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Submitted by Robert Naiman on 20 December 2011 - 3:45pm
Shouldn't Americans of every faith tradition band together to stop the war on Christmas? Let us call on President Obama to announce that on December 24th and 25th, the United States will observe an offensive cease-fire in Afghanistan, and urge others to join the cease-fire, as a goodwill gesture to promote peace talks.
Far from being utopian, I claim that this is a pragmatic political proposal, with little cost and significant potential benefits; indeed, according to recent press reports, a US-initiated Christmas truce would complement peace efforts that the Obama Administration is already pursuing.
The political cost would be negligible. Would Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and John McCain denounce President Obama for announcing that US forces in Afghanistan will stand down to mark the birth of the Prince of Peace? If they did, would anyone take them seriously?
This is a decision that President Obama can make unilaterally as Commander-in-Chief. He does not need the permission of Lindsay Graham, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, or the Washington Post editorial board. If President Obama decides that US forces in Afghanistan will not take offensive military actions on Christmas, so shall it be.
Already, Reuters reports, the Obama Administration is contemplating confidence-building measures to promote peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, including transferring Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo to Afghan government custody and supporting the establishment by the Afghan Taliban of a political office in Qatar for the purpose of participating in peace talks.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 15 December 2011 - 3:44pm
Will the news media let Ron Paul raise serious questions about U.S. foreign policy? It's a crucial test case not only of the prospects that the media will serve the interests of the 99% rather than the 1%, but of the prospects for a foreign military and economic policy that reflects the values and interests of the 99%, rather than those of the 1%.
Economist and media critic Dean Baker recently posed this question in a forum at Politico. Politico's David Mark convened the forum under the headline, "Can Ron Paul Take a Punch?"
Now that Rep. Ron Paul is a top-tier candidate in Iowa rivals are likely to gang up. They may target the Texan's associations with unsavory characters, or a sometimes less-than-pure libertarian stance on congressional earmarks. Middle East politics could also complicate Paul's presidential bid - he once likened Israel's defensive blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza to "a concentration camp."
Can Ron Paul take a punch?
Dean Baker responded:
The better question is whether the media will allow Paul to raise serious questions about the nature of this country's foreign policy. I recall watching one of the Republican presidential debates in 2008 where the moderator asked whether the president could unilaterally take military action against Iran.
Mayor Giuliani answered first and gave a characteristic Giuliani answer to the effect of the president can do whatever he wants. Gov. Romney then gave a conditional this and that answer, and then said that if the question was one of constitutional authority, you would have to call in the lawyers.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 27 September 2011 - 2:09pm
On October 7, 2011, the United States will have been at war for ten years.
Let's mark the occasion by making a national clamor for peace so loud that Congress, the President, and big media will have to pay attention.
October 7 happens to fall on a Friday this year. If you get to choose, Friday is not necessarily the most strategic day to make a national clamor for peace, because 1) Congress will likely not be in session 2) Friday is, in general, a crummy day to try to get media attention and 3) even if these two things weren't true or relevant, Friday is not a great day to try to hold public attention. People's thoughts are turning to the weekend, and then the weekend erases the chalkboard.
Moreover, the press has to cover the anniversary of the war, but these stories are going to be largely written and produced before Friday. The default media narrative will be: America has lost interest in the wars, because of the economy and unemployment, because "the wars are already winding down," or some other story that journalists or editors will make up. We have to beat this default media narrative. To beat it, we need to get in front of it.
So let's mark the occasion on Thursday, October 6. Let's have a national, "ecumenical" day of action for peace: to end the wars and cut the military budget.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 23 August 2011 - 6:55pm
By Thanksgiving, the Congressional "Super Committee" is supposed to come up with $1.2 trillion in debt reduction over the next ten years. The Super Committee can include anything it wants in its package - short-term economic stimulus (like extending unemployment benefits and the payroll tax holiday), revenue increases from curtailing tax breaks, cuts in military or domestic spending, subject only to two constraints. To avoid automatic cuts, the package has to add to $1.2 trillion in debt reduction over ten years. Also, to avoid automatic cuts, the package has to pass both houses of Congress in December, so the package has to have the property that it can pass the House and Senate.
