Ginsberg’s Anti-War Poem

From Wichita Vortex Sutra

O but how many in their solitude weep aloud like me–
                     On the bridge over the Republican River
                                almost in tears to know
                                           how to speak the right language–
                     on the frosty broad road
                                uphill between highway embankments
                     I search for the language
                                          that is also yours–
                                almost all our language has been taxed by war.
Radio antennae high tension
           wires ranging from Junction City across the plains–
           highway cloverleaf sunk in a vast meadow
                                lanes curving past Abilene
                                          to Denver filled with old
heroes of love–
                                to Wichita where McClure’s mind
                                          burst into animal beauty
                                          drunk, getting laid in a car
                                                     in a neon misted street
                                                               15 years ago–
           to Independence where the old man’s still alive
           who loosed the bomb that’s slaved all human consciousness
                             and made the body universe a place of fear–
Now, speeding along the empty plain,
                      no giant demon machine
                                visible on the horizon
           but tiny human trees and wooden houses at the sky’s edge
                      I claim my birthright!
                                reborn forever as long as Man
                                          in Kansas or other universe–Joy
                      reborn after the vast sadness of War Gods!
A lone man talking to myself, no house in the brown vastness to hear,
                      imaging the throng of Selves
                                 that make this nation one body of Prophecy
                                          languaged by Declaration as
                                                     Happiness!
I call all Powers of imagination
           to my side in this auto to make Prophecy,
                                                                         all Lords
                      of human kingdoms to come
Shambu Bharti Baba naked covered with ash
                      Khaki Baba fat-bellied mad with the dogs
Dehorahava Baba who moans Oh how wounded, How wounded
           Sitaram Onkar Das Thakur who commands
                                                       give up your desire
Satyananda who raises two thumbs in tranquility
           Kali Pada Guha Roy whose yoga drops before the void
                       Shivananda who touches the breast and says OM
Srimata Krishnaji of Brindaban who says take for your guru
           William Blake the invisible father of English visions
            Sri Ramakrishna master of ecstasy eyes
                       half closed who only cries for his mother
Chaitanya arms upraised singing & dancing his own praise
            merciful Chango judging our bodies
                       Durga-Ma covered with blood
                                    destroyer of battlefield illusions
                       million-faced Tathagata gone past suffering
            Preserver Harekrishna returning in the age of pain
Sacred Heart my Christ acceptable
                       Allah the Compassionate One
                                           Jahweh Righteous One
                                     all Knowledge-Princes of Earth-man, all
            ancient Seraphim of heavenly Desire, Devas, yogis
                                     & holymen I chant to–
                                            Come to my lone presence
                                                    into this Vortex named Kansas,
I lift my voice aloud,
            make Mantra of American language now,
                             I here declare the end of the War!
                                         Ancient days’ Illusion!
                     and pronounce words beginning my own millennium.
Let the States tremble,
            let the Nation weep,
                       let Congress legislate it own delight
                                  let the President execute his own desire–
this Act done by my own voice,
                                          nameless Mystery–
published to my own senses,
                               blissfully received by my own form
            approved with pleasure by my sensations
                       manifestation of my very thought
                       accomplished in my own imagination
                               all realms within my consciousness fulfilled
            60 miles from Wichita
                                          near El Dorado,
                                                     The Golden One,
in chill earthly mist
            houseless brown farmland plains rolling heavenward
                                                                        in every direction
one midwinter afternoon Sunday called the day of the Lord–
            Pure Spring Water gathered in one tower
                                  where Florence is
                                                        set on a hill,
                                  stop for tea & gas

Allen Ginsberg

Afghanistan FAIL

From Peter Beaumont at the Guardian:

A highly critical analysis of the US-led coalition’s counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan has raised serious questions about combat operations in both countries – and the intelligence underpinning them.

The confidential document presents a bleak picture of a counterinsurgency effort undermined by intelligence failures that at times border on the absurd.

Based on scores of interviews with British, US, Canadian and Dutch military, intelligence and diplomatic officials – and marked for “official use only” – the book-length report is damning of a US military often unwilling to share intelligence among its military allies. It depicts commanders in the field being overwhelmed by information on hundreds of contradictory databases, and sometimes resistant to intelligence generated by its own agents in the CIA.

Counterinsurgency efforts are also shown as being at the mercy of local contacts peddling identical “junk” tips around various intelligence officials, with the effectiveness of the intelligence effort being quantified by some senior officers solely in terms of the amount of “tip money” disbursed to sources.

[…]

An anonymous source quoted in the report stated that “operational commanders” continued to “indulge in the fallacy of body counts, and a month in which more Taliban are killed than in the previous month” was seen as progress. He added: “This is actually more likely to reflect the fact that there are more enemy on the battlefield than there were before.”

