JFP 12/9 - Kucinich to Introduce Bill Calling for Afghanistan Withdrawal
Just Foreign Policy News
December 9, 2009
Kucinich, Invoking War Powers Act, to Introduce Bill Calling for Afghanistan Withdrawal
Five minute video; Kucinich describes his bill at about minute 4.
Kucinich Dear Colleague:
Resolution: Remove US forces from Afghanistan:
Resolution: Remove US forces from Pakistan:
Counterspin: US Media Bury Afghan Civil War
Janine Jackson interviews Just Foreign Policy on the US media's failure to report on the Afghan civil war (eight minutes.)
The full program, including an interview with Norman Solomon on the media's treatment of the escalation, can be downloaded here:
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1) Mercosur, the South American trade bloc led by Brazil and Argentina, condemned the "illegitimate and illegal" elections in Honduras after the interim government and congress failed to restore President Zelaya, Bloomberg reports. The bloc issued a statement noting "its strongest condemnation of the coup in Honduras" and saying it considers "the grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms against the Honduran people unacceptable." The statement was signed by the leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay at a Mercosur summit in Montevideo.
2) General McChrystal told Congress that an additional 30,000 troops, combined with changes in the overall war strategy, would trigger a demonstrable change on the ground before U.S. forces start to come home in 18 months, the Washington Post reports. "By the summer of 2011, it will be clear to the Afghan people that the insurgency will not win," McChrystal said.
3) General McChrystal told Congress that to "defeat" the Taliban meant merely to blunt the momentum they had gained while the US effort there had lagged in recent years, and to buy time to train Afghan soldiers and police officers to take over security duties, the New York Times reports.
4) Americans for Peace Now urged Congress not to pass the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, expected to be considered under suspension rules early next week. APN argued in a letter to Congressional officies that the bill would target the Iranian people and limit the President's authority.
5) Moderate elements of the Taliban should be allowed to share power in Afghanistan, argues Azeem Ibrahim of Harvard in the Los Angeles Times. Bringing these people into the political process will mean conceding that Western troops are not the right means to change some customs and attitudes.
6) Citizens of Amherst, Massachusetts voted Nov. 4 to offer asylum to Guantánamo captives cleared of wrongdoing who cannot go home, making Amherst the first U.S. municipality to officially offer to take in former Guantánamo detainees, the Miami Herald reports. Supporters of the measure hoped that other towns would follow suit.
7) Fifteen youth were killed in violent attacks last weekend in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, including five young men who were massacred on a street corner, Dawn Paley reports in The Hook. "Youth have been criminalized in this country, because they present a danger to this dictatorship" said Dina Meza, a journalist who works with COFADEH, a group formed by families of people disappeared and detained in Honduras.
8) Palestinians are struggling to develop their communities in large areas of the West Bank that fall under full Israeli jurisdiction, Reuters reports. Israel exercises civil and military control in about 60 percent of the West Bank. Known as "Area C," the zone envelops settlements built since Israel occupied the West Bank in a 1967 war. In Area C, Palestinians need Israeli permits to build, which Palestinians say are impossible to obtain. Since the beginning of 2009, 180 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished in Area C due to lack of building permits, says the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
9) The US commander in charge of training Afghan security forces said there had been a recent wave of recruits for the Afghan Army, most likely because of a pay increase that he said put salaries close to those of Taliban fighters, the New York Times reports. The commander said an Afghan soldier in a high-combat area like Helmand Province would now make a starting salary of $240 a month, up from $180. General Caldwell said the Taliban often paid insurgents $250 to $300 a month. Meanwhile, the deputy commander of US and NATO forces acknowledged there might have been civilian casualties during an allied raid on Tuesday in Laghman Province.
10) Iraqi officials agreed to set a date on March 7 for a national election, the New York Times reports.
1) Mercosur Leaders, Venezuela Reject Honduras election
Bill Faries, Bloomberg, Dec. 8
Mercosur, the South American trade bloc led by Brazil and Argentina, condemned the "illegitimate and illegal" elections in Honduras after the interim government and congress failed to restore ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
The bloc issued a statement noting "its strongest condemnation of the coup in Honduras" and saying it considers "the grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms against the Honduran people unacceptable." The statement was signed today by the leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay at a Mercosur summit in Montevideo.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, speaking earlier, said the only resolution to the nearly six-month political crisis was to have new elections under Zelaya, who was deposed at gunpoint and forced out of Honduras in late June after the Supreme Court ruled his bid to change the constitution was illegal.
