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Ike’s Nightmare

1:56 pm in Military, Politics by Derrick Crowe

Fifty-one years ago today, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued his final, prescient warning about the rising power of the military industrial complex. More than half a century later, we find ourselves in a political system which has ignored Eisenhower’s sound advice as the influence of the war industry on our society reaches a crescendo. Nowhere is this “disastrous rise of misplaced power” more apparent than in the debate about the Pentagon budget taking place in Washington, D.C.

Eisenhower’s final speech is worth quoting at length:

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

“[I]nfluence…sought or unsought” is certainly a generous description of activity of war industry giants, which was already under way as Ike gave his speech. Were he in office today, Eisenhower likely would have foregone this nod to the possibility of naive goodwill from war profiteering companies. In the first three quarters of 2011, the military aerospace sector spent more than $46 million on lobbying, with war profiteering giant Lockheed Martin accounting for almost a quarter of that spending. In no way can we imply that today’s war industry is acquiring “unsought” influence. They’re working to buy our elected officials outright. Read the rest of this entry →

Petraeus “Understands the Frustration” With Spending “Enormous Amounts of Money,” But He’ll Keep Spending It If You Let Him

10:19 am in Afghanistan, Countries in Conflict by Derrick Crowe

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

When testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General David Petraeus told senators that he understood the frustration with the Afghanistan War, conceding that “we have spent an enormous amount of money.” The general has a gift for understatement.

We are spending $2 billion a week on this futile, brutal war that’s not making us safer, and even that “enormous” amount of money (to say nothing of the lives lost or broken) hasn’t hammered the square peg of a military solution into the round hold of the crisis in Afghanistan. News flash: if you can’t turn the war effort around with 30,000 more troops at a cost of $1 million per troop, per year, maybe the military solutions aren’t solutions after all.

To say the American people are “frustrated” is putting it very, very mildly. Despite the mainstream media’s best efforts to pretend there’s no war on (last year, Afghanistan coverage comprised about 4 percent of all news coverage), a large majority of Americans say they follow Afghanistan news closely. The vast majority of Americans now tell pollsters they want Congress to act to speed up troop withdrawals, and most likely voters want all troops out within a year. A record 64 percent now say that the war hasn’t been worth fighting, a 20-percent jump in opposition since President Obama announced his latest troop increase.

Millions of Americans are still burning in an economic hell while our leaders waste precious resources on Hellfire missiles. Just one statistic drives it home: the poverty rate for children in the U.S. may soon hit 25 percent. And while those kids are living in hotels or on the street, or wondering where their next meal will come from, Petraeus will keep right on “understanding” your frustration while he spends almost $10 billion a month that could be used right here at home, getting those kids and their families back on their feet. We can’t let that happen.

Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan is fighting to get the truth out about this war while the mainstream media sleeps on it. If you’re fed up with this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter, and join a local Rethink Afghanistan Meetup. Together we can make sure Petraeus and politicians in Washington, D.C. really understand our frustration and bring our troops home.

$547 Million Can’t Paper Over Failure of Afghanistan War

5:55 pm in Uncategorized by Derrick Crowe

The Pentagon’s public relations machine is working overtime these days trying to sell a theme of "progress" in Afghanistan to push back against calls to end the war. The message machine behind this push is gargantuan, costing $547 million and employing more than 27,000 people. But, as our latest Rethink Afghanistan video shows, all that wasted P.R. money can’t paper over the fact that the Afghanistan War isn’t making us safer, and it’s not worth the cost.

So far, we’ve seen General David Petraeus give headline interviews on NBC, CBS, BBC, FOX News, and schedule an upcoming headline interview on ABC. He’s given interviews to The New York Times and The Washington Post. He’s kicked the Pentagon’s P.R. apparatus, especially that of the U.S. 3rd Army and its paid contractors, into gear, churning out articles to push his narrative of "progress."

An investigation last year by the Associated Press uncovered the staggering reach of the Pentagon’s P.R. apparatus:  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Who’s the Huckster for This High-Interest War?

5:00 am in Uncategorized by Derrick Crowe

On college campuses, credit card companies entice naive undergrads into signing up for super-high-interest-rate credit cards by giving away “perceived high-value items” like t-shirts or coffee mugs. They’re called perceived high value items because they really aren’t worth as much as people assume. Their only purpose is to distract from the terrible terms in the fine print of the contract you’re signing.

Someone’s word on the Afghanistan escalation is a perceived high-value item, either Petraeus’ or President Obama’s, or both.

The president’s December 2009 decision to add 30,000 more troops on top of his prior troop increase was always the wrong decision, but in the course of making that decision, he made an explicit deal with the restless American voter:

“And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.  After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

General Petraeus explicitly agreed to this timeline before the December 2009 announcement of the latest troop increase:

“The only way we’ll consider this is if we get the troops in and out in a shorter time frame,” Obama said.

