Tag Archives: Afghanistan

As we send ‘advisors’ back to Iraq . . .

Dexter Filkins* today.

In 2003, when American troops first rolled into Baghdad, they destroyed the Iraqi state and its institutions; for the next eight and a half years they tried to build something to replace it. The truth is that the political system imposed on the Iraqis has never worked very well without substantial U.S. involvement; since the Americans left, it hasn’t worked at all. American diplomats and military advisers can’t save Iraq and they can’t govern it, but the decision by President Obama to return to Iraq amounts to a recognition that there was work left unfinished. It’s likely to be a long and difficult job

*Filkins reported from the onset of Iraq War in March of 2003 through 2006.  In 2009, he won the Pulitzer Prize as part of a team of New York Times reporters in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

His book recounting those years – Forever War – is stunning and should be read by anyone who wants to see our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan up close. Reviews almost universally described it as a classic in the tradition of witness, a true account from the type of war correspondent rarely seen these days.

LA Times said it “is likely to be regarded as the definitive account of how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were experienced by those who actually waged them.” That’s about right.

Let’s remember more than the fallen . . .

image006 (2)Today is the 240th day of the twelfth year of the US war in Afghanistan. So as we approach 13 years there, and pass the 11th year of the Iraq occupation, let’s tune out those who would call a President who moves to extricate us a ‘traitor’. Instead, let’s remember Korea and Vietnam and the lessons we failed to learn from those two hapless interventions.

Afghanistan is already slipping back into its territorial and tribal fights and Iraq is facing increasing sectarian conflict reminiscent of the Sunni/Shia ‘civil war’ of 2005-06.

My hope for today is that those who call for more war will find no ears to hear. Let them shout into the wind.

Game of drones

POSTED BY ORHAN

nanoBritish troops in Afghanistan are now using surveillance drones small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

The new Black Hornet Nano weighs approximately half an ounce and carries a camera for remote viewing. Used to find insurgents and view open areas before crossing, the Hornet offers “amazing capability to the guys on the ground,” according to Sgt. Christopher Petherbridge of Britain’s Brigade Reconnaissance Force.

The UK drones were developed as part of a $31 million contract for 160 units. Drones are becoming standard issue in the US, British, and other military forces of the world.

So the next time you feel the need to ease the pain of your glaucoma, or perhaps you and your partner get the urge to do something just a little odd in your bedroom, make sure the shades are shut tight–’cause it’s only a matter of time before our new little friends will be watching us, folks.

Mini Drones: Army Deploys Tiny Helicopters

Pity the children

POSTED BY ORHAN

drone-childrenThe outpouring of grief over the Sandy Hook shootings continues. That one nation, if not the whole world, can express such pain and grief over the murders of these twenty children speaks to us of our innate human capacity for empathy and compassion.

Some pointed out the obvious almost as soon as it happened, but it didn’t seem right. After all, the horror of one act of brutality does not detract from the horror of another. To mourn the dreadful loss of one group of people takes nothing away from the suffering of another.

And yet the frenzy of national soul-searching continues unabated. So, amid the endless replays of interviews with sobbing parents, the minute cross-examination of media-sick residents, the near-nationwide outrage and demands that Something Must Be Done, can we pause to remember that hundreds of children have been murdered by US drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

And can we demand that here, too, Something Must Be Done?

There was this too

PBS coverage ended so I’m over at MSNBC for the first time (this is the fun part). Mathews called Christie’s speech ‘almost Churchillian’. And he meant it. He clearly admired the speech.

Tom Brokaw however, just had the most interesting observation: in all these hours, with all these speakers, there was not one single mention of the two longest wars in America’s history.

How ’bout that.  Enough. Off to bed.

 

He’s a man with a plan

Romney and Robin were on the trial today, out there, tie-less, with the people.

QUESTION: “If you guys take over Washington, what are you going to do about this damn mess in Afghanistan?”

