7 thoughts on “German MP’s expelled for opposing Afghan war

  1. German party ejected from assembly over war protest

    Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:55pm IST

    BERLIN (Reuters) – Deputies from Germany’s Left party who held up posters in the lower house of parliament in an anti-war protest on Friday were thrown out before a vote on whether to increase the number of German troops in Afghanistan.

    The deputies held up posters with names of civilians they said were killed by an air strike in September carried out on German orders. The strike by a U.S. F-15 fighter killed at least 69 Taliban fighters and 30 civilians, the Afghan government said.

    There are 622 members of parliament grouped in six parties. The Left is one of three opposition parties in the Bundestag with 76 seats.

    Norbert Lammert, president of the parliament, first told the Left party deputies to fold up their posters. When they refused, he ordered them all to leave.

    “Germany is taking part in a war against the population of Afghanistan,” Left party deputy Christine Buchholz said in a speech to parliament moments before the anti-war protest.

    (Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Tim Pearce)

  2. MacKay expresses concern Karzai move could be step backward for Afghanistan

    By THE CANADIAN PRESS

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Defence Minister Peter MacKay (right), accompanied by Josee Verner, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, left, responds to journalists after they announced an investment in defence infrastructure in the province of Quebec at Defence Research and Development Canada in Valcartier, Que., Wednesday February 24, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Clement Allard

    CFB VALCARTIER, Que. – An apparent power-grab by Afghan President Hamid Karzai has worried Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who calls it a sign of backtracking on promises to clean up corruption.

    The Afghan president has ruffled Western diplomatic feathers with his move this week to take control of the last independent watchdog overseeing voting in his country, the Electoral Complaints Commission.

    After a presidential decree this week, Karzai will now be able to appoint the five members of the commission that uncovered massive fraud during last year’s elections.

    The ECC, which found nearly one million fraudulent votes during last year’s controversial election, had three of its members appointed by the United Nations.

    Now all members of the body will be Afghans picked by Karzai.

    Afghanistan’s main electoral commission declared Karzai the winner of the Aug. 20 vote, but the separate complaints commission discounted nearly a third of the ballots.

    That move forced Karzai into a runoff with chief rival Abdullah Abdullah. But the runoff was cancelled when Abdullah dropped out.

    Concerns have already been raised by Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, and by Canada’s ambassador in Kabul.

    MacKay expressed concern that it could be a step backward for Afghanistan.

    “We will be conveying our concerns directly to the Afghanistan government and it’s my hope that this is not an indication that the government of Afghanistan is backing away from their commitment to democratic reform and adherence to democratic principles in the future,” MacKay said.

    MacKay made his comments at a military base near Quebec City, where he announced that Ottawa will spend $170 million over the next 10 years on infrastructure at the Quebec site for Defence Research and Development Canada.

  3. War spinners on the defensive

    HAMISH MCDONALD
    February 27, 2010

    Next week an American journalist called David Finkel will be in Sydney publicising his remarkable book The Good Soldiers, the account of a year he spent with an American army unit during the ”surge” offensive in Iraq. It’s hard to imagine any such book coming out of Australia from our military involvement in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

    For one thing, our media editors mostly don’t think that long term and their owners wouldn’t wear the costs. But even if one of them did, our Defence Department would go into lock-down mode at the thought of a journalist tracking military operations day by day.

    Members of the public who follow the big offensive in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on the websites of American and British newspapers are amazed at the access afforded war correspondents by the US and British forces, and the contrast with the trickle of news coming out of the Australian contingent in Oruzgan province. Australian coverage comes almost entirely from fly-in, fly-out media ”opportunities” showing our troops bustling about at base, and very occasionally, firing guns over mud walls at unseen targets. Latterly, they have been official visits to the aid projects springing up behind this defensive effort.

    The media here have been aware for some time of the way their role has been largely taken over by the media liaison branch of the Defence Department, one of the fastest-growing arms of this huge bureaucracy. Now we’ve had a spectacular dummy spit – not by the complacent media customers, but by two inside practitioners of military spin.

    The final straw for both came with the revelation last September, by an Australian-based reporter, of the way some 83 soldiers with serious wounds from Afghanistan were being hidden away in hospitals under false names, with medical staff sworn to official secrecy, to avoid disturbing the public. Major Andrew Bird left the army in December as a result, after eight years as a media officer, as did another reservist major, Greg Smith, who had been an army and air force press officer for 23 years. Both say much the same thing: a culture of spin and political manipulation has taken over the information flow about our overseas military operations.