Despite the huge emphasis on counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last two years, the report’s authors, Russell Glenn and Jamie Gayton, find it necessary to remind military readers of the importance of the civilian population in their efforts, not least in protecting civilians “against attack by both the enemy and your own forces”.

“Those interviewed in support of this research,” they wrote, “noted with no little frustration that coalition forces themselves too frequently neglect to treat local community members properly.”

Well, you know, shit happens.

Read the whole thing here

InConvenient Questions!

On Friday, the US Justice Department, Barack Obama’s Justice Department, told a federal court that it shouldn’t consider the legal challenges of prisoners held at Bagram Prison near Kabul and under US control:

In a short legal filing, Justice Department lawyers said they planned to maintain the Bush administration’s claim that the roughly 600 prisoners held in Afghaninstan have no right to contest their detention in the courts. “The Government adheres to its previously articulated position,” the attorneys said.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that war-on-terror prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have the right to file court petitions because the U.S. has “de facto sovereignty” over the base, located on land leased from Cuba.

However, the Justice Department has argued that prisoners in Afghanistan, held at the Bagram Airbase outside Kabul, lack recourse to the courts because the U.S. does not have similar control over that region.

“Bagram is in a theater of war where the United States is engaged in active hostilities,” so extending those legal rights to the prisoners would be “impracticable,” Justice Department lawyers argued in a brief filed last November. They also argued that the habeas petitions are barred by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, a law Obama vocally opposed.   [more]

How large does the area of de facto sovereignty have to be?  Big as Bagram?  Bigger?

How big is a “theater of war” that isn’t a war on a nation but on an activity, i.e. terrorism?  Very, very big?

How difficult would it be, or should I say “impracticable”, for the US to set up a system for holding hearings in or around Bagram?

How long can the US hold prisoners in places like Bagram without hearings?  Till the war on terror is over?

NB:  The US is now handing over thousands of its prisoners to Iraq according to a security agreement that took effect on January 1st.  Do they remember or care that Iraq is known to torture and mistreat its prisoners?

Articles 10 and 12 of  The Geneva Convention govern the “transferrability” of prisoners of Afghanistan and Iraq.  Prisoners can only be transferrred between countries that are both signatories of the Convention.  The Republic of Afghanistan is not a signatory.  Prisoners cannot be transferred by an occupying authority into the hands of the country it occupies.  Iraq is occupied.

Back to Afghanistan.  When Canadian forces take prisoners, should they turn them over to the US when it’s widely known the Americans torture their prisoners?

I remember watching a movie that began with an trip into an Morrocan prison where infidels had languished for so long the bony hands of skeletons were clamped to the mouldering walls.

Please write to me if you have answers.

UPDATE:

The word “Guantanamo” serves as shorthand among some Afghans for all the reasons they hate foreign troops, but the impending closing of the notorious prison has gotten surprisingly little attention in this country.

Nothing changed with last month’s U.S. presidential order to close Guantanamo, many people here say, because another prison inspires even greater fear: Bagram.

Even a man who could be expected to feel the most joy about Guantanamo closing, a former detainee who spent more than six years in the camp, quickly turns the conversation to the detention facility north of Kabul, inside the U.S. military base at Bagram.  [more]

Congressmen Freaked Out By Gaza

US Congressmen Baird and Ellison on Gaza:

“The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering” said Baird, “Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed, schools completely leveled, fundamental needs such as water, sewer, and electricity facilities have been hit and immobilized. Relief agencies, themselves, have been heavily damaged. The personal stories of children being killed in their homes or schools; of entire families wiped out, and relief workers prevented from evacuating the wounded are heart wrenching. What went on here? And what is continuing to go on, is shocking and troubling beyond words.” the Washington state Congressman said.

[…]

“If this had happened in our own country, there would be national outrage and an appeal for urgent assistance. We are glad that President Obama acted quickly to send much needed humanitarian funding to Gaza for this effort. However, the arbitrary and unreasonable Israeli limitations on food, and repair and reconstruction materials are unacceptable and indefensible. People; innocent children, women and non-combatants, are going without water, food and sanitation, while the things they so desperately need are sitting in trucks at the border, being denied permission to go in” said Ellison.

[…]

“It’s hard for anyone in our country to imagine how it must feel to have a sick child who needs urgent care or is receiving chemotherapy or dialysis, then to be forced to take a needlessly lengthy route, walk rather than drive, and wait in lines as long as two hours simply to get to the hospital. As a health care professional myself, I found this profoundly troubling – no, actually it’s beyond that, it is outrageous.” said Baird.

