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It’s Long Past Time to Admit: The Military Solution in Afghanistan Has Failed

9:36 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-authored by John Amick

Sunday, October 7, marks the 11th anniversary of the Afghanistan war, now the longest war in U.S. history. This date provides an opportunity to take stock of what a tragic calamity this war is over a decade after its start, and to examine, once again, why military solutions are not effective in solving deep, systemic complexities of a country like Afghanistan.

Most immediately, the conditions look more dire than ever. The failed troop surge that started in 2009 is over. America officials are giving up hope for reconciliation with the Taliban. More Americans and NATO soldiers are dying from rising insider attacks at the hands of Afghan soldiers, leading to talk of a possible early NATO withdrawal. The arbitrary exit date from Afghanistan is still set for the end of 2014, though no one in Washington can explain the plan for a gradual drawdown or really any strategy for ending the war at this point. 

Long term, the numbers of dead, wounded and dollars allocated as a result of this war are staggering:

- An estimated 20,000-plus dead Afghan civilians

- 2,000 dead American troops, and over 1,000 more coalition troop fatalities

- 18,000 wounded NATO troops

- 1,600 American amputees (from Afghanistan and Iraq wars)

- Hundreds of thousands of vets dealing post-traumatic stress disorder

- $1.2 trillion — $2 billion per week – spent

- At least $55 billion in estimated veteran health care costs ahead, as thousands of vets continue to wait for benefits to materialize

President Obama, members of Congress and Pentagon officials can posture about the sacrifices of troops in this war and how we all must support them now more than ever. Such declarations are an insult to anyone who was sent to this quagmire and now must deal with what is too often the shattered wreckage that is post-war life. What do veterans get when they come back from war? The backend of a 800,000-plus backlog of other veterans waiting for disability benefits; the average wait for a response to a disability claim is about 260 days. In addition, the rates of military suicides, homelessness and unemployment are all at or near record highs. It’s tragic what many veterans face upon return. If government officials put as much effort into caring for troops’ well-being after returning from wars as they do for exploiting them before and during combat, these problems may not be so monumental. 

As Americans, now is the time to drive home the point with our elected and military officials that throwing troops and cash at historically complicated, troubled areas of the world, like Afghanistan, is not the answer. It has failed time and again.

This goes without mentioning the trillions spent in the last decade on this war and another failed military adventure, the Iraq war. As America’s economy, infrastructure and general welfare of its citizens rapidly declines, how can we not point to flippant war making and profligate Pentagon spending as primary culprits? What about needs at home? Instead of more overseas exploits, officials need to realize our own country is in desperate need of the attention and resources they have squandered this past decade. 

Poll after poll signals a complete loss of appetite among the American public for much more of this war. Long ago, American officials decided they need not heed the will of the electorate when it comes to sustained, reckless use of military force.

So what now as we wait for 2014? Those in the halls of power who desperately seek a camera and microphone to offer more empty platitudes will get their way. Afghan civilians will go about their lives, as they’ve seen invading empires come and go, unable to control the region, for centuries. Troops will continue to follow aimless orders. More anger and frustration in Afghanistan will build, meaning more civilians and troops will die.

We as the American public have a choice beyond voicing our disapproval to pollsters. We can elect candidates who have learned lessons from the last decade and are not so quick to try and solve complex international problems with invasions, occupations and drone strikes. We can realize that if we want to bring this thing to an end, we have speak up and mobilize. This is unacceptable, for the Afghan people, for all troops asked to die so a few can control the world, to the families of those who won’t come home, to all Americans that feel the effects of a country more dedicated to war than its people.

In Afghanistan, the Dam Breaks

6:31 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-authored by Derrick Crowe

The news just keeps getting worse in Afghanistan for the United States. Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan project has warned for years that the premises of a counterinsurgency there were unrealistic and unworkable, and the ability of a handful of bad actors to completely seize control of the narrative with atrocious actions validates our warnings. The “hearts and minds” effort has completely melted down over the past few weeks, illustrating once again that this war isn’t making us safer and it’s not worth the costs.

Yesterday, the Taliban suspended talks with the U.S. in Qatar due to the U.S.’s failure to follow through on releasing five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay. They also balked at the U.S.’s demand that the Taliban engage with the Karzai government, calling such a move “pointless.” Karzai, for his part, is now demanding that U.S. troops get out — now — of Afghan rural areas and stay on their bases, likely in response to the butchering of 16 civilians by a U.S. military member in Kandahar.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill bad news, either:

“I’m really shocked, these are two pieces of very bad news,” said one senior western diplomat in Kabul. “It’s probably the bleakest day of my time here in Afghanistan.”

