Endless United States wars

Edwin Starr's War

Thinking about Edwin Starr’s song War (lyrics are here); with Iraq images in my head.

From the International Herald Tribune in the USA:

Wars, endless wars

By Bob Herbert

Published: March 3, 2009

The singer Edwin Starr, who died in 2003, had a big hit in 1970 called “War” in which he asked again and again: “War, what is it good for?”

The U.S. economy is in free fall, the banking system is in a state of complete collapse and Americans all across the country are downsizing their standards of living. The nation as we’ve known it is fading before our very eyes, but we’re still pouring billions of dollars into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with missions we are still unable to define.

Even as the U.S. begins plans to reduce troop commitments in Iraq, it is sending thousands of additional troops into Afghanistan. The strategic purpose of this escalation, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged, is not at all clear.

Also on this: Tomgram: The Dictionary of American Empire-Speak: here.

See also here.

All Troops Out By 2011? Not So Fast; Why Obama’s Iraq Speech Deserves a Second Look; by Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet: here.

Three Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel were killed late Tuesday [5 March 2009] in an area of Kandahar province that till now had been largely untouched by the insurgency against the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan: here.

15 thoughts on “Endless United States wars

  1. Can US troop move aid defense industry?
    By Donna Borak
    AP Business Writer / March 6, 2009

    WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama’s plan to shift 17,000 more soldiers and Marines to Afghanistan aims to help troops already fighting a strengthening Taliban-led insurgency.

    Will it also help prop up a corner of the economy — the defense industry?

    The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. David McKiernan says he needs not only additional combat troops but also surveillance aircraft and more civilian support. As a result, a troop surge could mean more business for U.S. defense companies — or at least delay of a long-expected decline in defense spending.

    Here are some questions and answers about what the Pentagon’s shift to Afghanistan may mean for U.S. defense contractors.

    Q: Will the president’s decision to send additional forces to Afghanistan help lift U.S. defense contractors’ profits?

    A: Defense analysts say probably not. Reprioritizing U.S. efforts toward Afghanistan is simply shifting spending from one country to another, says Dakota Wood, a military analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

    The amount of equipment required will mirror troop levels, Wood says. However, the vastly different environments, smaller force size and logistical challenges will affect what the military needs to buy for its mission in Afghanistan — and what contractors will be building more of in the near-term.

    Obama has asked Congress for $76 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the fall, and another $130 billion in fiscal 2010. That figure is on top of the $534 billion in other Defense Department costs — and represents a 4 percent boost from the prior year’s main budget.

    A sustained level of defense spending, at least in the near term, is good news for the industry at a time when many sectors of the economy are slumping badly.

    The defense sector has largely remained insulated from the financial crisis — but it has sustained a blow or two.

    Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics Corp. said Thursday it will lay off 1,200 workers, though that was due in part to plummeting sales of business and personal jets. And Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp. plans to lay off 750 workers, mostly in southern California.

    Q: What types of equipment will troops need in Afghanistan?

    A: Afghanistan is a landlocked, mountainous country with little modern infrastructure and much higher altitudes than Iraq.

    Even as troops are shifted to Afghanistan, there are no plans to have as many as are patrolling Iraq right now. With this smaller number of troops, deployed to small, remote outposts throughout the country, the military will need to find innovative ways to counter threats by insurgents while monitoring them closely, analysts say.

    The Air Force is outfitting modified commercial planes built by Hawker Beechcraft with surveillance technologies that can help troops detect mines, explosives and other enemy-planted devices. The military has also grown to rely to unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, built by General Atomics, to provide full-motion video to commanders on the ground.Continued…

    “They are looking to obtain a decisive capability” that could “make a major contribution to winning the war,” John Pike, a defense analyst and director of GlobalSecurity.org said.

    Another challenge facing troops: rocky terrain and very few paved roads.

    The Pentagon wants to buy an off-terrain vehicle that can traverse the mountains of Afghanistan, while protecting against rocket-propelled grenades and explosive devices.

    Government contractors like the U.S. subsidiary of British defense conglomerate BAE Systems PLC, Lockheed Martin Corp., Humvee maker AM General and Navistar International Corp. are vying for the multibillion-dollar contract to build between 2,080 and 10,000 of the vehicles.

    Q: Obama has said he plans to cut wasteful spending on outdated weapons systems designed for the Cold War. How will that affect jobs in the aerospace and defense sector?

    A: Defense companies say thousands of jobs could be cut if we do away with certain programs like the F-22 fighter jet, built by Lockheed Martin Corp. The Bethesda, Maryland-based defense contractor has said almost 95,000 jobs — mostly in states like California, Texas, Georgia and Connecticut — could be at stake if the Pentagon doesn’t buy more of the radar-evading planes.