Obama was moving out of his probing mode and toward conclusions and eventually presidential orders. …[T]he Pentagon was to present a “targeted” plan for protecting population centers, training Afghan security forces, and beginning a real—not a token—withdrawal within 18 months of the escalation.

[The President said:] “If you can’t do the things you say you can in 18 months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?”

“Yes, sir, in agreement,” Petraeus said.

…The commanders couldn’t say they didn’t have enough time to make the escalation work because they had specifically said, under explicit questioning, that they did.

Now, with their strategy limping embarrassingly toward quagmire, the generals are putting on a full-court-press in the media, pushing for more time and resources, to redefine the President’s explicit promise to limit the troop increase to 18 months, and finally to have him break his word to the American people. Read the rest of this entry →

Petraeus’ Oily Spin about Progress in Afghanistan

5:00 am in Uncategorized by Derrick Crowe

With General Petraeus’ stop on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric now halfway over, it’s worth taking a moment to unpack the unchallenged, false assertions and implications he’s piled up thus far on his media tour. We decided to look into the claims he made about "oil spots" of "progress" during his interview with NBC’s David Gregory. Both claims were absolute fantasies, and the remaining journalists on Petraeus’ tour owe their viewers more rigorous skepticism than what we saw on Meet the Press.

Despite Petraeus’ use of the term more than a dozen times in his MTP interview, virtually no data that shows strategically significant security “progress” in Afghanistan since the start of the latest escalation. According to the Afghan NGO Safety Office (ANSO), emphasis mine:

…[T]he number of provinces having more than three attacks per day has grown from 1 to 4 while the number of provinces seeing the lowest rate (<1 per 2 days) has dropped from 22 to 19. Overall ANSO assess that, in terms of daily attack rates, 23 provinces have remained stable, 1 has improved and nine provinces have deteriorated being Nangahar, Paktya, Kandahar, Paktika, Uruzgan, Helmand, Ghazni, Farah, Kunduz.

AOG are presenting a formidable geographic presence and are escalating attacks, in areas well outside of IMF main focus, at their own direction and tempo.

Needless to say, if insurgents are initiating many more attacks “at their own direction and tempo,” International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has not “regained the initiative.”

But let’s talk specifically about General Petraeus’ "oil spots." . .

Read the rest of this entry →

Media Failing to Ask Tough Questions on Afghanistan War…Again

9:32 am in Uncategorized by Derrick Crowe

Sign our act.ly petition to tell the next journalists on Petraeus’ media tour to ask tough questions and expose his effort to extend the Afghanistan War.

General Petraeus is on a media tour to sell the idea that the U.S. military is “making progress” in Afghanistan, a well-worn message aimed at convincing elites to extend this brutal, futile war. So far, it looks like the mainstream media is buying it, hook, line, and sinker.

Petraeus kicked off his spin campaign this morning with an hour-long special on Meet the Press with David Gregory. The piece opened with a montage of Petraeus doing sit-ups, and later showed him jogging, with Gregory opining about him wearing out troops half his age. Gregory went out of his way to set up a "Petraeus saves the day" narrative, asking the general if the situation in Afghanistan reminds him of the "dark days" in Iraq just before Petraeus "succeeded" with the surge. Petraeus hammered home his one-word message relentlessly: progress. Gregory feigned tough skepticism, but betrayed his hero-worship with setups like, "Watch how savvy Petraeus is when he answers my tough question." Throughout, Gregory’s sheepish grin conveyed the sense that he wanted to hug Petraeus instead of critically probe his assertions.

As Petraeus battered viewers again and again with his "making progress" theme, Gregory failed to ask probing, skeptical questions. When Petraeus mentioned "oil spots," as if the stain spreading across Afghanistan were one of security, Gregory failed to press him on the huge increase in civilian deaths, the 87-percent spike in violence and the incredible explosion of IED attacks over the last several months. When he brought up the outrageous TIME Magazine cover showing a woman’s mutilated face, Gregory failed to mention the attack happened last year and that TIME Magazine’s cover grossly distorts the choices before the United States. When Petraeus denounced the Taliban’s recent killing of a pregnant woman, Gregory failed to press Petraeus on ISAF’s own killing of pregnant women earlier this year in which bullets were reportedly dug out of a screaming woman by special forces troops before she bled to death. Gregory didn’t do journalism today. He provided a platform for military spin. Read the rest of this entry →

Spike in Civilian Casualties Shows U.S. War Policy Is Failing Afghans and Americans

12:05 pm in Uncategorized by Derrick Crowe

The new United Nations report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan shows that the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is failing, even according to the military’s own doctrine.