ANSWER: “I can tell you this, when I become commander in chief if I’m so lucky, I will address the American people about these issues. […] With regards to Afghanistan, I will do everything in my power to transition from our military to their military as soon as possible, bring our men and women home and do so in a way consistent with our mission . . “

Wow. That’s bold. And so different from, ya’ know, what we’ve been doing for the last seven or eight years.

We did it! We got Al Quaeda’s #2! Yet again!

We are getting seriously good at this Number 2 stuff.

(That job is like being the Star Trek crew member wearing the red shirt. Bang, bang, you’re dead.)

Let loose the FOX hounds! The President of the US went to a war zone!

You already know . . . Obama, Kabul, signing something, speechifying, visiting some troops .  .  .

I have neither seen nor heard the right-wing noise machine gearing up for the outrage extravaganza, but I know the script. So do you.  He’s running for office! And, and, and this has never happened before. Yikes, I’m so very tired of it.

But this post is a natural opportunity, so let me remind us all that today is the is the 184th day of the eleventh year of the war in Afghanistan.

Our troops mugged for the camera – with body parts of Afghans

Here we are, again, and I am horrified, ashamed, embarrassed for my country. Our enemies won’t blame war-weary American soldiers. They’ll blame us – you and me.

The 82nd Airborne Division soldiers arrived at the police station in Afghanistan’s Zabol province in February 2010. They inspected the body parts. Then the mission turned macabre: The paratroopers posed for photos next to Afghan police, grinning while some held — and others squatted beside — the corpse’s severed legs.

A few months later, the same platoon was dispatched to investigate the remains of three insurgents who Afghan police said had accidentally blown themselves up. After obtaining a few fingerprints, they posed next to the remains, again grinning and mugging for photographs.

Every one of these ghoulish acts committed by American troops are committed in our name.

How should they be punished? Dishonorable discharge? Military prison? Or shall they be charged with “providing aid and comfort to the enemy”- and tried for treason? What does a nation do to these men? How do we stop it?

I haven’t posted the duration lately; now seems appropriate.  Today is the 171st day of the eleventh year of our war in Afghanistan.

LET ME ADD: In a comment below, JR reminds me of how damanged some of these troops are. He is right; I should have included that. Some are sent back two, three, four times . . . if their humanity freys at the edges, that’s on us too.

Perhaps he’s hitting a few golf balls?

I sure hope George Bush is having a nice life.

Today is the 145th day of the 11th year of the War in Afghanistan.

And are we still at ‘war’ in Iraq? We invaded that country nine years ago this month, so something like 4,000 days?

$1.3 Trillion American dollars (mostly borrowed, can’t raise taxes ya’ know; this ain’t the 1940’s fer Elvis’ sake!). Watch the dollar clock here.

US military dead in Iraq – 4486.

US military dead in Afghanistan – 1914.

Something terrible has happened

In this country we’ve grown all too accustomed to it. A man or a boy opens fire and kills multiple innocents. And we never know why.

That happened this morning In Afghanistan. An American soldier has done it.

That is all I know. I am shaking with shock and with fear that this event, this single mad act of perhaps a mad person, could change everything. I am terrified that in a part of the world where our position is increasingly fragile, this could precipitate even more terrible things.

Well done! We’re right back in 1979; this time in Afghanistan

From today’s story in The Washington Post about the growing demonstrations in Afghanistan following the burning of a pile of Korans.

Nine Afghans were killed Friday [in Kabul]. . . [and]  six protesters and a police officer were killed in Herat Province when demonstrators tried to storm the U.S. Consulate. . . at each demonstrations, protestors shouted ‘Death to America’. . . More than 20 have been killed since the burning incident.

Remove this ‘causus belli’ of the Koran burning and that could have been written in 1979 about Iran, when 52 American Embassy employees were taken hostage.

While I’m on the subject: I haven’t posted that tally lately – Today is the 119th day of the 11th year of the War in Afghanistan.

