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Rethink Afghanistan: How Long is Now?

5:00 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Robert Greenwald writes:

On Monday, June 7, 2010, the Afghanistan War will complete its 104th month, replacing Vietnam as the longest war in U.S. history.

That’s an incredible investment of blood and treasure, and one that deepens by the minute. We’re spending $1 million per troop, per year in Afghanistan. To date, Congress has approved almost $300 billion in spending on the Afghanistan War. Combined with the costs for the war in Iraq, we’ve spent more than $1 trillion so far on war since 2001, just in direct costs. Right now, Congress is considering charging the U.S. taxpayer another $33 billion to pay for an ongoing troop increase.

And, don’t forget that more than 1,000 U.S. troops have died so far in this war.

If you’re like most people, the first word that comes to mind when presented with these facts is "depressing." This really is a tragic and terrible mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, right? There are enormous, critical issues we have to grapple with; Crushing national debt, hellish military occupations, even abstract (though no less "real") problems like what Tom Hayden calls "superpower arrogance," the institutionally-embedded idea that the US can enforce its national (i.e., selfish) interests worldwide with overwhelming military violence. One person, you, couldn’t possibly deal with this disaster.

But the truth is it really isn’t all that depressing. The problems are complex, confusing, and paralyzing, but the solutions are actually quite simple. Even as the war in Afghanistan becomes America’s Longest War with "no end in sight," as Andrew Bacevich says, we find that the key to ending the war has been right in front of us the whole time. There is, in fact, an end in sight and this grim milestone is our opportunity to finally notice it. Read the rest of this entry →

Rethink Afghanistan: Broken Government’s Body Count

7:00 am in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

One of my biggest pet peeves about war coverage is the constant flow of quasi-racist stereotypes about Afghans. You know, Afghanistan is the "Graveyard of Empires," they’re all xenophobic murderers, they’re "tribal" and backwards and illiterate and can’t handle modernity and on and on it goes. These slurs can work for either side. It’s the Graveyard of Empires, so we should pull out. Or they’re tribal, so we need to kill the bad ones and arm the good ones (great idea!). Obviously, the stereotypes are not true. After all, why is Afghanistan the Graveyard of Empires and not, y’know, the United States? Lots of great imperial powers have gotten their butts kicked there by kooky, backward white people and their slave-holding, witch-burning tribal law. They even have a violent global jihad against anyone who doesn’t willfully submit to their 18th century system of governance. But that’s a hateful and insulting perspective, perverted to the point of dangerous inaccuracy, so we reserve it exclusively for the Afghans (even Iraqis held on to the "Cradle of Civilization"). Here’s a piece, though, that I think might help cut through that, and show us just how much we have in common with Afghans.

However, more personal matters also contributed to [Hezb-e Islami MP Ataullah Ludin's] decision to step down from parliament. “People do not fully realize what our responsibilities as members of parliament are. They are actually three: the legislative function, the monitoring and opposition to government decrees that we do not accept, and the representation of our electorate, so that people’s desires and opinions can be assessed in parliament. [emphasis added]

Sound familiar? You’ve heard it before:

Bayh cited the lack of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill as his main reason for leaving, adding to skepticism that the fractiousness in Washington can be repaired and undermining President Obama’s efforts to build bridges.

"There is too much partisanship and not enough progress — too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving," Bayh said in a statement. "Even at a time of enormous challenge, the people’s business is not being done." [emphasis added]

Read the rest of this entry →

Election 2010: “Lefty Insurgents” and the Phony Revolution

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Oh my gosh, did you hear? There’s a revolution happening today! That’s right, you the governed citizens are literally overthrowing your government, and all it took was voting in the party primaries. Here’s Chris Matthews to explain:

Sounds like a revolution all right. Really, voting for Rand Paul is just like shouting "allahu akbar" at Khameini from a Tehran rooftop or getting crushed under the treads of a Soviet tank in Black January. Just like it. But wait, how come Specter is the evil establishment because he has the support of unions, but Halter is part of the "angry grassroots" because he…has the support of unions? Does the support of Daily Kos really qualify as fringey and outsider? Isn’t Markos Moulitsas like the Green Day of activists? Don’t get me wrong, my shelves are packed with his books, but I don’t think it really counts as punk rawk anymore. And how is Rand Paul an outsider? He’s the son of Texas politician Ron Paul, who’s really more of a brand name than a person at this point. There’s too many questions that don’t fit with our absurd narrative, so let’s skip it. Instead, let’s hear about the insurgency:

Next week, if Joe Sestak defeats Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Dem primary, and Sen. Blanche Lincoln is forced into a runoff against challenger Bill Halter, lefty insurgents will have scored two major victories against the Democratic establishment in Washington.

