iraq

President Obama, Commute Manning's Sentence to Time Served

On August 21, U.S. citizen Bradley Manning - now known as Chelsea Manning -was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information to the public about the killing of civilians in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; drone strikes in Yemen; torture in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Egypt; the coup in Honduras; corruption in Tunisia, the U.S. use of cluster bombs, and the blockade of Gaza, among many other issues of public concern about U.S. foreign policy.

As Amnesty International noted, Manning has already served more than three years in pre-trial detention, including 11 months in conditions described by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture as cruel and inhumane. Amnesty is calling on President Obama to commute Manning's sentence to time served.

War-Weary Republicans Rebuke Romney on Afghanistan

On Wednesday night, the Senate adopted by voice vote an amendment introduced by Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley calling on President Obama to speed up U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. This was a watershed event towards ending the war. The previous high water mark of Senators calling for expedited withdrawal was 27; the previous high water mark on a vote was 18. The vote is a green light from the Senate to the White House for a faster military withdrawal that would save many American and Afghan lives and (at least) many tens of billions of taxpayer dollars.

Because it was a voice vote, there was no roll call. But, if you want to know who especially to thank, 21 Senators sponsored Merkley's amendment:

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR); Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT); Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM); Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY); Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT); Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK); Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD); Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND); Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL); Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA); Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT); Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV); Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) ; Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV); Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

The Senate vote - which saw John McCain standing alone in vocal opposition - is more evidence that on key issues of war and military spending, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Buck McKeon haven't been speaking for Republicans generally.

All US Troops Leaving Iraq; Now, Let's Bring Them Home From Afghanistan

Earlier today, President Obama announced that all US troops except for about 150 attached to the US embassy will leave Iraq by the previously agreed upon deadline of December 31.

This is welcome news. Until this month, the US was in negotiations with the Iraqi government to leave thousands of US troops in the country indefinitely. The snag in the plan was the non-negotiable (from the US perspective) stipulation that US soldiers who remained be granted legal immunity. Apparently, members of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's own coalition could not stomach the demand.

Now that he has been forced to accept an immediate withdrawal, Obama is spinning this as fulfillment of his campaign promise to end the war in Iraq. But Obama won't be able to claim this particular achievement until he removes all contractors from the country. While the President did not address the issue of contractors in his speech, it is being reported that around 9,500 contractors--including 5,000 security contractors and 4,500 "general life support" contractors--will remain in Iraq after the remaining US troops depart.

So, while the roughly 39,000 US troops left in Iraq are coming home, over 9,000 contractors will remain.

Just Foreign Policy RT Interview: Ending the Wars Would Save 400,000 Jobs

In an interview today, Just Foreign Policy explained to RT why ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would save at least 400,000 jobs:

Woolsey Sign-On Letter to Super Committee on War Spending

Rep. Lynn Woolsey is circulating the following Dear Colleague and Sign-On letter to the Super Committee urging them to end funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the debt deal.

Urge your representatives to sign the Woolsey letter here.


Letter to Super Committee: $1.8 Trillion in Savings

August 12, 2011

Dear Colleague:

As the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also referred to as the “Super Committee,” begins its work, we must remind its members of the overwhelming costs due to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I urge you to join me in cosigning the letter below to the Co-Chairs and members of the Select Committee noting the $1.8 trillion that could be saved by ending the wars. To cosign or for additional information, please contact me or Jennifer Goedke (5-5161) on my staff.

Sincerely,

Lynn Woolsey

Member of Congress

***

September 9, 2011

The Honorable Patty Murray
The Honorable Jeb Hensarling

Co-Chairs
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

The Honorable Xavier Becerra
The Honorable Dave Camp
The Honorable James E. Clyburn
The Honorable Fred Upton
The Honorable Chris Van Hollen
The Honorable Max Baucus
The Honorable Jon Kyl
The Honorable John Kerry
The Honorable Rob Portman
The Honorable Pat Toomey

Members
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

Dear Co-Chairs and Members,

Congress and the American people have entrusted you with a great responsibility – ensuring the economic well-being of our nation. This is no simple task and will require both bold decisions and fair compromises.

Lee-Jones Letter to President Obama calling for complete withdrawal from Iraq by previously agreed upon deadline

Thanks to everyone who took action to ask their member of Congress to support the Lee-Jones letter on Iraq! With your help, 95 Members of Congress signed the letter, calling on the President to keep the previously agreed upon deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, not to extend it or to leave troops in the country indefinitely. The final version of the letter was sent to President Obama on July 27, 2011. Representative Lee's press release on the letter is posted here.


KEEP TO THE CURRENT DEADLINE
Bring all U.S. Troops and Military Contractors in Iraq Home by Dec. 31, 2011!

The following 95 members of Congress signed the Lee-Jones letter on Iraq: Baldwin, Bass (CA-33), Boswell, Braley, Capps, Capuano, Chu, Cicilline, Clarke (MI-13), Clarke (NY-11), Clay, Cleaver, Clyburn, Cohen, Conyers, Costello, Cummings, Davis (IL-7), DeFazio, DeLauro, Deutch, Doggett, Doyle, Duncan (TN-2), Edwards, Ellison, Farr, Filner, Frank, Fudge, Garamendi, Grijalva, Gutierrez, Hahn, Hanabusa, Hastings (FL-23), Heinrich, Hirono, Holt, Honda, Jackson Jr. (IL-2), Jackson-Lee, Johnson (IL-15), Johnson (TX-30), Jones, Kaptur, Kucinich, Larson, Lee, Lewis (GA-5), Loebsack, Lofgren, Lujan, Maloney, Matsui, McCollum, McDermott, McGovern, Michaud, Miller (CA-7), Moore, Nadler, Napolitano, Norton, Olver, Paul, Payne, Pingree, Polis, Rangel, Richardson, Rush, Sanchez (CA-39), Sanchez (CA-47), Schakowsky, Schrader, Scott (VA-3), Serrano, Sewell, Slaughter, Speier, Stark, Thompson (CA-1), Thompson (MS-2), Tierney, Tonko, Towns, Tsongas, Velazquez, Waters, Watt, Welch, Wilson (FL-17), Woolsey, Yarmuth

Dear Colleagues:

Iraq/Afghanistan: A Promise Kept, A Promise Deferred

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.

Why Should the Senate Fund "Enduring" U.S. Military Bases in Afghanistan?

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?

NYT Exploits Own Iraq Death Toll Denial to Trash Venezuela

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:

 

How Many Iraqis Did We "Liberate" from Life on Earth?

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.