The crisis has divided Latin American nations from each other and the U.S. since Honduras held presidential elections last month, making it harder for U.S. President Barack Obama to improve ties with the country's southern neighbors. The U.S., Panama and Costa Rica have said the elections should be recognized as a step toward restoring democracy.
"In light of the failure to restore President Jose Manuel Zelaya to the position for which he was democratically elected by the Honduran people, we want to express our total lack of recognition for the Nov. 29 elections held by the de facto government, which were undertaken in an unconstitutional, illegitimate and illegal atmosphere," the statement said.
2) General Offers Assurances On Afghan War
McChrystal, U.S. envoy testify on Hill about new Obama strategy
Greg Jaffe and Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The U.S. general in charge of the Afghanistan war assured lawmakers Tuesday that an additional 30,000 troops, combined with changes in the overall war strategy, would trigger a demonstrable change on the ground before U.S. forces start to come home in 18 months.
"By the summer of 2011, it will be clear to the Afghan people that the insurgency will not win, giving them the chance to side with their government," Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal said.
Meanwhile, some Democrats, including Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), leaned on McChrystal and Eikenberry to speed the development of the Afghan army and police forces so that U.S. troops might be able to reduce their numbers even faster in areas of the country that are more stable.
Current plans call for an Afghan army of about 170,000 by July 2011; at present, there are about 95,000 Afghan soldiers. Military officials say that as few as 52,000 soldiers regularly show up for work, because of poor pay and other reasons. In recent weeks, the military has boosted the troops' pay so that they make as much as or more than Taliban fighters do.
3) Two Top Aides Show Unity On Afghan Strategy
Eric Schmitt, New York Times, December 9, 2009
Washington - The top military commander in Afghanistan told Congress on Tuesday that he had been granted all the forces he needed, was confident of success and did not expect to have to request more troops at a later date, although he said he would base his advice on conditions as they unfolded.
The commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, one of the principal architects of the military buildup, said repeatedly at a pair of Congressional hearings that he strongly supported President Obama's new strategy to add 30,000 troops by later next year and to begin withdrawing them in July 2011. "I'm comfortable with the entire plan," General McChrystal said.
He was joined by Karl W. Eikenberry, the United States ambassador to Afghanistan, who was much more skeptical during the plan's formulation, and who conceded Tuesday that success could not be guaranteed, especially if the Afghans underperformed and if insurgents maintained havens across the border in Pakistan.
Responding to gentle questioning before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, the two officials spoke in generally optimistic tones about the chances of the plan, while offering a restrained version of what, ultimately, would constitute success.
General McChrystal, for example, said that to "defeat" the Taliban meant merely to blunt the momentum that he said they had gained while the American effort there had lagged in recent years, and to buy time to train Afghan soldiers and police officers to take over security duties.
When he was asked point blank by Representative Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, "We do intend to defeat the Taliban?" the general replied: "Sir, the military term, in fact, without parsing that too tightly, we - we intend to prevent them from doing what they want to do."
4) APN to House: IPRSA - A Flawed Iran Sanctions Bill
Lara Friedman, Americans for Peace Now, December 7, 2009
Earlier today APN sent the following message to all House offices urging Members to oppose HR 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA):
Next week a piece of major Iran sanctions legislation, HR 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA) will be brought to the floor under suspension of the rules. This means that there will be only limited debate on the measure and no amendments allowed.
[Analysis of the bill, including proposed amendments. http://peacenow.org/images/Proposed%20Changes%20to%20IRPSA%20Table.pdf]
We have opposed HR 2194 since it was introduced. We believe at its premise it reflects a misguided and potentially self-defeating approach for the US to the challenge posed by Iran's nuclear program.
We oppose this bill, not because we oppose all sanctions. In fact, we have supported and continue to support smart, targeted sanctions that are part of a broader US strategy to deal with this critical foreign policy and national security challenge. Unfortunately HR 2194 is not about smart, targeted sanctions.