Read the whole thing here

UPDATEMedea Benjamin travelled to Gaza last week.  Her article at AlterNet begins this way –

What I saw was like a form of collective punishment, leaving behind a trail of grieving mothers, angry fathers and traumatized children.

Swamp in the Desert

More reactions to Obama’s decision to send 17,000 US troops into Afghanistan:

… in a TV interview Tuesday, Obama said he was “absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban (insurgency), the spread extremism in that region solely through military means.”

“If there is no military solution, why is the administration’s first set of decisions to continue drone attacks and increase ground troops?” Marilyn B. Young, a professor of history at New York University, told IPS.

She said the uncertainty around Afghan policy seems to be spreading even while the Obama administration announces an increase in troops.

“This is one of the ways events seem to echo U.S. escalation in the Vietnam War,” said Young, author of several publications, including ‘Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn From the Past’.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a report revealing that in 2008, there were 2,118 civilian casualties in Afghanistan, an increase of almost 40 percent over 2007.

Of these casualties, 55 percent of the overall death toll was attributed to anti-government forces, including the Taliban, and 39 percent to Afghan security and international military forces.

“This is of great concern to the United Nations,” the report said, pointing out that “this disquieting pattern demands that the parties to the conflict take all necessary measures to avoid the killing of innocent civilians.”

During his presidential campaign last year, Obama said the war in Iraq was a misguided war.

The United States, he said, needs to pull out of Iraq, and at the same time, bolster its troops in Afghanistan, primarily to prevent the militant Islamic fundamentalist Taliban from regaining power and also to eliminate safe havens for terrorists.

But most political analysts point out that Afghanistan may turn out to be a bigger military quagmire for U.S. forces than Iraq.

Solomon of the Institute for Public Accuracy said Obama’s moves on Afghanistan have “the quality of a moth toward a flame.”

In the short run, Obama is likely to be unharmed in domestic political terms. But the policy trajectory appears to be unsustainable in the medium-run, he added.

“Before the end of his first term, Obama is very likely to find himself in a vise, caught between a war in Afghanistan that cannot be won and a political quandary at home that significantly erodes the enthusiasm of his electoral base while fueling Republican momentum,” Solomon argued.

Dr. Christine Fair, a senior political scientist with the RAND Corporation and a former political officer with UNAMA in Kabul, told IPS she is doubtful that more troops will secure Afghanistan.

“Perhaps several years ago more troops would have been welcomed. My fear is that more troops means more civilian losses and further erosion of good will and support for the international presence,” Fair said.

Read the whole thing here

UPDATE:  Check out Ethel the Blog on this – here’s just a bit –

Now that we’ve discovered that the only difference between Obama and McCain vis a vis foreign policy is that the former doesn’t visibly drool when contemplating spilling more blood, we can better understand Obama’s plan to stimulate the economy by increasing the demand for body bags in Afghanistan.

Europe Not Into Afghanistan

NATO defense ministers are meeting this week in Poland.  The conversation should be interesting now that Obama has decided to send 17,000 US troops in.  If only Canada’s defense minister was inclined to make the fuss that Europe’s defense ministers are going to make.  Maybe they know something that we’re not yet prepared to admit.  From Speigel Online International:

It is no secret that the Obama administration would like to see NATO member states in Europe agree to send more troops. Both Gates and his spokesman Geoff Morrell have dropped plenty of hints that additional troop commitments would be most welcome. That, though, isn’t likely to happen. European capitals have for years shown a reluctance to send more soldiers, often hampered by a voting public that has long since lost enthusiasm for the war.  [Smart!]

[…]

The center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“Afghanistan hasn’t yet become NATO’s Vietnam. But to avoid such a scenario, the alliance has to undertake a detailed examination of its engagement. First and foremost, NATO has to bid farewell to the idea that, as is often said internally, ‘the fate of NATO will be decided in Afghanistan.’ This sentence is nonsense. A defeat or even a withdrawal without real success would certainly plunge the alliance into turbulence. But stubbornly staying the course out of fear of this scenario, blindly hoping that the amount of troops and quality of weapons will one day prevail, isn’t a strategy. Such logic bears witness to a dangerous degree of helplessness.”

