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Submitted by Robert Naiman on 15 February 2010 - 12:37pm
"Civilian casualties are inevitable," said U.S. officials before launching their weekend military assault on Marja in southern Afghanistan, and in this case, they were telling the truth. Yesterday, the New York Times reports, a U.S. rocket strike "hit a compound crowded with Afghan civilians... killing at least 10 people, including 5 children."
What justification has been provided by the government of the United States for its decision to kill these five children?
It will be argued that the government of the United States did not decide to kill these five children specifically, and that's absolutely true. The U.S. government did not decide to kill these particular children; it only decided to kill some Afghan civilians, chosen randomly from Marja's civilian population, when it decided to launch its military assault. These five children simply had the misfortune of holding losing tickets in a lottery in which they did not choose to participate.
Recall the U.S. government's instructions to Marja's residents before the assault:
Afghan villagers should stay inside and "keep their heads down" when thousands of U.S. Marines launch a massive assault on a densely-populated district in coming days, NATO's civilian representative to Afghanistan said Tuesday.
NATO forces have decided to advise civilians in Marjah not to leave their homes, although they say they do not know whether the assault will lead to heavy fighting.
These five kids were staying inside, as instructed. It didn't save them from U.S. rockets. Perhaps they weren't keeping their heads down.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 11 February 2010 - 2:07pm
The United States and NATO are poised to launch a major assault in the Marjah district in southern Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians are in imminent peril. Will President Obama and Congress act to protect civilians in Marjah, in compliance with the obligations of the United States under the laws of war?
Few civilians have managed to escape the Afghan town of Marjah ahead of a planned US/NATO assault, raising the risk of civilian casualties, McClatchy News reports. "If [NATO forces] don't avoid large scale civilian casualties, given the rhetoric about protecting the population, then no matter how many Taliban are routed, the Marjah mission should be considered a failure," said an analyst with the International Crisis Group.
Under the laws of war, the US and NATO - who have told civilians not to flee - bear an extra responsibility to control their fire and avoid tactics that endanger civilians, Human Rights Watch notes. "I suspect that they believe they have the ability to generally distinguish between combatants and civilians," said Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch. "I would call that into question, given their long history of mistakes, particularly when using air power. Whatever they do, they have an obligation to protect civilians and make adequate provision to alleviate any crisis that arises," he said. "It is very much their responsibility."
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 10 February 2010 - 1:49pm
Voters in Japan have spoken. They don't want the U.S. military Futenma base in Okinawa.
But instead of respecting the will of the majority of Japanese voters, U.S. officials have tried to bully the newly elected reformist Japanese government into reneging on its election promise to remove the US military base from Okinawa.
Since, as the world knows, the United States of America stands for "promoting democracy," why don't we promote democracy by getting our base out of Okinawa like Japanese voters want?
Last summer, Japan had a national election. Yukio Hatoyama, the new prime minister whose coalition won the election, campaigned on a promise to move the US military's Futenma base off Okinawa. But US officials pressured the Japanese government to break its election pledge, warning the Japanese government of "serious consequences" if it did not accept the base, the Washington Post reported. Threats by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates caused Japanese news media to describe him as a "bully," the New York Times reported.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 9 February 2010 - 10:30am
If Michael Moore would run for President in 2012, it could be a game-changer in American political life. For starters, it would likely shorten the war in Afghanistan by at least six months, and the American and Afghan lives that would be saved would alone justify the effort.
If Moore announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination now, and followed up that announcement with a vigorous campaign focused on the struggles of rank-and-file Democrats, it would re-mobilize rank-and-file Democratic activists. It's possible that he might even win; but win or lose, the campaign could arrest and reverse the current rightward, pro-corporate trajectory of our national politics, which is the predictable consequence of the failure of Team Obama to deliver on its promises from 2008, which in turn was the predictable consequence of the doomed effort to try to serve two masters: Wall Street and Main Street.
Like few people with his political views, Michael Moore needs no introduction to the Democratic primary electorate. To most rank-and-file Democrats, the name Michael Moore stands for a set of progressive populist ideas: health care for all, workers' rights, opposition to Wall Street's stranglehold on Washington, closing down the wars of empire and bringing our troops home.
In 1984 and 1988, the Jesse Jackson campaigns showed what could be accomplished running a populist, issue-based, movement campaign in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. In 1984, Jackson got more than 3 million votes, a fifth of the total, and won 5 primaries and caucuses. In 1988, he got almost 7 million votes and won seven primaries and four caucuses; at one point, following his victory in the Michigan caucus, he was ahead in delegates.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 2 February 2010 - 2:30pm
In the last week the New York Times and Inter Press Service have reported that the Obama Administration is having an internal debate on whether to supports talks with senior Afghan Taliban leaders, including Mullah Muhammad Omar, as a means of ending the war in Afghanistan. Senior officials like Vice President Biden are said to be more open to reaching out because they believe it will help shorten the war.
Wouldn't it be remarkable if this remained merely an "internal debate" within the Obama Administration? Wouldn't you expect that the part of public opinion that wants the war to end would try to intervene in this debate on behalf of talks in order to end the war?
As an administration official told the New York Times,
"Today, people agree that part of the solution for Afghanistan is going to include an accommodation with the Taliban, even above low- and middle-level fighters."
And in fact, US and British officials have been saying for months that the "endgame" in Afghanistan includes a negotiated political settlement with the Afghan Taliban.