Movin’ on out

A bad weekend in Afghanistan even as our withdrawal picks up energy. On this blog, I’ve regularly counted our days and years in that war as they’ve added up – today is the 25th day of the tenth year.

And now comes at last time to count down as well. The end of our war in Afghanistan, if on schedule, is 62 days from now.

Why I am going back to bed

I got two hours of sleep last night and I’m too old for that to be okay. So I was up much earlier than usual and at 6:00 am I turned on the TV for Morning Joe, which I rarely watch but what the hell else is on at 6am.

Cable box went out. I did the routine, unplugged, checked connections, gave it time, waited out the interminable Comcast reboot process. And the cable box went out.

Called Comcast. Spent 29 minutes (I timed it) on the phone (19 on hold). Their service reps are usually pretty good and even helpful, but the guy this morning must have been having a bad hair day. Eventually he sent a reset signal. And the cable box went out.  Need new box.This is the third time. All recordings will be lost. First service availability is Sunday; six days without service. Unacceptable. Comcast clearly hasn’t enough personnel to service their customers (and, I assume, really doesn’t care because in my area they’re all there is). I will rip the box from it’s hidey hole and carry it to Comcast. Where there will be a long line. I will try not to cry.

In my email this morning I find a dangerous dispute underway amongst my fellow Trustees (very local Endowment Trust). Beyond disagreement. This is not going to be pleasant and threatens to undo eight years of work. I will not think about it any more today. Tomorrow perhaps.

Also in my email this morning: Verizon tells me I’ve exceeded my monthly contract allowance on my cell and minutes are now being charged at a rate I’d rather not know about. But! But! “My account” at their website says no, no, not at all. Usage is in fact down. I must deal with Verizon. Which is best done in person and is possible because there’s a friendly store nearby. But I’m pissed anyway.

Am meeting my brother and his wife for lunch. Haven’t seen them since May, during which time I’ve lost quite a bit of weight which has made me feel great and look good! But we all know about odd family dynamics, right? When I got up this morning, I found that I’ve gained 20 pounds since last night.

And then. And then. Dear Elvis, and then I picked up my morning paper.

  • U.N. says Afghans torture detainees

KABUL, Afghanistan — Detainees are hung by their hands and beaten with cables, and in some cases their genitals are twisted until the prisoners lose consciousness at sites run by the Afghan intelligence service and the Afghan National Police, according to a United Nations report released here on Monday.

  • Gov. Scott targets university funding – not a disaster in itself; like most things it all ‘depends’. But:

Scott said that Rick Perry — the Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate — planted higher education reform in the Florida governor’s mind when the two met shortly after Scott’s election.

“He said, ‘I’ve got this plan in Texas, you ought to look at it,’” Scott recalled.

Perry was referring to the “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” policy paper created by Texas businessman Jeff Sandefer. A successful entrepreneur and energy investor, Sandefer also taught business classes part-time at the University of Texas until the school began hiring more full-time tenured professors.

Sandefer became an outspoken critic of state universities, particularly the system for promoting faculty. Tenure, critics say, places too much emphasis on research. To be promoted, faculty must publish original work. As a result, they spend less time in the classroom and often delegate teaching to graduate students.

(Ahhh. Inspiration from a State with the worst education record in the country. Way to go gov.)

  • Foreign plants and insects have slipped undetected into the US since 9/11, as customs agents were re-assigned to anti-terrorism, causing in some cases, devastating damage. It’s cost hundreds of millions – especially in CA and FL – in lost crops and higher grocery prices.

I don’t expect tomorrow will be any better.

Ten years in: we know who broke this but can anyone fix it?

When I began this blog, I made a habit of  regularly posting the count of years and days we’d been in Afghanistan. At first, I posted every day. Soon it was every week, then every two . . .  the last time was August 31.

But today I must, because today is the first day of the tenth year of the War in Afghanistan.

  • US dead: 1800
  • US wounded: 18,000
  • Direct war fighting dollars spent by US: $461 billion

And?

