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Submitted by Robert Naiman on 11 December 2009 - 11:17am
Who knew Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter would emerge as one of the most vocal opponents in the Senate of the President's military escalation in Afghanistan?
But so it is. In an op-ed this week in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Specter not only challenges the "surge"; he also challenges fundamental premises of the war. Specter writes:
I'm opposed to sending 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan because I don't believe they are indispensable in our fight against al Qaeda.
But if al Qaeda can organize and operate out of Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere, then why fight in Afghanistan, which has made a history of resisting would-be conquerors - from Alexander the Great in the 3rd century BC, to Great Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries, to the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s?
What can one Senator do? Well, one Senator can introduce legislation, for starters. At this writing, there isn't a single piece of legislation before the Senate that expresses opposition to continuing the war indefinitely. This is in marked contrast to the House, where Representative McGovern's bill requiring the Pentagon to present Congress with an exit strategy from Afghanistan has more than 100 co-sponsors. That's like having 23 Senators.
But Arlen Specter is in a unique position to do much more than introduce legislation. He could turn his Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary into a referendum on the Afghanistan war, because his primary opponent, Joe Sestak, supports the war and supports the escalation:
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 10 December 2009 - 1:16pm
"Accepting Peace Prize, Obama Evokes 'Just War,'" notes the headline in the New York Times, referring to President Obama's speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. President Obama did indeed invoke the concept of a "just war." But tellingly, he did not try to argue that the U.S. war in Afghanistan meets the criteria to be judged as a "just war."
A plausible explanation for the President's failure to argue that the war in Afghanistan is a "just war" is that he recognizes that such an argument would not be convincing.
As President Obama noted in his speech, there are criteria involved in the "just war" concept. It isn't just a matter of proclaiming that a war is justified. There are tests.
This matters, because a substantial part of the U.S. and world population subscribes to the theory of "just war." In particular, more than a fifth of the U.S. population are estimated to identify as Catholics. The concept of "just war" - that wars can be considered "just" only if they meet certain criteria - is an official doctrine of the Catholic Church.
Here's part of what the official Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about this:
2307 The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.
2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 3 December 2009 - 12:31pm
Under our constitutional democracy, Congress has the power and the responsibility to establish a policy on President Obama's plans to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and, if Congress opposes sending more troops, to try to block or alter this policy. The question now is whether Congress will act before the policy is implemented, and whether it will do so in a "clean" vote - an up or down vote solely on the question of sending more troops, unentangled with unrelated issues like flood relief for farmers or extending unemployment benefits.
If Congress does not act quickly, the President's proposal may become an accomplished fact. Already, President Obama has ordered Marine units to be deployed later this month. If Congress waits for months to debate the issue, most of the new troops may already be in place.
Anti-war Representatives are pressing for an early vote on funding for more troops so President Obama's policy will be judged by Congress before thousands of additional troops are sent into combat, the Politico reports. "Let us have this debate before he moves forward," Rep. Jim McGovern [D-MA] said. "I'd like it to be before we escalate one single American troop over there."
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 26 November 2009 - 6:23am
In a letter to President Obama on November 25, Rep. Grijalva urged reconsideration of U.S. support for elections in Honduras under the coup regime.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 25 November 2009 - 1:32pm
Recent press reports suggest that President Obama is likely to try to sugarcoat his announcement next week of a major military escalation in Afghanistan with talk of "exit ramps": opportunities in the future to evaluate and possibly reduce the U.S. military commitment. That's supposed to make opponents of military escalation feel better, the media suggests. The New York Times reports:
The troops will be dispatched in phases, and Mr. Obama is likely to declare that he will review the deployment next year, to evaluate its progress.
"That gives him the flexibility to tell the Democrats that his commitment is limited," the Times says.
But it's hard to see why this should be at all reassuring. After all, we just had such an evaluation, which, despite the widespread view that the present policy has failed, resulted in the policy choice of sending 50% more troops that the President is about to announce. Why should we expect the next evaluation by the same actors to be substantially different from the one that just took place, if the data is the same?
Indeed, just as the President plans to assure us that we don't have an open-ended commitment, so he plans to reassure the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and our European allies that we do, in fact, have an open-ended commitment. Which President Obama should be believed?