    “You need something that’s going to keep all of those high-tech aerospace workers employed,” says Travis Sharp, a military policy analyst for the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. But, he added, the fact that the program exists shouldn’t justify its continuation, especially for a plane designed to counter a Soviet threat that has disappeared.

    Q: When the government spends more on defense, does that help to stimulate the U.S. economy?

    A: The defense sector keeps some people employed, but it doesn’t have a huge impact on the national economy. Only certain pockets of the country have really seen the economic benefit that comes with buying more ships, aircraft and armored vehicles.

    “Virginia does better than Michigan, Huntsville does better than the rest of Alabama and southern California does better than northern California,” Pike said.

    Some economists say defense spending hasn’t produced a stimulative effect on the economy in recent years because of its relatively small share of gross domestic product. The last time the economy saw a meaningful boost from defense was World War II, when defense spending reached a peak of 37.8 percent of GDP in 1944.

    Today, the figure is about 4.2 percent.

    That number doesn’t mean the military budget has shrunk — it simply hasn’t come close to keeping up with growth in GDP, the value of all goods and services produced in the United States.

    Still it’s a very small number, and it shows the limited influence the sector can have on the economy at large.
    © Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



  2. AFGHANISTAN: Planning a child? Then avoid the winter months

    Winter poses extra and avoidable health risks to many poor women who have just given birth, health experts say

    KABUL, 3 March 2009 (IRIN) – Some health specialists are suggesting that couples plan pregnancies so that the mother’s due date does not fall in the cold winter months. This, they say, will help save lives.

    Wazhma, 23, had a baby in December and one of her main problems is how to keep warm.

    “Often my baby and I shiver at night,” she said, adding that her family could not afford to heat even one room in their house in the southern suburbs of Kabul.

    Winter poses extra and avoidable health risks to many poor women who have just given birth and who lack access to fuel for heating and nutritious food, health experts say.

    Blocked roads in some areas due to snow or avalanches impede access (sometimes from November to April) for health workers, and many women are consequently forced to go without regular health and obstetric care, especially during the winter.

    Cold-related diseases such as pneumonia and respiratory infections kill hundreds, if not thousands, of mothers and infants every year, according to aid agencies; and when fuel is available for heating, the fumes given off are frequently damaging to mother and child.

    “If families avoid child delivery in the difficult season of the year [winter], some health problems which originate from cold weather will be prevented,” Abdullah Fahim, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) in Kabul, told IRIN.

    Fahim’s suggestions were echoed by Marghalay Khara, director of health and social affairs at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs: “Child delivery in winter is associated with many problems which can be avoided by better family planning.”

    Afghanistan comes just after Sierra Leone in terms of having the worst record on maternal and infant mortality and the reasons for this go beyond lack of access to essential healthcare.

    The estimated maternal mortality rate (MMR) is 1,600 per 100,000 live births, and infant mortality is 129 per 1,000, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).


    A study by a group of Afghan and Japanese health experts released in September 2008 indicated that illiteracy among pregnant women played a significant part in maternal and infant deaths.

    “A lack of education of the mothers, child marriage, lack of maternal autonomy, shortage of basic material needs and internal displacement showed independent and significant negative associations with child health and nutritional variables in this country,” concluded the group in their report.

    The female illiteracy rate is over 70 percent, according to UNICEF.

    Raising awareness in rural communities on pregnancy planning and its implications for maternal and infant health is a continuing challenge for the MoPH and NGOs.

    The MoPH, in collaboration with the Ministry of Pilgrimage and Religious Affairs, has trained dozens of imams to help curb maternal mortality through raising awareness about the need for birth gaps and the dangers of child marriage.


    Theme(s): (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Education, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition


    [This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations


  3. Dear Friends, Colleagues and Supporters,
    Watch the video
    Donate to Brave New Foundation

    Did you know there is an Afghan peace movement? Have you read any Afghan bloggers? What about the members of Afghanistan’s parliament who are both anti-Taliban and opposed to U.S. military escalation? As our Rethink Afghanistan documentary gathers steam, we want to bring you all the experts on this war: Andrew Bacevich, Anand Gopal, Stephen Kinzer, Rory Stewart, and perhaps most critically, Afghan voices.

    For that reason, it has become increasingly apparent to me that I should travel to Afghanistan. I want to meet with some of the people and organizations, conduct in-person interviews, and gain a better understanding of the war. To get the most out of this filmmaking journey, I need your help.

    Can you contribute $20 so we can hire a local camera crew and arrange for interviews, researchers, transcriptions, and translators? By contributing $20 or more, you will be recognized as a Producer on this full-length documentary. If we raise $25,000 by this Friday, March 13, your contribution will be matched two-for-one by gracious donors. To better understand how valuable your contribution is to helping us create this documentary, watch this video.