Now, suppose you tell Mom that you want to have ice cream. And Mom says, you can have ice cream when you've eaten your spinach. Wouldn't you eat your spinach? If you don't eat your spinach now, you didn't want ice cream very badly.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 28 January 2010 - 2:15pm
Reverend Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, and Harry Belafonte, together with Haiti NGOs, peace groups, and Latin America scholars, have written to Congress urging that the delivery of medical aid and other urgently needed aid to Haiti be speeded up and prioritized over the deployment of U.S. troops.
The letter is here.
An article in the Miami Herald is here.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 28 January 2010 - 1:48pm
On foreign policy, while the President said some good things, he missed key opportunities to say better things. In particular, he missed opportunities to promote reconciliation as an essential way of ending our wars and promoting peace. In speaking about U.S. domestic politics, the President is eloquent in his efforts to promote reconciliation, but he seems to have lost his voice in applying these ideas to our foreign policy.
The President renewed his promise to end the war in Iraq, including his promise to have all U.S. combat troops out by August, and to bring all of our troops home from Iraq. He also said we will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and partner with Iraqis to promote peace and prosperity. But there was a key omission here: the word "reconciliation." Hundreds of candidates have been disqualified from running in the March parliamentary election; Sunni and secular candidates have been particularly targeted. If this move is allowed to stand, reconciliation in Iraq will be imperiled, the civil war could be reignited, and Iraq's relationship with its predominantly Sunni Arab neighbors would be further strained. The U.S. is working to overturn the exclusion; by refering more explicitly to those efforts, the President could have promoted Iraqi reconciliation.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 27 January 2010 - 5:56pm
Following is the log of Beverly Bell during the first ten days after the earthquake in Haiti.
Beverly first went to Haiti as a teenager. Since then she has dedicated most of her life to working for democracy, women's rights, and economic justice in that country. She founded or co-founded six organizations and networks dedicated exclusively to supporting the Haitian people, including the Lambi Fund of Haiti. She worked for both presidents Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Rene Preval and wrote Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Story of Survival and Resistance (Cornell University Press, 2001). Today she is associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and runs the economic justice group Other Worlds.
7.0 ON THE HORROR SCALE
NOTES ON THE HAITIAN EARTHQUAKE
BEVERLY BELL, OTHER WORLDS COLLABORATIVE, NEW ORLEANS
January 12, 2010
4:12 p.m. 7.0 EARTHQUAKE ROCKS HAITI. I read this email subject line several times. My brain can't make sense of it.
I blast the following message in Creole out to dozens of Haitian friends: How is it that the worst always goes right to Ayiti Cheri - not just human-created crises like poverty and avoidable disease, but also natural phenomenon? May as many as possible - including all of your people - be spared from death and further suffering.
Sharing anguish and love, Bev
11:05 a.m. Looking for mindless little tasks to do today since I can't manage anything big... Can't stop shaking or crying, barely slept last night, can't eat. Been fighting the urge to vomit since yesterday afternoon.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 26 January 2010 - 1:49pm
The top United Nations official for Afghanistan has called for direct talks with senior Taliban leaders. Is anyone in Washington listening?
The New York Times reported Sunday that Kai Eide, the United Nations special representative for Afghanistan, "called on Afghan officials to seek the removal of at least some senior Taliban leaders from the United Nations' list of terrorists, as a first step toward opening direct negotiations with the insurgent group."
Eide also called on the U.S. to speed its review of the roughly 750 detainees in its military prisons in Afghanistan - another principal grievance of Taliban leaders.
Eide said he hoped that the two steps would open the way for face-to-face talks between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders.
"If you want relevant results, then you have to talk to the relevant person in authority," Mr. Eide said. "I think the time has come to do it."
It's an unquestioned dogma in official Washington that while of course every informed person knows that the endgame in Afghanistan is a negotiated political settlement with the Afghan Taliban, the time is not ripe for negotiations; the Afghan Taliban have to be weakened first through military escalation, because their leaders are not ready to talk peace.
It's never explained how U.S. officals know that Afghan Taliban leaders are not ready to talk peace, unless the definition of "talking peace" is "acceding to U.S. demands." A reasonable inference is that these statements by U.S. officials are a dodge: U.S. officials are not ready to talk peace.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 22 January 2010 - 3:08pm
Mainstream media are now reporting the shortage of medical supplies in Haiti, a shortage created in part by the US decision to prioritize the inflow of military flights over humanitarian aid.
Doctors without Borders (MSF) said days were lost because the main airport in Port-au-Prince, under U.S. control, had been blocked by military traffic, Reuters reports.
"We lost three days," [Francoise Saulnier, the head of MSF's legal department] told Reuters Television in an interview. "And these three days have created a massive problem with infection, with gangrene, with amputations that are needed now, while we could have really spared this to those people."
"And now everything has been mixed together and the urgent and vital attention to the people has been delayed (for) military logistics, which is useful but not on day three, not on day four, but maybe on day eight. This military logistic has really jammed the airport and led to this mismanagment."
Mark Weisbrot, writing in the Guardian, noted that
On Sunday, Jarry Emmanuel, air logistics officer for the UN's World Food Programme, said: "There are 200 flights going in and out every day, which is an incredible amount for a country like Haiti ... But most flights are for the US military."
The New York Times reported Thursday that