Neato, you’re an insurgent! Phone banking for Halter is kind of like burying an IED on your family farm, and really, isn’t the fact that you disagree with Blanche Lincoln on financial regulation kind of like she’s storming your house at night and gunning down your pregnant wife and young children? I mean you’re not just unseating Specter, you’re setting his dead body on fire and hanging it from a bridge in Fallujah. You didn’t know American politics were this hardcore did you? Thanks a lot media, it’s fun to be an insurgent!

But let’s get real. This media narrative about insurgencies and revolution is just plain bullshit. Today’s elections have nothing to do with throwing out the bum incumbents, and everything to do with affirming the status quo. Not a single candidate who opposes the war in Afghanistan is expected to win today. It will take a lot more than partisan primaries to achieve the changes we want to see. Read the rest of this entry →

Election 2010: Afghanistan Destroys Another Candidate

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

You know about the "horse race" in politics, right? It’s a game the media plays wherein they judge candidates on a series of meaningless garbage, like who has a "Jewish problem" or who "best represents the American dream." Basically, it’s a way for the pundits to look smart by picking a winner, the "right answer" if you will, without getting into the messy business of facts and policy. If they’re wrong about the "security moms," aw shucks, that’s the beauty of democracy, but if you’re wrong about empirical data, well, you’re just an idiot. Really it’s more like political bumper bowling than a horse race, but a horse race sounds sophisticated, so we’ve gone with that.

The problem is that candidates don’t actually run in that "horse race." They campaign on their platform of issues. McCain didn’t run against Obama by saying, "My fellow Americans, I’m running for President of the United States because Senator Obama has a Jewish problem." He campaigned on his platform, and voters decided on that. Today in North Carolina, Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham are facing off in the Democratic Senate Primary. So far the media narrative portray the race as some sort of insurgent, underdog candidacy by Marshall against the Beltway moneybags insider, Cunningham. But as always, the horse avoids any real issues, or in this case reality in general, and completely misses the point: It’s all about Afghanistan. Read the rest of this entry →

Feeling The Heat From Afghanistan Part 2: Lame Duck Incumbents

5:00 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Part 1 – 2010 Midterms: Both Parties Feel The Heat From Afghanistan

Last week we talked about politicians on both sides of the aisle suffering for their support of the war. In particular we looked at Democratic staple Jane Harman’s bloody primary battle with a challenger whose position on the war is merely moderate and mainstream. You wouldn’t normally expect a convention fight over a boring centrist compromise like a withdrawal time line and transition to a peace mission, but this is the political climate we’re dealing with right now. Constituents across the country are standing up and demanding to be heard, exactly as our political system is intended to function, and any representative who thinks they can ignore it is in for a terrible year. As I said in part 1, it’s no longer safe to support the war in Afghanistan.

But what about the dreaded lame duck incumbents who won’t be running again, the members of congress who aren’t really under any obligation to listen to their constituents? After all, they don’t have need any more re-election funds, campaign volunteers, none of that. With important votes like the supplemental budget still facing this congress, are these lame ducks able to run out the clock and support the war? Nope. Even the lame ducks are being brutalized by the war in Afghanistan. Read the rest of this entry →

2010 Midterms: Both Parties Feel The Heat From Afghanistan

8:00 am in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Stop the presses, we might have some good news on the war in Afghanistan. Savor it:

Washington, D.C. – In a letter sent to President Barack Obama today, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) urged him to set a flexible timetable for removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and transition to a sustainable counterterrorism strategy for the region.  The bipartisan group of legislators suggested that “rather than investing a disproportionate amount of our resources in Afghanistan, we need to shift resources to pursuing al Qaeda’s global network."

What, only a letter urging something? It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a positive sign that both parties are realizing the futility of Afghanistan. And they’re not turning against the war on their own, they’re listening to the American people. At a time when the CIA is writing memos on the best way to subvert democracies, it’s a good sign that at least our democracy is still working.

Last month, the anti-war movement got its 3 hour debate on H.Con.Res 248, and while the resolution itself ultimately failed, it did serve as a shot across the bow of the House leadership. While some may claim the movement is irrelevant, it proved we could still get even our wildest fantasies, like an immediate and complete withdrawal, all the way to the House floor for debate. Have the Repeal Obamacare folks done anything close to that? Nope, but it helps us keep this in perspective when we talk about which movements actually have real momentum and power, and which ones are just shameless partisan pandering. The movement to end the US conflict in Afghanistan does have momentum, and as we’ll see, it’s affecting both parties. Read the rest of this entry →