What you are seeing is the latest of any number of indicators over the last few months that the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is in total collapse.

Two years into the escalated war effort, the rate of attacks initiated by insurgents continues to grow, up 14 percent in 2011 over 2010. And, when you consider that the prior year had already seen a 65 percent increase, it’s clear that the promises of increased security and reduced civilian and military casualties fed to the American people by the Pentagon were just so much garbage propaganda. Lest we forget, Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in December 2009, prior to the latest escalation, that the new strategy “must — and will — improve security for the Afghan people and limit both future civilian and military casualties.”

Since then, almost 1,000 additional U.S. troops have been killed, 10,680 have been wounded, and countless Afghans have been killed, maimed or driven from their homes by the conflict. Our government has charged us $2 billion a week for this fiasco, right in the middle of an absolutely vicious jobs crisis. Mission accomplished? Hardly. Despite the continued lies from the Pentagon, the war effort is continuing to fail to bring security to Afghanistan or stop the march of the Taliban.

This context makes the most recent litany of disasters that much more alarming:

  • January 2012: a video of U.S. Marines urinating on dead insurgents–a clear violation of U.S. military and international law–sparks widespread outrage.
  • February 20: U.S. forces burn copies of the Koran near a detention center in Parwan.
  • Massive protests break out across Afghanistan resulting in several deaths, including the execution-style killing of two American servicemembers inside a heavily guarded Afghan ministry building, likely by one of their Afghan colleagues.
  • March 11: A U.S. soldier goes on a rampage in Kandahar, killing 16 civilians before surrendering at his base.
  • Today, Karzai demanded the immediate removal of U.S. troops from rural areas as the Taliban cut off talks with the U.S.

The Associated Press analyzed Karzai’s demand to remove U.S. troops from rural Afghanistan thus:

“…It would essentially mean the end of the strategy of trying to win hearts and minds by working with and protecting the local populations.”

Come off it, people. We haven’t even won over the hearts and minds of the security forces we’re paying and training, much less the Afghan street, and the events of the last months make even saying the phrase, “hearts and minds” into a cynical joke. Protecting the population, by the way, requires you to actually reduce the total number of civilians being killed, maimed and displaced by the conflict. It’s not happening.

And by the way, Karzai’s not the only one who wants U.S. troops out of rural Afghanistan ASAP. A majority of Americans say they want U.S. troops out ASAP, and 60 percent say the war hasn’t been worth fighting.

The war for hearts and minds is over. It’s lost in Afghanistan, and it’s lost at home. The president and Congress should do us all a favor and stop letting people get killed for it, and get our people out of there.

Brave New Foundation’s War Costs campaign is continuing the work of our Rethink Afghanistan campaign. Please join us to stay updated on the latest news in the fight to end this war.

Follow Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe on Twitter.

Would a Koch Takeover of Cato Make War with Iran More Likely?

5:49 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-Authored by Jesse Lava

The drumbeat for war in Iran is getting louder, but opposition is coming from a seemingly unlikely source: the Cato Institute. This libertarian think tank generally sides with the Right, but it has long shown an independent streak, sometimes bucking conservative orthodoxy on civil liberties, the war on drugs, and U.S. militarism.

Will that change if Charles and David Koch succeed in their efforts to take over Cato?

The group is locked in a legal battle with the billionaire brothers, who have filed a lawsuit to appoint two-thirds of Cato’s board of directors. Today, Cato chairman Bob Levy has released a letter accusing the Kochs of trying to steer the group in a more partisan direction and compromise its independence. As detailed in Brave New Foundation’s upcoming film Koch Brothers Exposed, the Kochs are indeed notoriously partisan, funding Republican politicians in each election cycle and now allegedly promising to devote more than $200 million to defeating President Obama in 2012. Although they have long been financial backers of Cato–the group was originally named the Charles Koch Foundation–this move would put the organization entirely under their control.

That’s scary. For now, several thinkers at Cato are opposing the rush to war with Iran and refusing to shy away from criticizing Republicans. Senior fellow Doug Bandow writes, “The consequences of any war with Iran would be extraordinary. Probably far worse than resulted from the invasion of Iraq.” He assails Republican presidential candidates for their “reflexive war-mongering against Iran” because “every additional threat to attack Iran only more clearly demonstrates to Tehran the necessity of developing nuclear weapons.”

