November 2011

Sen. Merkley's Harm Reduction Plan for Afghanistan Would Save Lives and Billions

If Senator Jeff Merkley's "expedite the drawdown from Afghanistan" amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act makes a strong showing, that could tip the Obama Administration towards a faster drawdown.

 

That would likely save hundreds of American and Afghan lives - not to mention all the people who wouldn't be physically and psychologically maimed - and could easily save the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars, at a time when the alleged need for fiscal austerity is being touted as a reason to cut Social Security benefits and raise the Medicare retirement age.

 

Everyone knows the Hippocratic Oath: "First, do no harm." It's a great motto to try to live by. But unfortunately, in this life on Earth, "Do no harm" isn't always on the menu at the restaurant. Sometimes, you're already doing harm, and there's no feasible immediate path to zero harm. Sometimes the best you can do in the short run is to reduce the harm as much as possible. And if that's the best you can do, then that is what you must do.

 

It's not politically feasible, unfortunately, to end the war tomorrow. But we could take a big bite out of it in the next week. And that would save many lives and real money. [You can ask your Senators to co-sponsor the Merkley amendment here.]

 

Merkley's amendment (#1174) says:

 

1) the President should expedite the transition of security responsibility to the government of Afghanistan;

 

2) the President shall devise a plan for expediting the drawdown of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan and accelerating the transfer of security authority to Afghan authorities prior to December 2014; and

 

JFP 11/18: US out of Iraq early December; Afghans afraid of US troops

Just Foreign Policy News
November 18, 2011


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I) Actions and Featured Articles

Tell the Senate: End the War in Afghanistan
Senator Merkey is introducing an amendment (#1174) to the National Defense Authorization Act that would expedite US military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Ask your Senators to support the Merkley Amendment.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/ndaa2012senate

PBS Need to Know 11/18: The Pentagon: Hard times, hard choices
Former NBC Pentagon correspondent Fred Francis hosts a panel of military experts who discuss the wisdom of spending on multi-billion-dollar airplanes and ships, and whether it compromises troop training and safety. They also explore whether military health care benefits and pensions should be cut, if overseas troop deployments dating from the 1940s and 1950s are still necessary and how the Pentagon can deal with foreign threats without spending too much during difficult economic times.
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/uncategorized/need-to-know-november-18-2011-the-pentagon-hard-times-hard-choices/12374/

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JFP 11/17: Amdmts: Merkley - speed Afghan exit; Kirk "nuclear option" Iran sanctions

Just Foreign Policy News
November 17, 2011


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Sen. Merkley introduces amendment to speed Afghan withdrawal
The amendment (#1174) says:
1) the President should expedite the transition of security responsibility to the government of Afghanistan;
2) the President shall devise a plan for expediting the drawdown of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan and accelerating the transfer of security authority to Afghan authorities prior to December 2014; and
3) within 90 days, the President shall transmit to Congress a plan with a timetable and completion date for the accelerated transition of all military and security operations in Afghanistan to the Government of Afghanistan.
Current co-sponsors: Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Mike Lee (R-UT); Rand Paul (R-KY); Tom Udall (D-NM).
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1071

Kate Gould: Nuclear Option Against Iran's Economy Paves Way for War
Senators Mitch McConnell and Mark Kirk have proposed an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would bind the administration into sanctioning Iran's central bank. Some U.S. officials have characterized this as the "nuclear option," in U.S. sanctions. Some Iranian officials have declared that any sanctions on the Central Bank would be treated as an act of war. The Obama Administration earlier rejected sanctioning Iran's central bank on the grounds that the resulting run-up in gas prices would hurt the U.S. economy.

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Sen. Merkley Introduces Bipartisan Amendment to Speed Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Today Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced an amendment (#1174) to the National Defense Authorization Act calling for an accelerated drawdown in Afghanistan.

The bi-partisan amendment is currently supported by: [updated 11/29]:

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sen. Bernard Sanders (D-VT)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

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Resolution on Afghanistan

To be offered to National Defense Authorization Act

Whereas, after al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, the United States rightly sought to bring to justice those who attacked us, to eliminate al Qaeda’s safe havens and training camps in Afghanistan, and to remove the terrorist-allied Taliban government;

Whereas, the Afghanistan War is now the longest in American history;

Whereas, United States’ troops, intelligence personnel and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden;

Whereas, national security experts, including Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, have noted that al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has been greatly diminished;

Whereas, over the past ten years the United States' mission has evolved to include a prolonged nation-building effort, including the creation of a strong central government, a national police force and army, and effective civic institutions;

Whereas, such nation-building efforts in Afghanistan are undermined by corruption, high illiteracy, and a historic aversion to a strong central government;

Whereas, members of the United States military have served in Afghanistan valiantly and with honor, and many have sacrificed their lives and health in service to their country;

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Sen. Merkley Introduces Bipartisan Amendment to Speed Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Today Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced he is introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act calling for an accelerated drawdown in Afghanistan.

The bi-partisan amendment is currently supported by:

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

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Resolution on Afghanistan

To be offered to National Defense Authorization Act

Whereas, after al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, the United States rightly sought to bring to justice those who attacked us, to eliminate al Qaeda’s safe havens and training camps in Afghanistan, and to remove the terrorist-allied Taliban government;

Whereas, the Afghanistan War is now the longest in American history;

Whereas, United States’ troops, intelligence personnel and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden;

Whereas, national security experts, including Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, have noted that al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has been greatly diminished;

Whereas, over the past ten years the United States' mission has evolved to include a prolonged nation-building effort, including the creation of a strong central government, a national police force and army, and effective civic institutions;

Whereas, such nation-building efforts in Afghanistan are undermined by corruption, high illiteracy, and a historic aversion to a strong central government;

Whereas, members of the United States military have served in Afghanistan valiantly and with honor, and many have sacrificed their lives and health in service to their country;

Whereas, the United States is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Afghanistan at a time when at home there is high unemployment, a flood of foreclosures, a record deficit, and a debt that is over $15 trillion and growing;

JFP 11/16: Media slammed on Iran report; Karzai firm on night raids

Just Foreign Policy News
November 16, 2011


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United Nations: Israeli Settler Violence in the West Bank

The weekly average of settler attacks resulting in Palestinian casualties and property damage has increased by 40% in 2011 compared to 2010, and by over 165% compared to 2009.