A plausible and reasonable option would be to curtail future spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, consistent with keeping existing agreements and commitments to withdraw our troops, rather than replacing these agreements and commitments with agreements to establish permanent military garrisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under plausible and moderate assumptions, this would save at least $200 billion over ten years, 1/6 of the Super Committee's debt reduction goal.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 12 August 2011 - 2:34pm
The Senate and the Roman People have declared that the U.S. government is spending too much money. We have to live within our means. Difficult choices lie ahead. We can't do everything anyone might like us to do. Everything is on the table.
Therefore, instead of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq past December, we should pull them out like we promised. If not now, when? John McCain once said there's no problem with keeping U.S. troops in Iraq forever, just like we do in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. How liberals mocked him! But that's what the Obama Administration is now trying to do: keep US troops in Iraq forever.
Some Members of Congress have a different idea: let's leave Iraq like we promised in the signed agreement between the two governments.
Representative Barbara Lee has introduced legislation that would prevent the Pentagon from keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq by cutting off funds for the war after December 31, 2011. In other words, the bill would cut off funds for violating the agreement with Iraq to pull out troops by December. It would cut off funds for violating Obama's campaign promise to end the war.
The Pentagon doesn't want you to notice that at the same time Washington is seized with debt hysteria, and the nation's mainstream media are demanding cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits on the preposterous claim that "we can no longer afford it," the Pentagon is laying plans to keep 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq forever. They call these troops "trainers," so we are not supposed to notice. But these "trainers" engage in combat: they kill Iraqis, and they get killed by Iraqis.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 28 March 2011 - 3:53pm
Middle East historian and blogger Juan Cole recently wrote a polemic against progressive U.S. critics of the new U.S. war in Libya. In his polemic, he wrote, "I hope we can have a calm and civilized discussion of the rights and wrongs here."
I strongly agree with Juan that it is important for progressive critics of U.S. foreign policy to try to have a calm and civilized discussion about the issues that have been raised by the U.S. military intervention in Libya. In general, it's important to try to have calm and civilized discussions about all issues of public policy, even when - especially when - the underlying issues are matters of life and death. The alternative is nasty polemics, and a principal effect of nasty polemics is to exclude people from discussion who don't want to engage in nasty polemics. In this way the effect of nasty polemics is anti-democratic; nasty polemics tend to demobilize people and cause them to disengage, when what we need is the opposite: more engagement and more mobilization.
In this particular case, the decision of the Obama Administration to engage the country in a new Middle East war without Congressional authorization represents a long-term threat to the U.S. peace movement, because the U.S. peace movement is engaged in a long struggle to try to influence U.S. policy in the direction of less war, and Congress is a key arena in which the peace movement tries to assert influence over U.S. policy. If you take away power from Congress to determine issues of war and peace, you substantially reduce the power of the U.S. peace movement to influence issues of war and peace. Taking away Congressional war powers is to the peace movement like taking away collective bargaining is to the labor movement: a direct threat to our ability to move our agenda on behalf of our constituents.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 1 September 2010 - 1:35pm
President Obama wants credit for keeping his promise to end the war in Iraq. Some credit is due: the President reaffirmed his commitment to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, as required by the agreement between the U.S. and Iraq. But only partial credit is due, because the war-ending task is very far from complete.
The Iraq war is not over. This is not a left-wing critique. The consensus account of mainstream U.S. print media is that the 50,000 U.S. troops who remain have been "rebranded" from "combat" brigades to advise-and-assist brigades. The unfailingly pro-war Washington Post editorial board wrote yesterday:
For one thing, combat won't really end on Sept. 1. Fifty thousand U.S. troops will remain in Iraq, and their duties will include counterterrorism work as well as continuing to train and assist Iraqi forces....