Malou Innocent, another foreign policy expert at Cato, says America should “ignore the hawks on Iran,” including those at the more reliably right-wing American Enterprise Institute. She is also calling for a quick end to the “waste of money, effort, and, most importantly, lives” resulting from the war in Afghanistan. Read the rest of this entry →

The Mayors Have Had Enough of These Useless, Costly Wars

4:18 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

The Afghanistan War costs American taxpayers more than $2 billion a week at a time when communities are falling apart, and our mayors are fed up. On Monday, the United States Conference of Mayors is expected to pass a resolution calling for a speedy end of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars so we can use those funds here at home. The mayors are exactly right.

You can put the New York Times’ summary of the crises these cities are facing next to the National Priorities Project‘s numbers and see how much these wars cost our hometowns.

  • Citizens of Lansing, Michigan, paid $114.2 million on the Afghanistan War so far, and New York City paid $15.4 billion; these cities are about to have to close fire stations.
  • Montgomery, Alabama paid $199.3 million and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania paid $1.7 billion; these cities are laying off teachers.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota paid $692.3 million; now they can’t fill potholes.

And here’s the big picture: “Local governments shed 28,000 jobs last month, the Department of Labor reported, and have lost 446,000 jobs since employment peaked in September 2008.”

These wars are killing our people, they’re killing our economy and they’re killing our communities. They’re not worth the costs. They’ve got to end.

The Defense Department is working overtime to stop any real drawdown from either country. They’re trying to fool us into thinking they’ve started a “drawdown” already by shuffling troops from Afghanistan to Kuwait (read: Iraq). They’re pushing for a fig-leaf withdrawal of a few thousand troops. That’s unacceptable.

Next week, President Obama is expected to make an announcement about his intentions for a troop drawdown from Afghanistan. He needs to do the right thing by our troops and by our communities and end these wars for good, starting with a major, swift and sustained withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Enough is enough.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who want to end the Afghanistan War, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.

A Groundswell for Significant Afghanistan Withdrawal

1:31 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

As President Obama prepares to announce his intentions for how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan this year, public opinion polls show the ground is moving under him. Over the past few days, several new surveys show a significant spike in the number of people who want to see big numbers of troops brought home. The war isn’t making us safer and it’s not worth the costs, and following Bin Laden’s death it’s become impossible for the American people to make sense of keeping troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan.

Two separate polls taken on June 3-7 by different firms show a significant shift in public opinion:

  • A CBS News poll shows a 16-percent increase in the number of people who think troops levels should be decreased (64 percent, vs. 48 percent last month in the same poll).
  • A survey by CNN shows a 9-percent jump compared to last month in the number of people who say the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops.
  • The CBS poll also showed that a whopping 73 percent of Americans believe the U.S. should withdraw a “substantial” number of troops from Afghanistan this summer.

These polls show a major move in public opinion as we approach the president’s deadline for the start of troop withdrawals; the American people are practically yelling at the White House to get troops home.

The CNN and CBS surveys also put into stark relief just how badly Washington, D.C. politics lag behind U.S. public opinion. None of the numbers bandied about over the past few weeks by public officials come close to being “significant” withdrawals. Senator John McCain says only 3,000 troops should be withdrawn, a paltry number that’s even smaller than the 5,000 troops suggested by an unnamed military official several weeks ago. Senator Carl Levin says 15,000 would be a better number, but that number wouldn’t even reverse President Obama’s first escalation of 17,000 troops, much less the 30,000 he sent in early 2010. Keep in mind, these numbers are in comparison to military force of well over 100,000, not including private security companies. The highest number among these anemic proposals, Levin’s 15,000, would leave more than 85 percent of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year. That’s a fig leaf, not a significant troop withdrawal.

The Afghanistan Study Group‘s proposal comes much closer to the sentiments of the American people. They propose “ceasefires, large troop reductions (30,000 this year, 40,000 in 2012), reformation of the Afghan government, and political negotiations within Afghanistan and amongst its neighbors to stabilize Afghanistan and the region, and to begin to get the United States out of Afghanistan’s quicksand.”

Note that we say the ASG’s proposal only comes closer to the sentiments of the American people. That’s because the last time anyone checked, the American people want all troops out within a year.

There’s a major groundswell building across the country for ending this war, and as the president prepares to announce his intentions for the Afghanistan War, he better pay attention.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who want to bring troops home from Afghanistan, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.

