we still fighting for freedom?

We certainly have a right to defend ourselves if we are attacked.  But what did Iraq do to us?  Hell, what did Afghanistan do to us?  And we could ask this about dozens of other countries.  We have sent forces into a lot more countries than just Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  We have been all over the world fighting for freedom.

Just since WWII, we have been in:

China: 1945-1960s

Italy: 1947-1948

Greece: 1947-1950s

The Philippines: 1940s-1950s

Korea: 1945-1953

Albania: 1949-1953

Eastern Europe: 1948-1956

Germany: 1950s

Iran: 1953

And on and on and on…

For a truly amazing wake up call read William Blum’s Killing Hope.  That’s where this list comes from and he continues into the mid 1990s.  So to say that we only fight for freedom is simply naive.  Or maybe we should ask: who’s freedom are we fighting for?

When America decides that it doesn’t need to overthrow every “dictator” and decide who should be in power all over the world, we will be a much safer country.  And we won’t have to worry so much about fighting for freedom.  It will come naturally.

Obama’s Concern for Afghan Civilians

Posted in Asia, Middle East with tags , , , on July 2, 2009 by Mort the Sport

Picking up where Black Pumpkin left off, I’d like to comment on Obama’s focus on curbing civilian casualties in Afghanistan. I think it admirable that he wants our troops to try to limit the number of deaths of innocent people. Here’s what McClatchy reported:

Instead of calling in air support or firing into civilian homes where Taliban fighters have sought refuge, commanders will be instructed to reach out to tribal elders or undertake other efforts to dislodge the fighters.

This is the right thing to do for two reasons: 1) There is no way to fight a counter-insurgency without winning the support of the civilian population. 2) It is the ethical choice to make. Without trying to sound hopelessly naive, I think that policies like this one, if enacted properly, can help our standing in the world. They can show the people of Afghanistan that we are concerned for their welfare. And yet I can already envision the reaction of the hawks on the right to the new policy: they’ll be foaming at the mouth calling this a limp-wristed and unnecessary course of action. I couldn’t disagree more. Winning the hearts and minds of the people is just as important as “defeating” the enemy.

Even though I agree with Obama’s specific policy, I still do not agree with the war. Without being too corny, I’d like to point out that we need butter, not guns in Afghanistan. The best way to get rid of the Taliban is to help the Afghan economy. People there need a stable way to support themselves without having to sell opium. One of the main reasons that joining the Taliban or Al-Qaeda looks like a viable option for many young Afghani men is that the economy there is broken. The country is broken. The AP reports that the latest U.S. offensive is necessary just to get polling locations open in the southern areas so that an election can take place. If Afghanistan had a better economy and government, this military intervention would not be necessary because the Taliban would not have been able to take control. The unfortunate situation is partially our fault. In the ’80s, the U.S. government was comfortable supporting insurgents against the Soviets, no matter how religiously zealous these anti-communist fighters were. Now the chickens, as they say, are coming home to roost.

What is an utter shame in this situation is that the U.S. is still in Afghanistan in the first place. If we had to go to war (which I still strongly opposed, even in 2001), we should have committed to a comprehensive solution whereby we sent in enough troops and provided the Afghan people with money to help bolster their economy and help rebuild their government and their infrastructure. Unfortunately, because Bush 43 wanted to invade Iraq as some sort of sick vendetta, we’ve had a “back burner” war that has been a disaster up until this point.

I just hope Obama can lead us in a different direction. This new policy is a glint of light in the darkness. What lies at the end of the tunnel still remains to be seen.