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan reports that the number of civilians killed in the first six months of 2010 spiked by 25 percent compared to the same period last year. According to counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine, the coalition’s inability to protect civilians from NATO- or insurgent-caused violence seriously undermines any political effort to win the support of the local population. From The U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual:

“Progress in building support for the [host nation] government requires protecting the local populace. People who do now believe they are secure from insurgent intimidation, coercion, and reprisals will not risk overtly supporting COIN efforts. (p. 179)”

“During any period of instability, people’s primary interest is physical security for themselves and their families. When [host nation] forces fail to provide security or threaten the security of civilians, the population is likely to seek security guarantees from insurgents, militias, or other armed groups. This situation can feed support for an insurgency. (p 98)”

Simply put, according to COIN theory, if you can’t prevent your own side from killing civilians, and you can’t offer credible assurances of security to the population, you lose. And, guess what? Judged by its own standards, the U.S. military is losing: . . .

Read the rest of this entry →

Invitees to President Obama’s UT-Austin Speech: Get Out of Afghanistan, War’s Failing, Set a Timetable

9:30 pm in Uncategorized by Derrick Crowe

Today, President Obama came to my town to give an invite-only speech at the University of Texas. Lacking an invite, I wondered what people with invites had to say about the Afghanistan War. Here’s what I found:

All the people who had tickets to the event who consented to be interviewed and who gave an opinion for or against are in this video, and their views are fairly represented. Of course, that’s not a surprise, given the levels of public disgust with this war, the higher levels of opposition among Democrats and the likely makeup of the invitee crowd.

Most Americans — 54 percent — think the U.S. should set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Forty-one percent disagree.

There is a partisan divide on the issue: 73 percent of Democrats think the U.S. should set a timetable, while only 32 percent of Republicans say the U.S. should do so. Fifty-four percent of independents want a timetable.

What is surprising, though, is the "heads down, follow through" attitude on the part of our elected leaders.

Ever heard of a thing called an election?

On Afghanistan, We Know a Distraction When We See It

4:55 pm in Uncategorized by Derrick Crowe

When it comes to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke wants to get technical, but only when it suits him.

This morning, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan went on NPR’s All Things Considered to take umbrage with reports, including Brave New Foundation’s latest Rethink Afghanistan video, that the Afghanistan War today supplanted Vietnam as the longest war in American history. He said, in part:

Just to be technical since I spent three and half years of my life in Vietnam, and we were taking casualties, and then I read the date that makes the longest war and I think to myself ‘Gee, that’s funny. I was in Vietnam a year and half before they started the war, according to these new journalistic reports.’

…They are dating the war from the Gulf of Tonkin incident. And that simply isn’t right.

I’m not surprised that a member of the executive branch would want us all to believe that a little thing like actual congressional authorization for the use of military force is a "technicality." But the simple fact remains that Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history if you measure from the moment that Congress authorized the use of force to the withdrawal of the last combat troop.

Read the rest of this entry →

Keeping the Spotlight on Afghanistan Tonight: Rethink Afghanistan’s Live Facebook Event

3:15 pm in Uncategorized by Derrick Crowe

The State of the Union talking points distributed by the White House this morning seem to indicate that the president will only briefly discuss Afghanistan tonight, but we are working hard to keep the spotlight on the Afghanistan war. Tonight, join us for a State of the Union watch party streamed live on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook page.

Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook campaign around the State of the Union address is really heating up. We’ve already been the focus of two big write-ups on techPresident and Mashable. Here’s what techPresident had to say:

But chattering on Twitter, or live-blogging it, which more than 2000 sites and organizations are apparently promising to do!–is hardly the only or best way to use a live event for online organizing. See, for example, what "Rethink Afghanistan," a project of the Brave New Foundation, is doing tonight around the State of the Union, via its staffer Derrick Crowe, writing on OpenLeft:

Note how Rethink Afghanistan is using multiple layers of engagement. Its strategists understand that people have many choices for watching SOTU–all equally good–but the opportunity to share the experience with other like-minded activists can add extra value to the experience. They’re also planning to add value to the speech video by adding a chyron with a running tally of the cost of the war throughout the speech, and with liveblogging by the group’s founder, Robert Greenwald. Finally, they’re hoping they can get their activists to generate some live feedback in a highly visible place, the White House’s Facebook page.

Check out the Mashable piece for a full description of what we’ve been up to over the past few days on Facebook and how it ties in to tonight’s event. Here’s a rundown of the agenda for tonight:

  • Rethink Afghanistan’s fan page will have a live stream of a part of Rethink Afghanistan (The Cost of War) prior to the speech at 8:30 p.m. Eastern / 5:30 p.m. Pacific.
  • Then, we’ll carry a live stream of the State of the Union address.
  • Brave New Foundation’s Robert Greenwald will be there for the conversation, and I’ll provide commentary and links to Afghanistan-related information.
  • After the speech, our whole mob will head over to the White House’s Facebook page to share our thoughts on his Afghanistan comments.

Please join us tonight starting at 8:30 p.m. Eastern / 5:30 p.m. Pacific on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook fan page. Let’s keep the focus tonight on ending the war in Afghanistan. Hope to see you there.