Moreover, the United States government is still "meddling" in Iraq's internal political affairs, to use the term our media uses when countries we don't like do it. U.S. officials are still trying to determine who will be in the Iraqi government and who should not. This is a key factor in the current political impasse in Baghdad, a fact which is generally omitted in mainstream press accounts that bemoan the failure of Iraqi politicians to form a government. It's true that there is a failure on the part of Iraqi politicians, but they have enablers in their failure: the outside powers, including the U.S., Iran, and other countries, which are lobbying furiously for a government to their liking, and working to block any government that they don't like. The impasse between the Iraqi politicians is also an impasse between the outside powers, fighting a proxy political war for influence in Iraq.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 25 August 2010 - 3:19pm
Much ink has been spilled over the President's pledge to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011. The White House insists that the date is firm. But the pace of withdrawal is yet to be determined, and the White House hasn't said a word about when - if ever - a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan will be complete.
There is a signed agreement that says U.S. troops have to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. But there is no such agreement for Afghanistan. Yet the majority of Americans have told pollsters that they think the U.S. should establish a timetable for military withdrawal.
Meanwhile, Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post, the Pentagon is planning for years of U.S. combat in Afghanistan:
"Three $100 million air base expansions in southern and northern Afghanistan illustrate Pentagon plans to continue building multimillion-dollar facilities in that country to support increased U.S. military operations well into the future."
Pincus noted that "…many of the installations being built…have extended time horizons. None of the three projects…is expected to be completed until the latter half of 2011. All of them are for use by U.S. forces rather than by their Afghan counterparts."
But Pincus also reported that while the House has approved the money for this "enduring base" construction, the Senate has yet to vote on it.
Should there not at least be a debate on this issue in the Senate?
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 24 August 2010 - 4:28pm
It's bad enough that the editors of the New York Times have refused so far to tell the truth about what we know about the magnitude of the death toll in Iraq as a result of the US invasion and occupation of the country since 2003, according to the standards that are used to describe human tragedies for which the U.S. government does not bear primary responsibility. If the New York Times used the same standards of evidence to describe human tragedies regardless of the degree of responsibility of the U.S. government, it would report that "hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died" as a result of the US war, a fact that we know with the level of confidence that we know similar facts that the New York Times publishes as a matter of routine (such as a recent report that "hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died" - in the Iraq-Iran war.) The New York Times is reluctant to publish this fact about the U.S. war, perhaps, because this fact is awkward to acknowledge for those in Washington who support the status quo policy of permanent war.
But now the New York Times has exacerbated the harm of its denial about the Iraqi death toll, by using its own failure to accurately report the death toll in Iraq as a benchmark for comparison to other human tragedies: in particular, to claim that murder in Venezuela claimed more lives in 2009 than did violence in Iraq. The New York Times editors are like the boy who killed his parents and demanded mercy on the grounds he was an orphan.
In a front page article this week headlined "Venezuela, More Deadly Than Iraq, Wonders Why," NYT reporter Simon Romero claims:
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 6 August 2010 - 3:01pm
Is there a man or woman in America today who is willing to stand at noon in the public square and claim that demands to bomb, invade, and occupy other people's countries have anything to do with human liberation?
If such people can be found, let them answer a few simple questions about the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
How many Iraqis did we "liberate" from the companionship of their loved ones?
How many Iraqis did we "liberate" from dwelling in the houses and towns and the country of their birth?
How many Iraqis did we "liberate" from life on Earth?
If any American who claims to believe that indefinite continuation of the war in Afghanistan - or a US/Israeli military attack on Iran - is justified by humanitarian concerns cannot give a fact-based and intellectually coherent answer to the question of how many Iraqis have lost their lives as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, do not that person's claims for "humanitarian" war, bombing, and occupation deserve zero credence?
To state that we cannot know how many have died is outrageously false. It is vacuously true that we cannot know exactly how many have died. But in the diverse fields of human inquiry and endeavor, there are many large numbers that are important which we cannot know exactly. If understanding the magnitude of a number is important, we do not throw up our hands and say, "we can never know." Imagine a reference book that said, "we don't know how many humans are alive on Earth today, because no-one has counted them all."
If we want to understand the magnitude of a large number that we cannot count, we estimate it.