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JFP 11/15: Palestinian "Freedom Riders" Arrested on Bus to Jerusalem

Just Foreign Policy News
November 15, 2011


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With 13,111 New Peace Voters, Ron Paul Can Win the Iowa Caucus
If 2008 turnout and a recent Des Moines Register poll give an accurate picture of what would happen if the Iowa Republican presidential caucus were held today, that would indicate that the addition of 13,111 new peace voters by January 3 could carry the Iowa caucus for Ron Paul. This outcome is plausible; the benefits to the majority of Americans would be significant; the costs would be small. [A more recent Bloomberg poll now suggests that the race is a four way dead heat, so the case that a peace vote could determine the outcome has become even stronger.]
http://www.truth-out.org/13111-new-peace-voters-ron-paul-can-win-iowa-caucus/1321373390

Friday, November 18 - Ralph Nader presents: Bruce Fein & Tony Shaffer debate David B. Rivkin & Lee Casey on Bush & Obama: War Crimes of Lawful Wars?
This DC event will be broadcast on C-span.
http://www.debatingtaboos.org/2011/11/bush-and-obama-war-crimes-or-lawful-wars/

Glenn Kessler: Fact checking the South Carolina debate
Kessler examines the claims of Republican candidates during their foreign policy debate.

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JFP 11/14: GOP pushes Iran war; Barney Frank mocks military spending job claims

Just Foreign Policy News
November 14, 2011

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I) Actions and Featured Articles


With 13,111 New Peace Voters, Ron Paul Can Win the Iowa Caucus
If 2008 turnout and a recent Des Moines Register poll give an accurate picture of what would happen if the Iowa Republican presidential caucus were held today, that would indicate that the addition of 13,111 new peace voters by January 3 could carry the Iowa caucus for Ron Paul. This outcome is plausible; the benefits to the majority of Americans would be significant; the costs would be small.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/with-13111-new-peace-vote_b_1092802.html

Kit Kittredge: "Freedom Waves" - Another Challenge to the Israeli Naval Blockade of Gaza and the US Congress

Kit Kittredge, US passenger on the recent Canadian boat to Gaza, on why she undertook the journey.
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/11/14-6

New York Times dialogue: ideas for cutting military spending

Larry Korb and respondents put forward proposals for cutting military spending: cut troop levels, cancel weapons, close foreign bases.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/opinion/sunday/sunday-dialogue-ideas-for-cutting-military-spending.html

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Dear NYTimes: It's Called 'Diplomacy'

Today's New York Times print edition features an editorial concerning the findings of the most recent IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program. The piece begins with a standard, preemptive condemnation of Iran for pursuing nuclear weapons, followed by a prescription for harsher sanctions. Yet, in the very next paragraph succeeding this prescription, the editorial board expresses doubt that sanctions will do any good in deterring Iran from developing a nuclear weapon:

We’re not sure any mix of sanctions and inducements can wean Tehran of its nuclear ambitions. We are sure that a military attack would be a disaster — and the current saber-rattling from Israel should make everyone nervous. A military strike would not set back Iran’s program for very long. It would rally Iranians around their illegitimate government. And it would produce a huge anti-Israeli and anti-American backlash around the world — whether or not Washington had tried to stop it.

It seems that the Times editorial board is dancing around something as if it's lost for words. Or perhaps it simply refuses to acknowledge the obvious. It recognizes that sanctions may not work in resolving this issue. It recognizes that a military attack would be disastrous. But in prescribing additional, tougher sanctions, the Times establishes a false dichotomy. The options are not sanctions or war. These are not the only instruments at our disposal.

The word you're looking for, New York Times editorial board, is 'diplomacy.'

Perhaps you lump diplomacy in with sanctions, or with inducements, but diplomacy is neither of those things. It is not a reward for good behavior--it is how one comes to understand the position of an opposing party, and how two parties come to resolve their conflict.

US Activist Kit Kittredge Deported From Israel; Statuses of Many Activists, Members of Press Remain Unknown

Just Foreign Policy has received confirmation that activist Kit Kittredge, the US delegate to the Freedom Waves flotilla, is presently on a plane back to New York after being detained for 72 hours in the Israeli jail of Givon. The other US citizen that was detained, Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz, was deported last night to New York.

On Friday, the IDF commandeered the two vessels that comprised the flotilla and forcibly brought its passengers to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where Kittredge and Hafiz received very little in the way of aid or useful information from the US embassy, according to Hafiz. While other embassy's officials, such as the Irish ambassador, visited their nationals three times, a representative from the US embassy came only twice to visit Hafiz and Kittredge, both times late in the day. As recounted by Hafiz, the representative claimed that the US embassy was "powerless" in a foreign country, that the Israelis were "giving them the run-around," and that the prisoners requests for free association and reading and writing materials, standard for political prisoners, was "too much" to ask for. The most advice the US embassy could supply was to sign a deportation agreement that admitted that Kittredge and Hafiz had entered Israel illegally and that they wouldn't attempt to break the blockade of Gaza again. Both refused to sign this document and were released only after the time limit on detention was reached.