afghanistan

President Karzai, Stand Tall Against U.S. Pressure to Sign the Troop Deal

A key reason that many Americans are turned off by politics is that they don't experience news sportscasters who are on their side. The average American, if she read the New York Times, would feel like a Chicagoan watching the Cubs game on St. Louis TV. Her team hits a home run and the sportscaster is melancholy. Her team strikes out and the sportscaster does a dance. Who wouldn't be turned off?

The day after the budget deal, we should have had a National Day of Gloating Over Wall Street because Social Security once again evaded the knives of the Wall Street greedheads. The day after the U.S. didn't bomb Syria, we should have had a National Day of Gloating Over AIPAC and the Neocons. But the U.S. news media was so sad! No Social Security cuts. No new war. What is America coming to?

Keep U.S. Troops in Afghanistan? Let Congress Vote!

In mid-November, the Christian Science Monitor reports, a loya jirga in Afghanistan - a national meeting of tribal leaders and other notable Afghans - will vote on whether to meet the Obama administration's terms for keeping U.S. troops in the country beyond the end of 2014.

If you care about democracy in Afghanistan, you should be happy for the Afghans. Whether or not - and if so, under what conditions - they want to have thousands of U.S. troops in their country after 2014 is obviously a very big deal for them. Why shouldn't they have full deliberation and debate?

But if you also care about democracy in the United States, you should be a bit troubled. Because Congress has never approved keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the end of 2014.

The closest Congress has come to considering this question is in language passed by the House in June, 2013. Offered by Democratic Representative Jim McGovern, this language - which passed the House 305-121, with a majority of both Democrats and Republicans voting yes- said [my emphasis]:

Iran Cooties: Will Obama Meet with Rouhani Tuesday?

In international diplomacy, gestures matter. This is particularly true for efforts to promote real diplomacy between the United States and Iran.

For three decades, the United States has mostly pursued an "Iran cooties" policy. We can't meet with Iranian leaders, because someone might interpret that to mean that we think that the Iranian government is "legitimate." OMG! We might get Iran cooties!

It sounds ridiculous, and it is. And it has a real cost in human lives. Because of the "Iran cooties" policy, it's harder to use diplomacy to help end wars in the Middle East, like the Syrian civil war, or the war in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, President Obama has a historic opportunity to end the "Iran cooties" policy. Iran's newly-elected, pragmatic, pro-diplomacy President Hassan Rouhani is going to be addressing the United Nations General Assembly. So is U.S. President Barack Obama.

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.

Don't Let Neocons "Swift Boat" Obama's War-Skeptic Pick for Defense Secretary

The Obama-hating Neocon Right is trying to "Swift Boat" the expected nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense by making up a fantasy scare story that Hagel—a former U.S. Senator from Nebraska, long-respected moderate and thoughtful voice on foreign policy, and decorated Vietnam combat veteran—is "anti-Israel."

The real reason the neocons hate Hagel is that he's a war-skeptic and a diplomacy advocate. As a Senator, he voted for the Iraq war. But then he became an early and harsh critic of the war and called for it to end. Hagel was an early advocate of diplomatic engagement with Iran, has criticized discussion of a military strike by either the U.S. or Israel against Iran, and has also backed efforts to bring Iran to the table for talks on future peace in Afghanistan. Hagel has described the Pentagon as "bloated" and has said "the Pentagon needs to be pared down."

We deserve a war-skeptic and diplomacy advocate as Defense Secretary. Americans voted against the foreign policy of the neocons in 2008 and 2012. But the neocons are still using their insider influence and slander tactics to try to dominate policy.

We cannot stand idly by as the neocons stage a coup of our foreign policy. All of us opposed to these tactics, including the President's support base of liberal Democrats, must make our voices heard. That's why we've set up a petition on MoveOn's community petition site, SignOn, against the Swift Boat campaign on Chuck Hagel. Will you help us move this petition forward, so more MoveOn members will see it? You can sign and share the petition here:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/hagel-nomination

Just Foreign Policy's Policy Director Robert Naiman explained what's at stake in this fight in his blog on Huffington Post. You can read and share that here:

J Street Pushes Back on Neocon Bid to "Swift Boat" Chuck Hagel Nomination as Defense Secretary
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/j-street-chuck-hagel_b_23329...

US Troop Deaths in Afghanistan Under Obama Pass 1500

US Deaths in Afghanistan: Obama vs Bush. Click here to learn more.