* It is about sanctions that target the Iranian people, in the hope that if the people become miserable enough they will pressure their government to change course. This is a strategy that few experts believe will work, and a strategy that has a very poor track record in other contexts (Iraq, Cuba, Gaza). Indeed, experience has demonstrated with sanctions like these, the most likely and immediate result will be a backlash by the people of Iran against the United States, not against the Iranian regime.
* It is about taking authority away from the President on an issue critical to US national security. HR 2194 opens with a "Sense of Congress" which states that "international diplomatic efforts to address Iran's illicit nuclear efforts, unconventional and ballistic missile development programs, and support for international terrorism are more likely to be effective if the President is empowered with the explicit authority to impose additional sanctions on the Government of Iran." But rather than "empowering" the President with additional authority, HR 2194 would sharply limit his authority regarding both existing sanctions and potential new ones.
We also urge members to press leadership to make sure that, if and when there is a House-Senate conference on IRPSA, these concerns are addressed at that time.
5) Afghanistan's way forward must include the Taliban
Ordinary Afghans are entwined in the movement, choosing daily whether to join the fighters or join the move toward democracy. The Obama administration is right to open the door to dialogue.
Azeem Ibrahim, Los Angeles Times, December 9, 2009
[Ibrahim is a research scholar at the International Security Program at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.]
President Obama, in spelling out the new U.S. strategy on Afghanistan this month, said that the United States will countenance dialogue with some elements of the Taliban: "We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens."
But "opening the door" should in practice mean allowing moderate elements of the Taliban to share power in a democratic Afghan system.
This is not as startling as it might seem, and it is vital to understand why it is so important. First, many Taliban fighters are simply peripheral Taliban militants. They joined the Taliban as a pragmatic opportunity for advancement in a country where most power comes from conservative Islam or guns. They typically fight close to the village where they live and grew up, and so lack the mobility of a true militia. Only a minority are "core" Taliban, such as Mullah Mohammed Omar and the conservative junta that took power in Afghanistan in 1996.
It is also important to know that most Taliban, unlike Al Qaeda, are indigenous Afghans and are not likely to leave the country. In this respect (and only in this respect), trying to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban by military means would be like a foreign country trying to rid the U.S. of Ku Klux Klan supporters by military means. Reporter Jason Burke of the Observer of London has described how, when he asks village locals who members of the Taliban are, a common response is bemused surprise and the answer "men from my village."
So, while it is clear that success in Afghanistan will depend on the support - active or passive - of ordinary Afghans, the same is true of the Afghan Taliban. It is ordinary Afghans who, daily, choose to get involved in the Taliban insurgency, or in NATO-supported projects such as the new local guardian force operating in Wardak province, the fledgling national army or local or national democracy.
By including this reality in his strategic assessment to Obama, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, acknowledged that looking at the war in simplistic Manichaean terms - save as many good guys as possible while taking out as many bad guys as possible - was a mistake. The "good guys" and the "bad guys" are often the same people. Rather, the U.S. and NATO must maximize Afghans' incentive to participate in civil society and minimize their incentive to fight.
There is little the alliance can do to minimize the incentive to fight, especially for those Afghans motivated by the mere presence in their country of Western, non-Muslim forces or by skewed interpretations of a rural, conservative brand of Islam. But there are things it can do to maximize the incentive to participate.
The fact that many of the Taliban are both peripheral and indigenous means that if Afghanistan is to ultimately build a participative political process, moderate members of the Taliban will have to be included.
Critics will say that it will bring some unpalatable results. The Taliban's often brutal form of conservative justice shocks the liberal sensibilities of the Western nations paying for the war. Bringing these people into the political process will mean conceding that Western troops are not the right means to change some customs and attitudes - for example, when older men wed very young girls.
But we already are getting such unpalatable results. President Hamid Karzai has made these kinds of concessions to bolster his legitimacy. Witness the law passed before the Afghan election this summer allowing Shiite men to deny their wives sustenance if they do not satisfy their husbands, and that requiring women to get permission from their husbands to work. This law helped to shore up his power but did not substantially neutralize the Taliban's desire to fight by bringing it into the political process.