  • The Taliban are back.
  • Afghanistan remains splintered.
  • President Karzai is openly corrupt, and
  • he is derisively called the “Mayor of Kabul” and people are tyring to kill him

This war should have been over in a year or two.  It would have been had someone not had a yen for Iraq. Now we have no idea what we’re doing there and we can’t identify a way out. And when we do get out? Tragically, Afghanistan will revert back to what it’s been for a thousand years, confirming yet again that it is “the graveyard of Empires”.

Has a president ever left a bigger mess behind than George Bush did?

Never forget this either

POSTED BY ORHAN

Since 9/11, America has dished out a lot more than was done to us that day.

Some of the “achievements” that resulted from the 9/11 attacks include: the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, and displacement of up to four million more, as well as strengthening Iran’s influence in the region; the murders of hundreds of innocents by drone attacks in Pakistan, destabilizing the government and triggering the rise of the Pakistani Taliban; the breakdown of the rule of law, including preventive war and detention, kidnappings and renditions, extrajudicial murders, outsourcing of torture; the normalization and popular acceptance of torture techniques that we hanged war criminals for after WWII; the massive expansion of executive power to the point the President now asserts the authority to order the killing of anyone, Americans included, anytime, anywhere in the world, without explanation or justification; the expansion of domestic government surveillance of all Americans, including logging all internet activity and monitoring of phone conversations and financial transactions; normalization and acceptance of stop-and-search, humiliating pat-downs at airports, machine gun-wielding soldiers on streets and in subways, arrests of anti-war activists; expansion of the propaganda machine used to keep the population in perpetual fear, e.g., the three Pakistanis supposedly on their way to the US yesterday to attack by car bomb.

All this is old news, but it must be remembered, too. Today’s ceremonies are an integral part of the propaganda machine, even allowing for the fact that our tears are real; the cry “never forget” is now part of the national DNA. And we won’t forget: a hundred years from now, if America still exists, 9/11 will be used as an excuse for bombing third-world countries. 9/11 has become little more than a pretext for endless war and repression.

UPDATE FROM MOE: I just came accross this graphic at Sekan’s blog, along with a related story. I think it’s a perfect compliment to Orhan’s post and adds even more perspective, so I throwing it in.

War news is great this week!

Yeah for us!! We’re getting those numbers up in Afghanistan; that must mean we’re trying harder, yes?  August is now the month with the very mostest US troop fatalities in The Forever War*.

But that’s not all – this new report from the Wartime Contracting Commission chronicles the $60 billion we’ve wasted over the last ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A staggering $12 million squandered every day for the last 10 years — that was among the findings the Wartime Contracting Commission uncovered in more than two years of investigating war-related spending since 2001.

Good news all around and there’s even more! Today is the 329th day of the tenth year of the war in Afghanistan.  Think that’s all? Wait for it . . . . only 6 more days till the eleventh year!

Records falling everywhere in WarWorld. USA! USA! USA!

Afghanistan, cost of war and money to the Taliban

It’s been way too long since I posted an Afghanistan update, something I used to do frequently. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been there so long now that it’s receding into a background noise. The news media barely mentions Afghanistan any more unless more than a few Americans are killed.  (As for Iraq, it’s not mentioned at all.)

But I did continue my Afghanistan calendar and can tell you that today is the 292nd day of the tenth year of the war. That’s 73 days short of the 11th year. And we’ve spent almost $500 billion there. Add in Bush’s war, Iraq, and we’ve spent $1.3 trillion.

Here’s a little something from the Washington Post this morning – breaking news: we’re wasting money in Afghanistan and bunches of it are going to arm Taliban fighters:

. . . money was traced from the U.S. Treasury through a labyrinth of subcontractors and power brokers. In one, investigators followed a $7.4 million payment to one of the eight companies, which in turn paid a subcontractor, who hired other subcontractors to supply trucks.

