Afghanistan Plan?

Ann Jones at Tomdispatch on the “Afghanistan Boondoggle”:

The first of 20,000 to 30,000 additional U.S. troops are scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan next month to re-win the war George W. Bush neglected to finish in his eagerness to start another one. However, “winning” the military campaign against the Taliban is the lesser half of the story.

Going into Afghanistan, the Bush administration called for a political campaign to reconstruct the country and thereby establish the authority of a stable, democratic Afghan central government. It was understood that the two campaigns — military and political/economic — had to go forward together; the success of each depended on the other. But the vision of a reconstructed, peaceful, stable, democratically governed Afghanistan faded fast. Most Afghans now believe that it was nothing but a cover story for the Bush administration’s real goal — to set up permanent bases in Afghanistan and occupy the country forever.

Whatever the truth of the matter, in the long run, it’s not soldiers but services that count — electricity, water, food, health care, justice, and jobs. Had the U.S. delivered the promised services on time, while employing Afghans to rebuild their own country according to their own priorities and under the supervision of their own government — a mini-Marshall Plan — they would now be in charge of their own defense. The forces on the other side, which we loosely call the Taliban, would also have lost much of their grounds for complaint.

Instead, the Bush administration perpetrated a scam. It used the system it set up to dispense reconstruction aid to both the countries it “liberated,” Afghanistan and Iraq, to transfer American taxpayer dollars from the national treasury directly into the pockets of private war profiteers. Think of Halliburton, Bechtel, and Blackwater in Iraq; Louis Berger Group, Bearing Point, and DynCorp International in Afghanistan. They’re all in it together. So far, the Bush administration has bamboozled Americans about its shady aid program. Nobody talks about it. Yet the aid scam, which would be a scandal if it weren’t so profitable for so many, explains far more than does troop strength about why, today, we are on the verge of watching the whole Afghan enterprise go belly up.   [emphasis mine]

What’s worse, there’s no reason to expect that things will change significantly on Barack Obama’s watch. During the election campaign, he called repeatedly for more troops for “the right war” in Afghanistan (while pledging to draw-down U.S. forces in Iraq), but he has yet to say a significant word about the reconstruction mission. While many aid workers in that country remain full of good intentions, the delivery systems for and uses of U.S. aid have been so thoroughly corrupted that we can only expect more of the same — unless Obama cleans house fast. But given the monumental problems on his plate, how likely is that?    [more]

The deaths of Afghan civilians in this “boondoggle” break my heart.  The deaths of Canadian soldiers are rarely noted, outside this country.  That rather pisses me off.  The fact that all of them are dying to line the pockets of powerful American corporations outrages me.

Obama is Clinton

Bill or Hillary?  You decide:

July 3 (Bloomberg) — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he will listen to the advice of military commanders when he travels to Iraq this month and may “refine” his stance on a U.S. withdrawal based on their views.

Obama, who has promised to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office, said he hasn’t changed his stance regarding the war.

“But keep in mind what that original position was,” Obama told reporters today in Fargo, North Dakota. “I’ve always said I will listen to commanders on the ground.”

Yup, he did always say that he would listen to “his” commanders on the ground.  He also said that he would get US troops out within 18 months of taking office. 

I want someone to ask him what he will do about US military bases in Iraq.  Anything short of turning them over to Iraq and getting the hell out of the country is a complete cop-out which would make him awfully similar to John MCain, never mind Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Everyone’s saying that the battleground in this US election will be “a battle for the middle”.  If that’s so, I wish left and liberal Democrats would abandon him.  Then maybe he’d have to fight for the ground left of centre.

Thus far, my prophecy of April 10, 2008 shows every sign of coming true.

Here’s what Anthony Lake, a foreign policy adviser to Bill Clinton, had to say about the Obama Iraq policy, according to Michael J. Smith:

In an interview with the Financial Times, Anthony Lake, a former US national security adviser who has worked with Mr Obama since the start of his campaign, also urged the US to learn lessons from its traumatic withdrawal from Vietnam regarding pulling out of Iraq….

Mr Lake depicted the Democratic candidate as a tough-minded realist rather than an anti-war politician….

He stressed that Mr Obama, even after withdrawing troops from Iraq over 16 months as he has promised, would maintain “a residual presence for clearly defined missions”. These would include military training, and “preparedness to go back in if there are specific acts of genocidal violence”.