    Every bit of news is consciously filtered and projected to put the government in a good light. ”You are not representing the army as such and what it’s doing, you’ve got to keep your eye on the big picture and how does it benefit the government,” says Smith. ”If Peter Costello is going to visit the air base at Williamtown, it’s what are the opportunities to portray him in the best light, not so much the air force. That’s just one example I can draw on, when I was up there.”

    Bird told the Herald last week that for media visits in Afghanistan, troops on show are given the best kit and posed with the Dutch allies. Other reports have said they are coached in what to say. ”The way we do it with the Australian Army, we take it almost like a show tour. You fly in, everything is rehearsed on schedule and you fly out again,” Bird said.

    The Defence Department has shrugged all this off. And to be truthful, it’s not just the Defence flacks that are spinning. It goes all the way through the government. On Afghanistan at least, Kevin Rudd has taken over where John Howard left off. Canberra is spinning up the line that it is a leading military combatant, making its utmost contribution alongside its allies, while at the same time spinning down the fact that as well as a small number of fatalities, which provide opportunities for politicians to pose at military funerals, there are distressing numbers of incapacitated soldiers.

    The spin could be wobbling off its axis, however, as a result of last weekend’s collapse of the Dutch coalition government over attempts by the main partner to change a decision to pull out the 1600 Dutch forces in August. These troops, and their helicopters and artillery, protect the main body of the 1550 Australians engaged in ”provincial reconstruction”, with offensive operations reserved for relatively small SAS and commando detachments. Unless the Dutch voters change their minds, the Rudd government faces an awkward moment. The Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, has been insisting all week that Australia is ”not in a position to take up the lead in Oruzgan province”.

    This doesn’t explain why a defence force of 55,000 can’t deploy more than the just under 3000 now overseas, but there are few takers in Canberra defence and political circles for expanded Australian operations aside from the retired major-general Jim Molan.

    Most take the approach worked out by the mutual admiration society of Howard and the former defence chief Peter Cosgrove: high-profile commitment, minimum risk and casualties. As Cosgrove wrote in his memoir: ”I learnt a long time ago that the dumbest way to soldier was to calibrate professionalism and the seriousness of commitment by the high number of casualties.”

    Strangely the Americans, British, Canadians and others haven’t taken up this implicit advertisement for superior Australian generalship.

    Without the Dutch, the Australians in Oruzgan will be tied to either another European force, of possibility uncertain capability, or a US one, something the Australian Army has tried to avoid since Vietnam when it insisted on a separate command in Vungtau. American tactics tend to stir up unnecessary resistance and result in more civilian casualties.

    If there is disagreement with a military-based strategy in Afghanistan, why not tell Barack Obama directly when he comes here next month? The former defence PR man Greg Smith has ended up with admiration for New Zealand, which opted out of the second Iraq war and kept troops in Afghanistan continuously since 2001.

    ”You’ve got to admire the Kiwis,” he said. ”It’s the first time [Gulf War II] we haven’t fought alongside them since the Maori wars. They stick by their principles. It’s a politically correct thing to do to support your long-term ally, the United States, but at what cost morally? The British inquiry has proved that again, too.”

    Truth in defence policy and information – now there’s a secret weapon.

    Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

  4. 15 Pak citizens detained at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan: Brit NGO

    2010-02-27 16:40:00

    A British non-governmental organisation (NGO), Reprieve, has claimed that at least 15 Pakistanis have been detained at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan’s Parwan province by the US security forces.

    Interacting with media persons during a joint press conference here with Defence of Human Rights (a Pakistani NGO) chief Amina Masood Janjoa, Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith said the organisation has served a legal notice to the US officials asking them for more information on the detained persons.

    Smith also claimed that six Pakistanis are currently languishing at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

    “The detainees are deprived of basic human and legal rights. The US and the UK governments detained Pakistani citizens in pursuit of their own agendas,” The Daily Times quoted Smith, as saying.

    He said that about 770 people from different countries were currently detained at the Bagram airbase, while another 195 are locked up at Guantanamo Bay. (ANI)

  5. http://www.mikemarqusee.com/?p=938

    Politics and “the art of the possible”
    2010 February 7
    by Mike Marqusee

    ——–
    “In the wake of 9/11, liberals in the US largely signed up to the Afghanistan invasion — because to fail to do so would place them outside an apparently immutable pro-war consensus. Those who kept their nerve and set about building an anti-war movement proved the more far sighted.”
    ——–

    Another version of this article, with comment from readers, is published on The Guardian’s Comment is free website.

    Whenever a commentator declares that “politics is the art of the possible”, I’m on my guard. What I’m being told, I suspect, is to accept apparent present conditions as immutable facts of life, and to trim my goals accordingly. I’m being told to let injustices stand.