The trucking subcontractors then made deposits into an Afghan National Police commander’s account, already swollen with payments from other subcontractors, in exchange for guarantees of safe passage for the convoys. Intelligence officials traced $3.3 million, withdrawn in 27 transactions from the commander’s account, that was transferred to insurgents in the form of weapons, explosives and cash.

So it’s okay I guess.

The three amigos – on the road again

Sometimes I wonder what’s going on wtih these three. If you google “McCain Lieberman Graham” dozens of images come up – the trio traveling, the trio partying, the trio politicin’, the trio standing at various podiums. They are always together. And today they’re back in Kabul. Doing something.

Ahh, here’s what they’re doing . . . they went to Afghanistan to have a press conference to criticize Obama’s announced troop drawdown. Because you can’t do that from D.C. And this is just the weekend to criticize the Presdident on foreign soil.

Hope they get some barbeque. And beer.

Days, dollars, dead

2001 to present: Iraq and Afghanistan

DAYS: I just can’t count them – a decade times two. Figure it out.

DOLLARS: $1.2 trillion

DEAD SOLDIERS: 6060

Afghanistan – nearly into the tenth year; 1600 US fatalities, 11,700 wounded, $419 billion.

Iraq – well into  the eighth year of that war; 4460 US fatalities, 32,227 wounded, $783 billion.

And me? I’m headed off to visit, eat hamburgers, hot dogs, wilted salad and watermelon. And so it goes.

Blind over Iraq

In my father’s final years his macular degeneration progressed to the point that he was no longer able to read. When that happened, we signed up with a remarkable books-on-tape program offered by the socialist Library of Congress; a special tape player was shipped to him along with a thick socialist catalogue of book titles with detailed descriptions from which to choose. This catalogue of new books came every two months. For a few years, he and I went over each issue together, choosing his reading for the next two months. Eventually I did it alone. “You know what I like” he said. I placed his orders on the socialist organization’s website and the tapes began arriving immediately. Each title came in a rigid plastic case, which we faithfully dropped back in the socialist mailbox for return as soon as it was were finished.

Besides books – history, religion, fiction, true crime – there were news magazine in his mail very week and The New York Times weekly summary of the news. (His secret pleasure was People magazine and until this moment no one but me ever knew that.)

His favorite newspaper, the twice monthly National Catholic Reporter, was not avialble on tape. So I began to read it to him.

That how it came to be that I – the most secular of people – became such a fan of NCR that I made sure the subscription was redirected to me after his death. It offers fresh and thoughtful perspective on global issue. So, like I said, I’m a fan.

The April 29 issue has a powerful editorial on our forgotten war in Iraq. It’s not online, so no easy cut and paste or linkie. Here’s an edited summary with the gist of it:

. . . the Iraq war is as real today for millions of displaced Iraqis as it was the evening we launched cruise missiles over Bagdad . . . in this country of only 30 million people up to two million of them – the best and brightest – have fled to Jordan and Syria. Most will never return. Another two million have been uprooted internally . . .these mostly impoverished millions scramble for basic necessities – jobs, apartments, food, health care. It’s as if the residents of New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania had to leave and go to Canada.

The effects of war linger far beyond the battlefields of conflict. It took 20 years to settle the two million Vietnamese ‘boat people’. That war had complex roots, but the roots of the Iraq war are traceable right to the Bush White House. The United States then, carries unique responsibility for the displaced Iraqis. We cannot shirk our moral responsibility.

This is as good a time as any to mention that we’re in the ninth year of the war in Iraq and today is the 213th day of the tenth year of the War in Afghanistan. We’ve spent $1.2 trillion and lost 6000 troops. Casualty numbers are enormous as well.

Bin Ladin is dead?

wow. And it was us who got him.

I hate taxes but war money is just fine

Robert Greenwald directs us to this website, How Much Did You Pay for War THIS YEAR.  It’s a project of Rethink Afghanistan and the calculation proports to be for that war only. But the small print indicates the results include ‘other military spending’, so it’s a bit manipulative though not dishonest. Even if it counts every paperclip in the Pentagon, it’s stunning. I calculated a few using ‘single’ as status..

