The math is simple. Over 100 Members of Congress have said no to bombing Syria. 180 are still undecided. A call to your Representative could prevent a war with Syria.
Call your Representative NOW and demand they say NO to bombing Syria!
The International Council on Security published maps of the insurgency's presence in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The United States added troops in Afghanistan in each of these years. ICOS's maps show that none of these troop increases arrested the growth of the insurgency. In fact, analysts at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and UK's DFID suggest that the presence of foreign troops drives Afghans to join the insurgency.
Learn more at http://rethinkafghanistan.com.
Music: "The Day the World Went Away" by Nine Inch Nails, War Distortion Remix by RavenThe SkyKid (http://www.ninremixes.com/index.php?sho wonly=The%20Day%20The%20World%20Went%20A way)
Self immolation is a method of suicide by lighting oneself on fire. According to the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, self immolation has never been such an epidemic in Afghanistan as it is today. This is one fact that leads people to the sobering reality that our efforts in Afghanistan have done nothing for the vast majority of women there.
Despite this, politicians, military leaders, and sadly even some misguided American feminist groups continue to use the plight of women in Afghanistan to justify more spending, more troops and more war. People who care for the people of Afghanistan have got to see this for what it is. Women never benefit from bombs and bullets.
When the U.S and its allies chose to put the Karzai regime in place, they conveniently overlooked the fact that it is overrun with the same patriarchal attitudes toward women as the Taliban. During my recent trip to Afghanistan, I saw the crushing poverty that Afghans must endure. A few brave women from RAWA and the Afghan Women's Mission pointed out in a recent article that, "The military establishment claims that it must win the military victory first and then the U.S. will take care of humanitarian needs. But they have it backward. Improve living conditions and security will improve. Focus on security at the expense of humanitarian goals, and coalition forces will accomplish neither. The first step toward improving people's lives is a negotiated settlement to end the war."
Share this video and help your friends and family to see what is really happening to women in Afghanistan. Refuse to accept the line that we must stay in Afghanistan to protect the women of Afghanistan. Help us get people to Rethink Afghanistan.
According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and a newly released UN report, there were 800 civilian casualties between January and May 2009. Armed clashes between insurgents, the US military, and the ISAF are up 24 percent this year, and have displaced tens of thousands more people. With over 1,000 recorded incidents of violence in May alone, Afghanistan is experiencing the worst security since the war began. And to make matters worse, the UN reported concluded, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The next period will likely experience an increase in the level of violence compared with the same period last year, including complex suicide attacks, intimidation and assassinations carried out by insurgents.Ã¢â‚¬Â� That period, unfortunately, coincides with the Afghan presidential and provincial council elections slated for August.
The deadly consequences of militarizing the political crisis in Afghanistan may seem logical, but they're no less disturbing as we see staggering numbers of civilian casualties from this war. Complicating matters is the fact that insurgents have been targeting NGOs and aid workers. In the past six months, there were over 60 security incidents involving NGOs, with many aid workers reported killed or kidnapped. Such violence undercuts the chances of already underfunded humanitarian efforts, and yet the Pentagon has responded with more troops and airstrikes, creating more violence, more casualties, more anti-American sentiment, and the need for even more aid.
Co-authored by Jane Hamsher.
In 2007, 82 Democratic members of Congress signed a pledge. They would never again vote to fund the war in Iraq without plans for troop withdrawal.
Republican critics accused them of demagoguing the war. Of using our soldiers as a political pawns, of not meaning what they said.
Those who signed that pledge need to cast their vote against the Supplemental Appropriations Act on Tuesday and prove them wrong.
We may agree or disagree about what needs to be done in Iraq, but a promise is a promise. Anti-war activists have supported these members of Congress because of that 2007 pledge. They knocked on doors and distributed leaflets and donated to their campaigns. They and marched side by side with them as they sought to bring an end to the war that still lingers in Iraq and escalates in Afghanistan, as the new film Rethink Afghanistan documents.
I'm in DC this week for the America's Future Now! conference, where I'm helping bring together a panel of experts from Afghanistan to discuss the war with conference attendees and members of Congress. As this war escalates, as the death toll soars and the financial and moral costs spiral out of control, we at Brave New Foundation are working with Campaign for America's Future to bring in experts who can provide a more complete picture of the dire situation in Afghanistan.