    Like all banalities, the familiar dictum contains an obvious truth. To be politically effective, you have to be able to distinguish between your desires and realities on the ground, between aspirations and resources.

    But like most banalities, it begs more questions than it answers. How is “the possible” defined? Where are its limits drawn? Who draws them? Theoretically, the possible is an elastic and speculative category. But the dictum draws no distinctions between the immediately unlikely and the ultimately impossible, takes no notice of the infinite and shifting gradations between them, and of the impact of human agency in shifting an outcome from one category to another.

    What’s usually meant when politics is pronounced the art of the possible is that politics is a calculation of the probable, an exercise in the pragmatic, the expedient or the opportune. The adage implies forcefully that minimal improvements or lesser evils are the only realistic aim — and any demand for more is self-indulgence. It’s an injunction not only to compromise, but to get your compromise in first. To placate hostile forces in advance, as Obama tried to do with healthcare reform.

    Obama’s election was in itself a vivid display of the eruption of the supposedly impossible into the realm of the ordinary. The slogan “Yes we can” proposed a generalised defiance of assumed limitations. Now Obama’s supporters are being lectured for expecting too much from the President, for not understanding that “politics is the art of the possible”. Here, as in so many instances, the “possible” is a code word for what vested interests will permit.

    When Francis Bacon was told that his plan for “The Advancement of Learning” could never be realised, he answered: “Touching impossibility, I take it those things are to be held possible which may be done by some person, though not by every one; and which may be done by many, though not by any one; and which may be done in succession of ages, though not within the hourglass of one man’s life; and which may be done by public designation, though not by private endeavour.”

    William Blake regarded Bacon as the epitome of rationalist arrogance. But even more than Bacon, he protested against the shrivelled, static nature of the “possible” of his day. “Reason, or the ratio of all we have already known”, he wrote in 1788, “is not the same that it shall be when we know more”.

    When people speak of politics as the art of the possible, they imply a world of unexamined assumptions about the limits of the possible — a world which embodies only the limits of their own experience or imagination. In its un-reflective way, the dictum treats the superficial conditions of the moment as unchangeable realities. In effect, it serves as a denial of possibility, a closing of the aperture into the future.

    It also urges us not to feel the urgency of injustice. The dictum is cold comfort to the oppressed, the victims of poverty, discrimination and violence, who are asked to continue suffering while distant arbiters decide what is or is not “possible” in their case. It sacrifices the poor, the hungry, the desperate on the altar of a self-serving pragmatism. Impatience, in fact, is a necessary political virtue. Without it, even the most gradual change is inconceivable. And a politician who is not impatient with injustice, with needless death and destruction, is worse than useless.

    Those who dispute the dictum are accused of utopianism, which is condemned as an intellectual and emotional error, not just a mistake but a danger. Of course utopias are no substitute for the practice of politics, and can serve as an evasion of present responsibilities. But a practical politics stripped of serious ideas about what would constitute a just human society is a greater and more common menace.

    Utopias can be powerful motivators, and thus a real influence on human destinies. For evidence one only has to look at the Indian independence movement or the African-American civil rights movement, at Gandhi and King, who defied assumed limitations to build great mass movements. By word and deed, they alerted people to the greater range of possibilities that lay within their grasp

    Utopias provide a perspective from which the assumed limitations of the present can be examined, from which familiar social arrangements can be revealed as unjust, irrational or unnecessary. They are a means of expanding the borders of the possible. You can’t chart the surface of the earth or compute distances without a point of elevation — a mountain top, a star or a satellite. You can’t chart the possible in society without an angle of vision, a mental mountain top that permits the widest sweep. The pundits championing the art of the possible are the flat-earthers of today, afraid to venture too far from shore lest they fall off the face of the earth.

    It’s striking how often pundits of “the possible” rest their case on all kinds of gross improbabilities. In insisting that there was no alternative to neo-liberal economics, many assumed, oblivious to obvious objections, that speculation had no limits, that wealth-making could be severed from productive activity, that private interests would magically coagulate into public benefit, that industrial growth could be limitless on a planet with finite resources. Here the art of the possible stands revealed as a dismal pseudo-science, its certainties built on foundations of sand.

    This is very much the vice of the centre-left. The right are bolder, more confident, more reckless and strongly driven by their own utopian visions (which would be dystopias for the rest of us). In contrast, liberals advise each other to trim their ambitions, to sacrifice their goals in order to remain politically viable. In the wake of 9/11, liberals in the US largely signed up to the Afghanistan invasion — because to fail to do so would place them outside an apparently immutable pro-war consensus. Those who kept their nerve and set about building an anti-war movement proved the more far sighted.