EARNED $40k?   You paid $1694. Using this year’s cost as an average, that means since 2001, you paid almost $17,000.

EARNED $50K?   You paid $2379.  Using this year’s cost as an average, that means since 2001, you paid almost $24,000.

EARNED $70K?   You paid $3749.  Using this year’s cost as an average, that means since 2001, you paid almost $40,000.

Since I’m on the subject – today is the 181st day of the tenth year of that war. We are now 184 days away from the 11th year.

Feeding kids doesn’t bring in those campaign contributions

Here’s a concise expression of our misplaced governmental priorities. We need to ask, as Orhan did in a comment thread, what’s a country for anyway?

From a recent Robert Greenwald column:

“the entire alleged shortfall in Wisconsin could be covered by bringing just 180 troops home from Afghanistan.” How about that.

While we’re at it, let’s note that today is the 161st day of the tenth year of the war in Afghanistan.

Must admit, the lady can turn a phrase

UPDATED BELOW: Maureen Dowd today on Paul Wolfowitz, who is impatient for us to get involved in Libya (and getting time on all the news shows to say so).

Iraq? It'll be a cakewalk.

  “You would think that a major architect of the disastrous wars and interminable occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq would have the good manners to shut up and take up horticulture.”
 
UPDATE: Well, they’re all crawling back out from under the woodwork. Seems young Billy Kristol, legacy neo-con and  professional chicken-hawk also thinks we ought to go at it. To wit:

“I think at this point you probably have to do more than a no-fly zone. You probably have to tell Qaddafi he has to stop his movement east and that we are going to use assets to stop him from slaughtering people as he moves east across the country. We might take out his ships in the Mediterranean. We might take out tanks and artillery.”

So Bill, you enlisting this time?
 

It hasn’t gone away

While we watch events unfold in Libya and Egypt and Tunisia and Yemen and Somalia and Abu Dhabi and Dubai and (?) Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Syria and as Pakistan teeters (please, please, please, not Pakistan) and Iraq is back to unseemly behavior, may I beg your indulgence and remind that: today is the 156th day of the tenth year of the War in Afghanistan.

Sunday for the rest of us

 So it’s Superbowl Sunday – here at home, at CBS where the always excellent Sunday morning show still delights even if the usual audience departed to begin the marathon of  pre-game shows – and in Afghanistan, where Sunday morning may be indistinguishable from any other morning. And where today is the 123rd day of the tenth year of the war.   

And the beat goes on . . .

While the Middle East appears to be going through its thing (Renaissance? Reformation? French Revolution?), I’m reminded there are still protesters (the kind that blow up bombs) in Iraq and Afghanistan.  While our eyes have been focused elsewhere, our wars go on; it seems to be bombs in Iraq and bullets in Afghanistan, where today is the 117th day of the tenth year of the war there.

Sweet Sunday morning – here and there

It’s early Sunday morning. The sun isn’t yet up. I love this gentle quiet before the world around me rouses itself. There’s a fresh pot of coffee – that steaming first cup, so appreciated this cold Florida morning (it’s in the 30’s outside). The heat in my old house blows hot and cold.  I’m thinking about wood stoves and how one would be lovely right now. My neighbor fires his up at the first hint of cold and even inside I can smell that earthy wood smoke.

A nephew will be in town tonight (although he’ll be incommunicado until after the Packer’s game) and it’s pleasant to contemplate that visit with my second coffee warming my fingers.

These small graces put me in mind of the young Americans in Afghanistan, where today is the 109th day of the tenth year of the war there.

The essential oldie

Auld Lang Syne – with thanks to the great Scot, Robert Burns (who would be stunned to find that, in this 21st century, an American empire ignored history and took soldiers and weapons to the ‘graveyard of empires’. To Afghanistan. And that today, this New Year’s Eve, is the 86th day of the tenth year of our apparent suicide.)