This Tuesday, June 2, from 5:30-6:30 PM in Room 2101 of the Rayburn House Office Building, there will be a briefing for congressional members and staff entitled: "Rethink Afghanistan: A View from the Ground." The following experts will discuss their perspective on issues facing Afghanistan with a focus on women's rights and empowerment:
Dr. Roshanak Wardak is an MP in the Afghan parliament. She is one of the few MPs who represent nearly 1 million people in their province. She is also a gynecologist and spent many years working with Afghan women in refugee camps in Pakistan.
Ann Jones is the author of eight books of nonfiction, most recently Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan. She spent the last eight years doing humanitarian work in conflict zones—four of them in Afghanistan—and is now working on a book about the impact of war on women worldwide.
Anand Gopal is a journalist covering the “Global War on Terror” from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia to the United States. He is a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, a contributor to the Huffington Post, and a blogger at www.anandgopal.com.
All three of these experts either currently live or have recently resided in Afghanistan, and they offer a profound understanding of the complex issues involved in this war. We have interviewed them for the Rethink Afghanistan documentary campaign, and now we are bringing them to DC, where they willengage elected officials, policymakers, think tank experts, and others.
If you are an elected official or a staffer, please attend this briefing tomorrow. Please call the offices of your members of Congress in the House or Senate and ask them to meet us as we Rethink Afghanistan.
US airstrikes in Afghanistan like the one that killed over 100 civilians last week have reached all-time destructive highs. According to Air Forces Central, US warplanes dropped a record 438 bombs in Afghanistan during April. The number of dropped bombs has increased steadily over the past few months, and just yesterday, Gen. James Jones claimed the US will continue conducting airstrikes despite President Karzai's admonishment that these bombings are counterproductive, turning Afghan civilians against the United States. Yet as the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to deteriorate, Congress will decide this week whether to approve $94.2 billion in supplemental wartime spending.
Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan like retired Corporal Rick Reyes are meeting with members of Congress early this week, urging them not to approve this massive supplemental wartime funding bill until more critical questions are answered about the war. We still don't know, for instance, how the Obama administration intends to prevent increases in US airstrikes and military presence from becoming recruiting tools for Taliban extremists or al Qaeda terrorists. We still don't know how the administration will be able to stop military escalation from further destabilizing a nuclear-armed Pakistan. Nor has the administration been forthright about benchmarks or an exit strategy, or whether funding more war will hamper US economic recovery.
What we do know is that right now, President Obama appears to be following the failed policies of his predecessor in Afghanistan. The Carnegie Endowment's Gilles Dorronsoro recently wrote that while Obama's strategy does promise more resources and the chance for a civilian surge, "when considered as a whole, this supposedly ‘new’ strategy amounts to little more than recycled policy from the late Bush years; it is a waiting strategy without any credible long-term objectives. Unfortunately, those who have so far a clear, well coordinated, and coherent strategy are the Taliban." This grim assessment follows Dorronsoro's earlier findings in Focus and Exit: An Alternative Strategy for the Afghan War, which concluded that the increased military presence in Afghanistan has directly contributed to the Taliban insurgency, and that withdrawing troops would allow us to focus on tracking down any remaining al Qaeda terrorists who have since fled across the border into Pakistan.
As we mark Obama's first 100 Days, there is much to celebrate--from repeal of the global gag rule to the passage of the stimulus and the Administration's pledge to close Guantanamo. The budget, a smart blueprint to build a new economy, will demand that progressives mobilize to take on well-funded lobbies intent on obstructing real reform.
Yet, as I think about the most troubling aspects of these first 100 days, there are two areas which I fear could endanger the Obama Presidency: the bank bailouts and military escalation in Afghanistan.
Americans deserve a real national debate about the Administration's plans in Afghanistan--its ends and means and exits--before undertaking such a major military commitment. That's why Brave New Foundation's work is so essential: with its new documentary Rethink Afghanistan and online debates such as the one CAP's Lawrence Korb and I had last week, BNF is fostering the kind of discussion, debate and dissent that Obama has said he welcomes. BNF's work--along with a network of bloggers, progressive leaders, magazines like The Nation, peace and justice groups--is launching much-needed Congressional hearings on vital areas such as the role and goals of the US military in Afghanistan, oversight of contractors, transparent budgeting and clear metrics to measure progress toward a defined exit strategy.
What's key at this pivotal moment is increasing the pressure for constructive, smart, effective non-military solutions to stabilize Afghanistan--and strengthen Pakistan's fragile democratic government. As I argued in the debate with Korb, I believe the more responsible and effective strategy moving forward is to take US-led military escalation off the table, begin to withdraw US troops and support a regional diplomatic solution, including common-sense counterterrorist and national security measures (extensive intelligence cooperation, expert police work, effective border control) and targeted development and reconstruction assistance.