    Of course, if your politics is about personal aggrandisement, then it will be “the art of the possible” in the narrowest sense. But for those who seek in politics a means of changing society for the better, it must be the art of redefining the possible. The art-science-craft of coaxing from the present, with its complex mix of possibilities and limitations, a just and sustainable human future.

  6. Afghanistan bans coverage of Taliban attacks

    Tue Mar 2, 2010 12:38am IST

    By Sayed Salahuddin and Hamid Shalizi

    KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan on Monday announced a ban on news coverage showing Taliban attacks, saying such images embolden the Islamist militants, who have launched strikes around the country as NATO forces seize their southern strongholds.

    The announcement came on a day when the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) fighting the Taliban reported six of its service members had been killed in various attacks.

    Journalists will be allowed to film only the aftermath of attacks, when given permission by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) spy agency, the agency said. Journalists who film while attacks are under way will be held and their gear seized.

    “Live coverage does not benefit the government, but benefits the enemies of Afghanistan,” NDS spokesman Saeed Ansari said. The agency summoned a group of reporters to announce the ban.

    The move was denounced by Afghan journalism and rights groups, which said it would deprive the public of vital information about the security situation during attacks.

    “Such a decision prevents the public from receiving accurate information on any occurrence,” said Abdul Hameed Mubarez head of the Afghan National Media Union, a group set up to protect Afghan journalists, who often complain of harassment by authorities.

    “The government should not hide their inabilities by barring media from covering incidents,” said Laila Noori, who monitors media issues for Afghanistan Rights Monitor, the country’s main liberties watchdog. “People want to know all the facts on the ground whenever security incidents take place.”

    The Afghan government banned reporting violence for a single day during a presidential election last year, but otherwise had not had formal restrictions on filming security incidents. However, journalists have occasionally been beaten by security forces while filming at the scene of incidents in the past.

    SUICIDE BOMBER

    Two blasts hours apart on Monday killed at least six people in the southern city of Kandahar, birthplace of the Taliban whose fighters are being targeted in a renewed push by NATO-led troops.

    One ISAF member was killed in one of the Kandahar strikes. In various attacks in the country, five other ISAF service members were also killed, the force said.

    NATO-led troops launched an offensive last month to drive the Taliban out of their strongholds as part of a plan to hand control of the country to Afghan forces before a planned U.S. troop drawdown that would begin in July 2011.

    U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, the ISAF commander, visited Marjah in Helmand province, the town seized by U.S. Marines in the offensive, one of the biggest operations of the eight-year-old war.

    He was joined by Afghan Vice President Karim Khalili and Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal, who met hundreds of local residents at a “shura,” or traditional council meeting.

    “The most important thing is to bring peace and stability to the people in Afghanistan. This is our priority. This is a promise,” Khalili told the gathering. But not all were impressed.

    “You promised not to use big weapons. Why was my house destroyed?” asked Abdul Kader, a white-bearded village elder.

    McChrystal told reporters the goal was to build a government in the area that villagers would embrace: “In the near term, they have to feel represented, they have to feel it’s fair.”

    There could be 200-300 fighters left in the town “who were Taliban two weeks ago,” McChrystal said. “Now, whether they still are is a personal choice for each of them. Some may become sleeper cells waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Some may just put the gun away and see what’s going to happen.”

    Fighters have responded with attacks in other parts of the country, using roadside bombs and suicide attacks.

    In the past week, the Taliban have carried out four big attacks killing at least 29 people and wounding scores more.

    On Friday, two suicide blasts and a two-hour shootout between Afghan forces and the Taliban rocked the capital Kabul, killing 16 people and wounding 37. Among those killed were Indian government employees and an Italian diplomat.

    In Monday’s first blast, a suicide bomber blew up a car as NATO-led troops passed in convoy on a road several miles from Kandahar airport, a key NATO base. Mohammad Ibrahim, a doctor in a Kandahar hospital, said four civilians were killed.

    A NATO helicopter evacuated the wounded, and a bridge close by was badly damaged, a Reuters journalist said.

    Hours later, a car packed with explosives blew up outside Kandahar’s main police station, killing a police officer and wounding 16 people.

    (Additional reporting by Ismail Sameem in Kandahar and a pool reporter traveling with McChrystal in Marjah; writing by Bryson Hull and Peter Graff; Editing by Charles Dick)

    © Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved

  7. Pingback: Greek workers confront German politician | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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