Memorial Day: Remembering Those Who Didn’t Have To Die In Afghanistan

10:28 am in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Arlington National Cemetery

"Arlington National Cemetery by Clarence Johnson, on Flickr


Memorial Day is a national holiday dedicated to remembering Americans killed in wartime. This year, unfortunately, we remember war dead who didn’t have to die, and unless Congress and the president act, we’ll remember more needless deaths next year. As of today, 1,516 Americans have died in the Afghanistan War, a conflict that the American people oppose and the continuation of which makes no sense.

Hidden from the front pages of newspapers and other media who can’t be bothered to devote significant coverage to the longest war in U.S. history, these dead troops had names and lives before our national policies forced them to give them up.

For example, 23-year-old Army Pvt. Thomas C. Allers from Plainwell, Michigan, was remembered as a “great kid, very sweet,” who enjoyed fishing with his parents. He died this week alongside Staff Sgt. Kristofferson B. Lorenzo, 33, of Chula Vista, California; Pfc. William S. Blevins, 21, of Sardinia, Ohio; and Pvt. Andrew M. Krippner, 20, of Garland, Texas.

These men didn’t have to die. They died because our politicians sent them to Afghanistan over the continued objections of their countrymen. Their comrades will continue to die until those politicians bring them home.

In a bitter moment of irony this week, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly failed to agree to amendments that would have reined in the brutal, futile war on the same day U.S. troops were suffering their worst losses in Afghanistan since Bin Laden’s death. But, as Robert Naiman points out, even though McGovern/Jones amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act failed, the vote margin was so narrow (204-215) that it sent a strong signal to the president that Congress’ patience with the constantly deteriorating and resource-hungry war was running out. As U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) put it, “[W]hen somebody comes up with the right amendment, it’s going to pass.”
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1,500 Broken Promises from Afghanistan War Backers

12:34 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

With Memorial Day coming up, we should take a moment to consider something that’s gone largely unremarked in the mainstream media: more than 1,500 troops have now died in a war the American people oppose. That’s a national tragedy, and it’s one Congress can mitigate by demanding a date certain for troop withdrawals and an exit strategy to get troops home.

Sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition to tell Congress to pass the Afghanistan Exit and Accountability Act.

It’s worth noting that the backers of the administration’s war policies swore to us that their plan would lead to fewer troop deaths, not more. Back in 2009, when the Pentagon was putting on a full-court press in support of massive troop escalations in Afghanistan, Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said:

“[O]ur extended security presence must — and will — improve security for the Afghan people and limit both future civilian and military casualties.” –Admiral Mike Mullen, Congressional Testimony, December 2, 2009.

Suffice it to say, that promise was false. According to

  • In Jan-May 2009, there were 61 U.S. troop deaths in the Afghanistan War.
  • In the same period in 2010, as escalations began, there were 141.
  • In the same period this year, there were 136.

Read the rest of this entry →

The Carnage Continues In Afghanistan

6:37 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

A quiet city in the north of Afghanistan ignited today after yet another NATO night raid reportedly tore another family apart. Thousands of people took to the streets, again chanting, “Death to America!” as they pelted Karzai’s billboards with mud and stones. They attacked police. They attacked the local NATO outpost. At least a dozen people were killed in the clash, which showed local rage directed at every level of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency strategy, from the local security forces, to our corrupt and feckless local “partners” in the Karzai government, to the U.S. itself.

Worse, this isn’t the only civilian killing by NATO forces even just this week. On May 16, Reuters reported:

“Foreign troops killed an Afghan child and wounded four others when responding to insurgent fire in volatile eastern Kunar province, the provincial Governor said on Monday, the third accidental killing of young civilians in less than a week.”

These deaths were senseless enough before Bin Laden was killed and al Qaeda driven from the country. Now, they’re downright obscene. With the last rational-sounding excuse for continuing the war, bringing Bin Laden to “justice,” gone, continuing this counterinsurgency campaign makes no sense, and it’s making Americans and Afghans less safe while wasting precious national resources. If you agree, please join Rethink Afghanistan in calling for an end to the war in the wake of Bin Laden’s death.

The uprising in Taloqan triggered by NATO’s killing of civilians is a microcosm of a larger dynamic playing out across the country. When one honestly looks at the data, the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan has been, at best, a miserable failure in its stated goal of “protecting the population,” or worse, a key driver in an ever-increasing cycle of violence and instability that puts civilians at risk.