But on the plus side, bringing the Taliban into the political process will mean setting up a thorough participative process. One of the many problems with the presidential election was that traditional power brokers such as warlords had such a central role in ensuring support for the candidates. For example, the government paid insurgent leaders not to attack voters or polling stations, according to the head of Afghanistan's intelligence service, Amrullah Saleh.
Nobody expected an advanced democratic process. But we can reasonably expect that next time, votes will be a better, truer representation of the people's wishes and not just "bought." This will require negotiating with some of the people who have been fighting the NATO alliance, so that the differences over how Afghanistan is governed can be expressed in debate rather than merely fought over.
It will not be easy, but participation is the first step toward a self-sustaining process. And that is essential to boosting the legitimacy of the Afghan government and to get the nation to the point at which the alliance can begin bringing its soldiers home.
6) Massachusetts Town Offers To Take In Gitmo Detainees
Carol Rosenberg, Miami Herald, Tue, Dec. 08, 2009
Amherst, Mass. - At a time when many Americans are recoiling at the idea of bringing Guantánamo detainees to the United States, this New England college town has sent a mutinous message: We'll take two.
The Town Meet of Amherst, a 240-member body that traditionally tackles zoning and budgets, voted Nov. 4 to offer asylum to Guantánamo captives cleared of wrongdoing but who cannot go home.
That makes Amherst the first - and so far only - U.S. municipality to officially offer to take in former Guantánamo detainees, if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Congress and the Obama administration can't keep them out.
So far, Amherst's offer has gotten little attention in Washington. Even if it raises some key questions, according to the office of Rep. John Olver, D-Mass., a former University of Massachusetts electrochemistry professor who represents the town.
Such as: Could the U.S. Supreme Court trump a congressional ban and rule that a federal judge has the power to free a detainee into the United States? Could private citizens fund a Cuban captive's flight to freedom, and so circumvent Congress' ban on federal funding of a detainee release into the United States?
"We haven't heard from anyone in the administration on this," said spokeswoman Sara Merriam, adding that Amherst's role reflected "New England at its finest. Our democracy at work."
Nancy Talanian, a resident of nearby Whatley, Mass., who runs a website called "No More Guantánamos," is hoping other towns can be persuaded to take similar stands.
Meantime, some Illinois Democrats are studying the financial benefits of letting the federal government imprison Guantánamo detainees in a state facility.
7) Youths massacred in Honduras; state won't investigate
Dawn Paley, The Hook, December 9, 2009 10:00 am
Honduras - Fifteen youth were killed in violent attacks last weekend in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, including five young men who were massacred on a street corner.
"We are in a very difficult moment here in Honduras, and a terror is being instilled in citizens," said the father of one of the deceased at his wake this afternoon. He said his son may have participated in a march against the June 28 coup d'état, but insisted that he was not a political activist.
The five men killed were Isaac Enrique Coello Soto, 24, Roger Andrés Reyes Aguilar, 22, Kenneth José Rosa, 23, Gabriel Parrales Zelaya, 34, and Marcos Vinicio Matute Escobar, 39.
The massacre was carried out by masked men who stepped out of an unmarked Nissan and opened fire in the Villanueva neighbourhood on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa. Locals claim the gunmen were wearing military uniforms.
Honduran media reported yesterday that the massacre was carried out by police. Neither the police nor the military have admitted that they were responsible for the killings. One woman survived the massacre and is now in hiding.
"Youth have been criminalized in this country, because they present a danger to this dictatorship" said Dina Meza, a journalist who works with COFADEH, a group formed by families of people disappeared and detained in Honduras. "Youth is criminalized, and therefore young people are being assassinated," she said.
8) Palestinians struggle to build in West Bank
Tom Perry, Reuters, Wednesday, December 9, 2009 5:34 AM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/09/AR2009120900731.html
Ramallah, West Bank - In the occupied West Bank, a bedouin community whose school is made out of car tires and mud faces the same problem as a developer planning a whole new Palestinian town: building controls imposed by Israel.
As Israel enforces a partial, temporary freeze on building in its West Bank settlements, Palestinians and their government are struggling to develop their communities in large areas of the territory that fall under full Israeli jurisdiction.