We bring you Cost of War, part three of our Rethink Afghanistan documentary, which delves into the financial costs of this broadening war.
As we pay our tax bills, it seems an appropriate time to urge everyone to Rethink Afghanistan, a war that currently costs over $2 billion a month but hasn't made us any safer. Everyone has a friend or relative who just lost a job. Do we really want to spend over $1 trillion on another war? Everyone knows someone who has lost their home. Do we really want spend our tax dollars on a war that could last a decade or more? The Obama administration has taken some smart steps to counter this economic crisis with its budget request. Do we really want to see that effort wasted by expanding military demands?
Watch Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and journalists, military and foreign policy experts, leading economists, and many more explain just how much the war in Afghanistan will cost us over how many years. View both the trailer and full segment of Cost of War, part three of the Rethink Afghanistan documentary.
Last week, we delivered a petition to Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Howard Berman, demanding oversight hearings. These hearings could raise the critical questions about costs and many other issues. Now, we want to know what questions you would ask in such hearings. Would you want to know how exactly the war is weakening the U.S. economy? What about whether more troops can solve Afghanistan's problems or the escalating instability in Pakistan, subjects explored in parts one and two of this documentary?
- Record your questions on your webcam and send them to us! Simple instructions for doing this can be found here. It's easy!
- Post your video to our Facebook page! Go to our Facebook page, click in the "Write something" box, and then click the video link.
- Vote on the written questions you think are the most critical for oversight hearings and submit your own.
We must urge Congress to raise key questions about this war at once. As FireDogLake blogger Siun recently wrote, "Once again we are planning a surge with no exit plan and a continued lack of concern for the most basic protection of the civilians in the land we claim to liberate."
Where is the public outcry for congressional oversight hearings on the war in Afghanistan? Granted, the words "congressional oversight hearings" aren't particularly sexy--certainly not as alluring as "shock and awe," "insurgency," "counterinsirgency," "airstrikes," and "Hellfire missiles." But one thing that is always sexy is power, and Congress has the power to prevent these airstrikes and missiles from killing thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, thereby removing some of the hostility toward our country and reasons for joining the Taliban's insurgency. As Tom Hayden wrote his week, Congress has the power to bring in experts to examine the overall goals for this war; costs and budgeting; skyrocketing casualty rates; use of private contractors; human rights violations and torture. If that kind of power isn't sexy, I don't know what is, but the fact of the matter is Congress won't call for oversight hearings until we make them.
Now there are some true leaders in Congress who have already shown a willingness to oppose the Obama administration, the Pentagon, and a corporate press that has remained largely uncritical of the administration's plans for military escalation. Senator Bernie Sanders is one of those leaders. Though he doesn't approve of President Obama's decision to send an additional 17,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, here's how he tactfully voiced his dissent:
The last thing in the world that I want to see is our new President -- who I have a lot of confidence in in many respects -- we don't want to see him bogged down the way LBJ was bogged down in Vietnam. We don't want to see another war in Iraq, which was so disastrous in so many respects.
President Obama delivered a fantastic speech Tuesday night. It's tone alone will go a long way toward reassuring a nation mired in economic crisis.
And amazingly, there were many moments of bipartisan applause, like when Obama tackled corporate greed: "I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over."
This was music to my ears, but as Robert Scheer astutely pointed out at The Nation, the problem Obama had in discussing regulation to fix our financial woes is that many of his top economic advisors, including Lawrence Summers, were responsible for gutting the regulatory system that helped cause this mess in the first place.
Don't get me wrong, Obama's speech was strong, and hopefully it will symbolize a fundamental change in thinking from his economic team. But I'm just glad we have someone like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to help Obama make good on his demagoguery.
The independent senator from Vermont says we need a new Wall Street. He wants to confront the culture of greed head on, get rid of the CEOs of these corrupt financial institutions and establish a much stricter regulatory process.
Sanders has been a vocal critic of TARP spending from the beginning, and last month he called for the congressional TARP Oversight Panel to expand its focus and dig into the causes of the financial crisis, using subpoena power to expose the roots.
Sanders' vigilance and frankness, coupled with Obama's rhetoric Tuesday night, gives me hope.
"What is abundantly clear is that no matter how hard the government tries to advance the military commissions, this process doesn't work...The only solution is to shut the military commissions down and start from scratch."
- Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union
Closing Guantanamo Bay will be a crucial first step toward restoring our moral leadership in the world, but President-elect Obama must also end the unconstitutional military commissions put in place by President Bush. These so-called "legal proceedings" are more akin to kangaroo courts for the unlawful ways in which they extract confessions from abused prisoners forced to stand trial.