“NATO has to find the courage to rethink everything. Instead of, as will happen this week with alliance defense ministers gathered in Krakow, busying themselves with demands for more troops, the member states should take a realistic look at the situation in Afghanistan and then decide what can be achieved and, most importantly, how large a commitment the alliance is prepared to make. It is time to abandon the illusion — especially popular in Germany — that the Afghanistan mission is one primarily focused on redevelopment and on providing a safe place for the delicate flower of a halfway free society to flourish.”  [more]

Afghanistan’s Wars

On Afghanistan’s recent wars and their effects from Barnett R. Rubin at Boston Review:

Under the more open conditions that have prevailed since the fall of the Taliban, I have seen clearly more of what I had only sensed on visits in previous decades. The human effect of decades of war: how the collapse of even a relatively weak state authority forced people back to their kin, clan, or tribal groups; how violence, which could erupt at any moment, from any direction, quickly rekindled memories of earlier traumas. Over the years, with violence and its legacy a constant presence, the trust that institutional cooperation demands had been blown to bits as surely as the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Afghans returning from prolonged exile found a society they did not recognize; they often commented that there was no trust between people. Against that corrosive background, every effort to reconnect the scattered fragments of the former national elites—or to reconnect returning elites with those who had remained—could be undermined with a careless word, a careless dollar, or a careless bomb.

A brief and personal modern history of war in Afghanistan.  Read the whole thing here

Playing the “Aghan Trap”

From Amy Goodman at CommonDreams:

… the Associated Press recently cited a classified report drafted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommending a shift in strategy from democracy-building in Afghanistan to attacking alleged Taliban and al-Qaida strongholds along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

And the campaign has clearly begun. Days after his inauguration, Obama’s first (known) military actions were two missile strikes inside Pakistan’s frontier province, reportedly killing 22 people, including women and children.  [emphasis mine]

Cherif Bassiouni has spent years going back and forth to Afghanistan. He is a professor of law at DePaul University and the former United Nations human rights investigator in Afghanistan. In 2005, he was forced out of the United Nations under pressure from the Bush administration, days after he released a report accusing the U.S. military and private contractors of committing human rights abuses. I asked Bassiouni about Obama’s approach to Afghanistan. He told me: “There is no military solution in Afghanistan. There is an economic-development solution, but I don’t see that coming. … Right now, the population has nothing to gain by supporting the U.S. and NATO. It has everything to gain by being supportive of the Taliban.”

Bassiouni’s scathing 2005 U.N. report accused the U.S. military and private military contractors of “forced entry into homes, arrest and detention of nationals and foreigners without legal authority or judicial review, sometimes for extended periods of time, forced nudity, hooding and sensory deprivation, sleep and food deprivation, forced squatting and standing for long periods of time in stress positions, sexual abuse, beatings, torture, and use of force resulting in death.”

I also put the question of the military surge to former President Jimmy Carter. He responded: “I would disagree with Obama as far as a surge that would lead to a more intense bombing of Afghan villages and centers and a heavy dependence on military. I would like to see us reach out more, to be accommodating, and negotiate with all of the factions in Afghanistan.”

Carter should know. He helped create what his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, called “the Afghan trap,” set for the Soviets. This was done by supporting Islamic mujahedeen in the late 1970s against the Soviets in Afghanistan, thereby creating what evolved into the Taliban. Brzezinski told the French newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?” More than 14,000 Soviet troops were killed, and the Afghan toll exceeded 1 million. Osama bin Laden got his start with the help of the CIA-funded Afghan operation.  [emphasis mine]

Bassiouni suggests that a military solution is doomed to failure, noting that the Taliban “realized they could not defeat the American forces, so they went underground. They put their Kalashnikovs under the mattresses, and they waited. A year ago, they resurfaced again. They can do the same thing. They can go back in the mountains, push the Kalashnikovs under the mattress, wait out five years. They have been doing that since the 1800s with any foreign and every foreign invader.”

As Carter told me, “To offer a hand of friendship or accommodation, not only to the warlords but even to those radicals in the Taliban who are willing to negotiate, would be the best approach, than to rely exclusively on major military force.”

Have we learned nothing from Iraq?   [more]

Apparently not.  I hope someone changes Obama’s mind before it’s too late.  I hope it hard.

Obama & Afghanistan -Fail

From Jennifer Loven at the Globe & Mail:

Mr. Obama tried to brace the U.S. for tougher sacrifices ahead in Afghanistan, where he said the national government is limited and terrorists still find places to hide and hinder coalition efforts.

An estimated 33,000 U.S. troops currently are in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon is expected to almost double that presence. So just as Mr. Obama is planning to pull troops out of Iraq, he is sending more into Afghanistan.

“I do not have a timetable for how long that’s going to take,” he said. “What I know is I’m not going to allow al-Qaeda and (Osama) bin Laden to operate with impunity, planning attacks.”

It’s not as simple as that Mr. Obama.  You’re buying into the war that you voted against, George W. Bush’s war  – different country, same war.  I dread watching you find that out.