Since President Obama took office, the war in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of over 1500 US troops, according to Just Foreign Policy's US Deaths in Afghanistan: Obama vs. Bush counter, which draws on data provided by iCasualties. By comparison, 575 US troops died during President Bush's two terms.

The rise in troop deaths during President Obama's presidency has not been altogether surprising given the administration's strategy in Afghanistan. In 2009, President Obama oversaw not one but two offensive surges, each of which added about 33,000 troops to the roughly 34,000 that were deployed in the country when he took office. By August 2010, more troops had died in Afghanistan under President Obama's command than during President Bush's seven years at the helm. By October 2011, that figure had doubled.

Urge the Pope to Call for a Christmas Ceasefire in Afghanistan

In early December 1914, Pope Benedict XV called for a "Christmas Truce" in the First World War. Leaders on all sides were forced to respond to the Pope's call. No formal truce was agreed, but across the trenches of the Western Front many soldiers on all sides observed the Christmas truce the Pope had called for.

Today the war in Afghanistan continues killing Americans and Afghans for no reason. If Pope Benedict XVI - the current Pope - called on Western leaders to announce an offensive ceasefire in Afghanistan for the Christmas holiday, Western leaders would have to respond. If we could stop the war for one day, it would set an important precedent, making it easier to achieve a lasting ceasefire and an end to the war.

Pope Benedict XVI has just inaugurated the use of a Twitter account. The Pope already has a million followers on Twitter, and the fact that he is now on Twitter is in the news. Sign and tweet our petition, and people around the world will see your appeal for the Pope to call for a Christmas ceasefire:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/xmas-ceasefire

We're making our appeal for a ceasefire to the Pope because he is the most prominent and influential Western religious leader, and because of the historical precedent of his predecessor's call for a ceasefire in 1914. If Pope Benedict calls for a ceasefire in Afghanistan, other Western leaders will join his call, and Western governments with troops in Afghanistan will have to respond. Upon becoming Pope in 2005, he said: [1]

Senate Backs Accelerated End To Combat Missions, Continued Drawdown of US Troops In Afghanistan

Yesterday, an overwhelming majority (62-33) of US Senators—including every Senator who caucuses with the Democrats save two—voted in favor of a measure that calls upon President Obama to continue withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan at a steady pace, as he promised in his address to the nation in June 2011. The "sense of the Senate", which was introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), also calls upon President Obama to end all regular US combat missions in Afghanistan no later than December 31, 2014, and to "take all possible steps" to end such operations earlier.

Why is this vote significant? At present, there is no timetable for removing the 68,000 US troops that remain in Afghanistan. President Obama does not plan to announce such a timetable until after his administration has decided how many troops to leave in Afghanistan post-2014. This decision is expected to happen within the next few weeks, which means that a decision on a drawdown timetable for 2013-2014 may also be imminent.

White House To Make Decision On Post-2014 Afghanistan Troop Levels Within Next Few Weeks

On Monday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that the Obama administration would come to a decision within the next few weeks about the magnitude of the US "enduring presence" in Afghanistan. Panetta said that the White House was currently reviewing several recommendations for troop levels from General John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. These options take into account the different roles US troops would play in Afghanistan after 2014. According to the New York Times,

The number, Mr. Panetta said, will be based on how many forces are needed for counterterrorism — that is, in commando raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden — as well as for training and providing air transport and other support to the Afghan security forces.

Call Congress This Week to Cut the Military Budget, End the War in Afghanistan!

Congressional offices will be paying special attention to phone calls coming in this week on the Defense Appropriations bill, so call your Representative today! Here's what you do:

  1. Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative's office.
  2. Tell the person who picks up or your Rep's voice mailbox, "Hello, my name is _______, I live at _______. I urge Rep _______ to support amendments to the Defense Appropriations bill that would cut the Pentagon budget, end the war in Afghanistan, and draw down US troop levels in Europe."

Amendments expected to cut the military budget include:

  • Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Barney Frank (D-MA) amendment to cut $1.1 billion (a freeze at FY12 levels) from the military budget;
  • An amendment to cut $7 billion to align the bill to spending caps under the Budget Control Act;
  • Barbara Lee amendment to cut $19 billion, corresponding to program cuts proposed by Project on Defense Alternatives and the Cato Institute.

Amendments expected to end or curtail the war in Afghanistan include:

  • Barbara Lee amendment to cut all funding for the war except for what is needed for a safe and responsible drawdown;
  • Walter Jones and Rosa DeLauro amendment preventing the use of funds past 2014 in support of any mission that does not have explicit Congressional approval.

And when you're done, report your call below.