As former Gitmo prosecutor Lt Col Darrel Vandeveld told the BBC recently, "No justice will be obtained at Guantanamo. And if that entails moving [the detainees] temporarily to the US for trial: so be it." Watch the tesimonies from those who have prosecuted and defended some of these prisoners, and see why we cannot continue to deprive them of their fundamental rights.
Send this video to all of your friends and coworkers in order to stress the importance of ending unconstitutional military commissions. If there are prisoners that still must stand trial, they should do so in U.S. civilian and military courts that abide by international human rights and humanitarian law. That is the only way to achieve real justice; the only way to break with the abusive past of the Bush administration; and the only way to show to the world that the Obama administration will faithfully follow the U.S. Constitution.
We have the chance to help President-elect Obama reclaim democracy and restore the rule of law in our country, which he can do on his first day in office. By shutting down the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison facility, Obama can take a major step toward redeeming our nation's moral leadership in the world. And by ending unconstitutional military commissions and banning torture, he can cut ties with the highly controversial Bush era of national security.
We must seize this critical moment to end the abuses that the Bush administration has perpetrated for the past eight years. That's why we partnered with the ACLU to bring to you our newest video.
This is the first in a series of videos underscoring the urgent need to close GITMO and end unconstitutional military commissions. We urge you to sign the petition and ensure that the human rights violations at GITMO never occur again. Then send this video to your friends and ask them to sign up as well.
The ACLU is taking this campaign even further by hosting an open Town Hall Meeting tonight at 8pm ET, when people from all across the country will gather via teleconference to discuss the state of civil liberties in our country. Take part in this important conversation, and help President-elect Obama take decisive action to close GITMO.
This year, the presidential election will not hinge on the emotionally divisive issue of immigration.
That's good news for foreign-born residents of the United States. It's good news for everyone who believes that a moral society takes care of its most vulnerable members, forcing no one into the shadows. If the nativist wing of the Republican Party had seen its electoral goals realized, we would have witnessed a Republican primary dominated by a tragic debate about how best to expel the 12 million undocumented immigrants living in America, whether by deporting as many as possible, or by making legal conditions so inhospitable that they leave of their own volition. That debate would have trickled out into the general election, with Republican strategists trying to 'wedge' independent and Democratic-leaning voters with toxic appeals to national chauvinism and racial prejudice masquerading as distinctions of legitimate policy differences. Like the debate over what kinds of prisoner interrogation techniques legally constitute torture, these are the kinds of public discussions we engage in at the cost of our collective soul.
Thankfully, Tom Tancredo never managed to get his first foot off the ground, Giuliani led in early national polls in spite of his well-known history of supporting immigrant rights, and a border state Senator who is famously moderate on the issue (however much he tries to run away from that reputation) will be his party's nominee. The news is not entirely sanguine, however. The momentary absence of anti-immigrant invective in the mainstream does not mean that bigotry does not persist at the margins, leaning ever inward. And taking the spotlight off of immigrants, while affording them some room to breathe, further delays the political moment for meaningful immigration reform.
With groups like FAIR and the Minutemen consigned, for now, back to the political fringe where they belong, and with Latino voters set to play a pivotal role in the fates of the presidential nominees of both parties come November, now is the opportune time to put immigration back into the public debate -- on pro-immigrant terms.
Pending and not-yet-pending legislation affords opportunities to achieve material victories for immigrant families, as well as to reclaim the lost sense of the cultural and economic importance of immigrants in America. In New Jersey, passage of the In-State Tuition Bill would expand education access for foreign-born children, giving immigrant kids a real chance at life, while also fostering a more educated workforce for the state's economy. A similar bill may reach the state legislature in California as well this year. And with a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic majority in Congress, immigrant families could make their greatest gain through a reintroduction of the federal DREAM Act in 2009.
By fixing public attention on the daily struggles of families to improve their futures by securing a quality education for their children -- as familiar an experience to the native-born as to the foreign-born -- advocating for these critically important bills will help put the national debate on immigration back into its proper form: as a discussion about working families. Not criminals, not deviants, not foreign nationalists -- simply families struggling to achieve a common American Dream.
Brave New Foundation hopes to help provoke that discussion by launching a major campaign on the struggles and aspirations of immigrant families in America, beginning with this video. We will continue that discussion on these pages, with future videos throughout the year. Read more at A Dream Deferred.
Brave New Foundation founder Robert Greenwald is a board member of AlterNet's parent organization, the Independent Media Institute.