Under interim peace agreements with the Palestinians, Israel exercises civil and military control in about 60 percent of the West Bank. Known as "Area C," the zone envelops settlements built since Israel occupied the West Bank in a 1967 war.
The Jahalin bedouin are Area C residents who gave up seeking permission to build long ago but want their children to read. They erected the makeshift school with the help of an Italian NGO this year, their community representative said.
"Many of our students are illiterate due to the difficulty of getting to school," said Mohammed Qarashan, spokesman for a community that decades ago settled on land which he said they rent from two Palestinian villages. "We never apply for any permissions because we know in advance none are given."
On the grounds that it was an unlicensed building, Israel issued a demolition order against the school, said Shlomo Lecker, an Israeli lawyer who represents the local bedouin.
He secured a court injunction against the order. But in the meantime, Israeli settlers living on a nearby hill had launched their own petition to demand it be knocked down, together with the shacks where the Jahalin live, he said.
Compounding the threats, the community sits on land Israel has set aside to widen a highway used by both Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians had been ready to relocate their camp but the Israeli authorities had not agreed to a permit that would allow them to reassemble it elsewhere, Lecker said. "They demanded demolition without any guarantee that they could rebuild," he said.
Sixteen years on from Oslo and one violent uprising later, the Palestinian Authority continues to exercise civil and internal security over islands of territory amounting to just 17 percent of the West Bank.
Palestinians do not need Israeli permission to build there. In the remaining 23 percent, or "Area B," the Palestinians have civil control while Israel is responsible for security.
Since the beginning of 2009, 180 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished in Area C due to lack of building permits, says the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The last demolition was in July. The Israeli-controlled zone remains "to a large extent, off-limits for Palestinian use and development," the U.N. body said in a November report.
In Israel's West Bank settlements, the 10-month construction moratorium announced in November allows settlers to press on with the building of some 3,000 homes already authorized.
Public buildings are exempt, as are West Bank settlements that fall within Israel's Jerusalem municipality, which extends deep into the territory. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said building will resume at the end of the 10-month period.
9) Recruits Pour In After Afghan Army Offers a Raise
Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, December 10, 2009
Kabul, Afghanistan - The American commander in charge of training the Afghan security forces said Wednesday that there had been a recent wave of recruits for the Afghan Army, most likely because of a pay increase that he said put salaries close to those of Taliban fighters.
The commander, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said that an Afghan soldier in a high-combat area like Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan would now make a starting salary of $240 a month, up from $180. General Caldwell said that the Taliban often paid insurgents $250 to $300 a month.
The Afghan Army pay increase was announced 10 days ago, General Caldwell said. In the first seven days of December, more than 2,600 Afghans signed up - a striking change, he said, from September, when there were 831 Afghans recruits for the entire month, or November, when there were 4,303 recruits.
Also speaking at Camp Eggers on Wednesday, Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the deputy commander of NATO and American forces in the country, acknowledged that there might have been some civilian casualties during an allied raid on Tuesday in Laghman Province.
"There could possibly have been some civilians killed in a confusing situation," General Rodriguez told reporters. Although Afghan officials from Laghman said Tuesday that no Afghan soldiers had been involved in the raid, which killed as many as a dozen people, General Rodriguez said on Wednesday that Afghan security forces had participated.
10) Election Date Set in Iraq as Bombs Kill Scores
Steven Lee Myers and Marc Santora, New York Times, December 9, 2009
Baghdad - A series of car bombings devastated government institutions across Baghdad on Tuesday, provoking public and political denunciations of the country's prime minister and the security forces he oversees. The attacks came as officials agreed at last to set a date in March for a national election.
The bombings, a coordinated assault on the capital, highlighted an ominous convergence of politics and violence, which American and Iraqi officials have long warned will mar the country's election. The vote, originally scheduled for January, was delayed by ethnic and sectarian disputes resolved only two days ago.
The elections, widely seen as a test of the country's political progress, will be only the second since the American invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein. But even in the decision on a date, at last, there was some discord. The government first said the vote would be held March 6, then changed it to March 7 after Kurds complained.
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