Rising Violence in the Shadow of Escalation

Despite an escalation launched under the pretext of “reversing Taliban momentum” and “protecting the population,” attacks launched by insurgents and civilian casualties continue to rise. U.S. military leaders expect those numbers to continue to worsen over this summer. This is a strategy, remember, that Admiral Mike Mullen said, “must — and will — improve security for the Afghan people and limit both future civilian and military casualties.”

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Pentagon to White House, American People on Afghanistan: Take a Hike

6:46 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

The Pentagon is working the press again, this time in support of a so-called withdrawal plan that would break a promise made to the American people by their president. According to The Wall Street Journal:

“U.S. military officers in Afghanistan have drawn up preliminary proposals to withdraw as many as 5,000 troops from the country in July and as many as 5,000 more by the year’s end…”

This joke of a “withdrawal” plan isn’t anything remotely approaching a real drawdown. It’s less than a 10 percent reduction in U.S. forces in Afghanistan over 6 months. It puts the Pentagon squarely at odds both with the stated desires of the White House and the very clearly articulated will of the American people. If you agree, sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition to get the troops out of Afghanistan.

First, let’s remember what the White House said on this:

“After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home….[O]ur troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended — because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.”–President Barack Obama, Dec. 1, 2009.

“I’m confident that the withdrawal will be significant. People will say this is a real process of transition; this is not just a token gesture.”–President Barack Obama, April 15, 2011.

“In July of 2011, you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out, bet on it.”–Vice President Joe Biden, qtd. in Jonathan Alter’s The Promise.

The American people are and have been crystal-clear about their expectations for a drawdown for months now.

  • Rasmussen Reports’ latest polling (published on May 9, 2011) shows that 56 percent of likely voters want troops brought home within a year, and more than half of those want all troops withdrawn immediately. The number of likely voters who want troops home within a year has increased by four percentage points since the beginning of March.
  • A Pew Research poll taken May 5-8 shows that 49 percent of Americans want troops removed from Afghanistan “ASAP.”
  • An NBC News poll taken May 5-7 shows that 56 percent of Americans disapprove of leaving some troops in Afghanistan until 2014.

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Secretary Clinton, Bitter-Ender On Afghanistan War

5:56 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Hillary Clinton - Caricature

"Hillary Clinton - Caricature by DonkeyHotey, on Flickr

Osama Bin Laden is dead. You may have heard. There’s a major groundswell underway to force a rethink of the Afghanistan War in the aftermath, but some in Washington, D.C. refuse to change course. Case in point, here’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, failing to seize the opportunity to change direction in her remarks about Bin Laden’s death and the war:

“In Afghanistan, we will continue taking the fight to al-Qaida and their Taliban allies, while working to support the Afghan people as they build a stronger government and begin to take responsibility for their own security… Our message to the Taliban remains the same. You cannot wait us out, you cannot defeat us, but you can make the choice to abandon al Qaeda and participate in a peaceful political process.”

Translation: Business as usual in Afghanistan, move along. Her remarks promise more of the same broken policies that have kept us mired in the Afghan much for a decade now. Clinton’s tough talk and saber-rattling at the Taliban in her full remarks won’t lead to real reconciliation or clear the paths for peace talks, and it won’t bring troops any closer to home. That’s not where most Americans were while Bin Laden was still at large, and it’s certainly not where they are now that he’s gone, as evidenced this week by the tens of thousands of people signing our petition to bring troops home.

Think about it. Al-Qaeda is driven from Afghanistan, according to General Petraeus. Osama Bin Laden is dead. How do you justify to the American people the continued deployment of their loved ones in Afghanistan and the $2 billion we’re spending to occupy the country?

Are you going to sell them on the benefits of supporting the corrupt, feckless Karzai Administration?

Will the American people suddenly turn around and support a massive troop deployment they already opposed in huge numbers while Bin Laden was still at large?

We doubt it.

Secretary Clinton may be trying to look tough, but she and the others failing to see Bin Laden’s death as a major pivot point are severely out of step with the people they’re supposed to represent.

When news broke that President Obama was about to announce the killing of Osama Bin Laden, we posted the following on our Rethink Afghanistan Facebook page:

“President Obama is about to announce Osama Bin Laden is dead. Click ‘like’ if you think it’s time to get the troops home.”

About 2,000 people clicked “Like” within 12 hours.

Read the rest of this entry →