“That is not ‘cut and run and let’s just see what happens’,” Mr Lake said…..

Highlighting a parallel with his first posting as assistant to Henry Cabot Lodge, a US ambassador in 1960s Saigon, he said: “It is common sense that we could not leave Vietnam successfully unless we left behind a government in Saigon that could govern successfully.

“It seems obvious in retrospect; it was not obvious enough to too many politicians at the time. In Iraq it’s the same problem.”…    [more]

If these aren’t very clear indicators of what Obama’s policy will be with respect to getting the US out of Iraq, I don’t know what would be.

Obama and Iraq

Obama says “put down the cynicism” and vote for him.  I can’t.  Read his lips:  Barack Obama, if he becomes US President, will not take the US out of Iraq:

In April the New York Sun reported that Colin Kahl, an adviser to Barack Obama’s campaign and its day-to-day coordinator of the working group on Iraq, recommended that the US maintain between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq to serve in an “over-watch role” until 2010. Post publication, Kahl clarified that “this has absolutely zero to do with the campaign”.

Obama, who, on his past record, is believed to have the best policy on military withdrawal from Iraq, does not seem to intend to end the occupation. Susan Rice, a senior foreign affairs adviser to the Obama campaign, reiterated what we have heard from Bush administration officials over the past five years: that the number of US troops Obama would keep in Iraq “depends on the circumstances on the ground”.

Obama emphatically cautioned in October 2002: “Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbours and even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences” and “an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaida”.

Today he not only refrains from calling for total withdrawal – he does not address the removal of the “enduring” US military bases in Iraq and the embassy scheduled to open there this month. This is the size of the Vatican, has superthick walls, electrical and water plants, gymnasium and the largest swimming pool in the country. It cost $740m, has room for at least 1,000 “government employees”, a school for their children, bunkers, two helipads, yoga studios, fast-food outlets and shopping malls.

Other “enduring bases” remain, four of them along the lines of Camp Victory near Baghdad airport, which is twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, already one of the largest US overseas bases built since Vietnam. Camp Anaconda near Balad houses more than 20,000 troops, over 250 aircraft, thousands of civilian contractors, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut and Starbucks outlets.   more at Le Monde Diplomatique

The Shocking Story of Lavena Johnson

Is There an Army Cover-Up of Rape and Murder of Women Soldiers?

The Department of Defense statistics are alarming – one in three women who join the US military will be sexually assaulted or raped by men in the military. The warnings to women should begin above the doors of the military recruiting stations, as that is where assaults on women in the military begins – before they are even recruited.

But, now, even more alarming, are deaths of women soldiers in Iraq, and in the United States, following rape. The military has characterized each of the deaths of women who were first sexually assaulted as deaths from “non-combat related injuries,” and then added “suicide.” Yet, the families of the women whom the military has declared to have committed suicide, strongly dispute the findings and are calling for further investigations into the deaths of their daughters. Specific US Army units and certain US military bases in Iraq have an inordinate number of women soldiers who have died of “non-combat related injuries,” with several identified as “suicides.”

[…]

From the day their daughter’s [Lavena Johnson] body was returned to them, the parents had grave suspicions about the Army’s investigation into Lavena’s death and the characterization of her death as suicide. In charge of a communications facility, Lavena was able to call home daily. In those calls she gave no indication of emotional problems or being upset. In a letter to her parents, Lavena’s commanding officer Captain David Woods wrote : “Lavena was clearly happy and seemed in very good health both physically and emotionally.”

In viewing his daughter’s body at the funeral home, Dr. Johnson was concerned about the bruising on her face. He was puzzled by the discrepancy in the autopsy report on the location of the gunshot wound. As a US Army veteran and a 25-year US Army civilian employee who had counseled veterans, he was mystified how the exit wound of an M-16 shot could be so small. The hole in Lavena’s head appeared to be more the size of a pistol shot rather than an M-16 round. He questioned why the exit hole was on the left side of her head, when she was right handed. But the gluing of military uniform white gloves onto Lavena’s hands hiding burns on one of her hands is what deepened Dr. Johnson’s concerns that the Army’s investigation into the death of his daughter was flawed.

read the rest of this story by Ann Wright, here

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