Supposedly, we have to tell Pakistan that we are not leaving because if they think that we are leaving, they will hedge their bets and back and protect their ally Mullah Omar, in order to protect their influence and what they perceive to be their national interests in Afghansitan.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 24 November 2009 - 1:49pm
Commenting on Arturo Valenzuela's recent speech to the OAS (a link to the speech follows Mark's comment), Mark Weisbrot writes:
Yesterday, President Obama's new top State Department official for Latin America, Arturo Valenzuela, delivered a speech about Honduras at the meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States. The speech provides some important information about the State Department's strategy going forward. As before, this strategy is oriented toward legitimizing the coup government.
It appears that the State Department is still clinging to the October 30th "accord," and not just the "elections" to legitimize the government. So perhaps they still have hopes of reaching a deal with Zelaya after the election, or they are just pretending that they have such hopes, but one of these two things is the implication in this speech. When Zelaya refuses to be part of the farce, the implication here is that Washington will blame Zelaya for rejecting the implementation of the "accord." (This of course is despite the fact that Micheletti torpedoed the accord immediately by declaring himself head of the "unity government.") I would think that they Obama administration could also win Republican support for this position, even people like Senator DeMint, thus closing the gap that some of the administration seems to worried about on the domestic front.
Their problem remains that practically no other country in the world is buying their line.
Valenzuela's speech is here.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 20 November 2009 - 7:40pm
Mark Weisbrot sent the following letter to José de Cordoba, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, in response to the article which is posted at the end.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 20 November 2009 - 11:21am
Representative Barbara Lee, whose bill HR 3699 would prohibit an increase in US forces deployed to Afghanistan, is having an event on 3699 and an exit strategy for Afghanistan in Oakland Monday, at the Dellums Federal Building, at noon.
The flyer is here.
Please spread this information around to contacts in the Bay area and the California press. Perhaps this event can have some impact on other Members of the California delegation...
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 20 November 2009 - 10:51am
A statement put out by Senator Lugar's office this week contained a striking revelation: apparently, the State Department intends to fund election observer missions of the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for the controversial November 29 Honduras election supervised by the coup regime. If the US sends election observers before President Zelaya is restored, it would prepare the ground for recognizing the coup regime and its election as legitimate, putting the U.S. at odds with the rest of the hemisphere. Funding election observers appears to be part of a strategy of legitimizing the June coup against President Zelaya.
Both the IRI and the NDI are funded by Congress through the National Endowment for Democracy.
The International Republican Institute is affiliated with the Republican Party and the National Democratic Institute is affiliated with the Democratic Party. The IRI has a sordid history of anti-democratic actions, like supporting the 2004 coup in Haiti.
The NDI, on the other hand, is at least nominally accountable to the Democratic Party, so its involvement in trying to legitimize elections under the coup regime is quite surprising. Democratic leaders in Congress, like Senator Kerry and Representative Berman, have strongly opposed the coup. Congressional Democrats have urged President Obama not to recognize elections under the coup regime.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 19 November 2009 - 11:03am
Senator Richard Lugar's office has issued a statement supporting recognition of the Honduran elections on November 29. Just Foreign Policy President Mark Weisbrot comments:
This is not surprising, Lugar has been with his party leadership on this all along, including his letter in July that got the State Department to write their response that appeared to blame Zelaya for the coup.
has become a real cause for the Republican party leadership, which sees it as a strategic battle in their long-term fight against the Latin American left (which for them includes Lula). Although Lugar is of course different from them, for some reason he has joined with them in this battle. Honduras
This has to be a disappointment to people who see Lugar as a moderate, since it is tough for a moderate to defend the position that a a group of people can overthrow the elected president, arrest, jail, and beat thousands of people, torture and even kill some people, close down opposition media intermittently throughout the legally designated 3-month electoral campaign period, and then have a valid "election" -- no matter how "clean" it is on election day.
Lugar's statement will give some lobbyists, pundits, editors, etc. some ammunition to say that not only the wingnuts that hold this position.
The State Department effectively has the same position as Lugar in what it is trying to accomplish, but for now is reluctant to state it unambiguously, so as not to further distance itself from
Latin America. So it does help all parties, including the State Department, that want to legitimate the election.