    I know there are serious security issues regarding my Afghanistan trip, but let me assure you we are taking every possible precaution. I appreciate your concern. I want to hear your questions, comments, and suggestions for my travels. Post your thoughts and I will use them in my interviews and discussions.

    And to keep you abreast of my trip, I will be posting my Twitter and blog updates directly to the website. You can also sign up for real time e-mail alerts.

    Help us raise the critical questions around the costs of war, troops, terrorism, women’s rights, and Pakistan by contributing to this filmmaking process. Enable us to delve deeper and convey a more complete Afghan perspective.


    Robert Greenwald
    and the Brave New Foundation team

    P.S. Thanks to your tremendous efforts over 25,000 people have already signed the petition calling for congressional oversight hearings on Afghanistan. Many people are deeply concerned about this war and Rethink Afghanistan is raising the questions oversight hearings should address. Please continue to spread the word about part one of the documentary and help get this petition to 30,000 signatures.


  4. Prosecute Bush & Cheney

    March 19 is the sixth anniversary of George Bush’s invasion of Iraq, a war crime of historic proportions based entirely on deliberate lies. Last week, President Obama declassified some crucial memos by President Bush’s lawyer John Yoo which nullified the Bill of Rights and created a legal dictatorship. This week, Seymour Hersh revealed Dick Cheney ran his own Death Squads around the world.

    Urge Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor

    If you belong to a progressive group, join over 150 groups calling for Prosecution of Former High Officials:

    Join protests in the U.S. and around the world throughout the spring, especially around March 19:

    Lots of other important actions here:

    Rethink Afghanistan

    Under pressure from the Pentagon, President Obama will send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Our troops have been there for over seven years, but we’re not beating the Taliban and the Pentagon admits it has no strategy for success. Now Afghans are negotiating with the Taliban for peace. A progressive coalition led by Brave New Films wants Congress to hold long-overdue oversight hearings. Watch the videos and sign the petition (scroll down):


    Thanks for all you do!

    Bob Fertik


    Forward this message to everyone you know!


  5. Mar 14, 4:11 AM EDT

    5 killed in Afghan operation targeting bomb-maker

    Associated Press Writer

    KABUL (AP) — An overnight raid conducted by U.S. coalition troops and Afghan special forces killed five militants during a mission against the leader of a roadside bomb-making cell south of Kabul, a U.S. spokesman said Saturday.

    However, a spokesman for the governor of Logar province said five civilians were killed in the operation.


  6. Afghan police say victims of U.S. raid not militants

    Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:38am EDT

    KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan police disputed whether five men killed in a raid by U.S. and Afghan troops on Saturday were militants.

    The predawn raid took place in the Charkh district of Logar province, some 80 km (49 miles) southwest of the capital Kabul. The U.S. military said the operation aimed at disrupting a network that had been carrying out roadside bombings.

    “A firefight began when armed militants engaged the force, five enemy combatants were killed in the firefight,” a U.S. military statement said.

    Afghan police and officials, however, said the men killed were non-combatants.

    “I confirm that those killed by U.S. forces were civilians… four brothers and a father,” said General Mostafa Mohseni, the police chief in Logar province.

    The head of the provincial council Abdul Hakim Sulaimankhil condemned the killing of civilians.

    More than 3,000 fresh U.S. troops have been recently deployed in Logar and neighboring Wardak province.

    Civilian casualties are the greatest source tension between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Western governments fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, and there has been dwindling public support for the continued presence of nearly 70,000 foreign troops in the country.

    More than 2,100 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year, 40 percent more than 2007, the United Nations said. Around a quarter were killed by international forces.

    President Barack Obama has issued orders for some 17,000 more troops to be set to Afghanistan.

    Military officials expect the violence to increase this year as foreign troops move into areas where they have seldom patrolled before.

    (Reporting by Hamid Shalizi, Editing by Valerie Lee)


  7. Washington protester who outlasts presidents


    Published: Sunday March 15, 2009

    She is President Barack Obama’s closest neighbor, but don’t expect her to be invited over for tea any time soon — not while carrying on the longest continuous act of political protest in the United States.

    Each morning like she has for the past 28 years, Concepcion Picciotto pulls back the plastic flap of her makeshift shelter in Lafayette Park and stares across the street at the White House, but the protester-in-residence voices little hope that the new president will make a difference on issues that dominate her life: ending US interventionist wars and banning nuclear weapons.

    “No, they’re all the same,” Picciotto laments about the commanders-in-chief she has literally watched come and go since 1981, when she and fellow activist William “Doubting” Thomas began their 24-hour White House peace vigil.

    “From the beginning I said Obama isn’t going to work, because he’s inside there,” she hisses, pointing to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    “It’s a revolving door,” she tells AFP in an interview on a recent frigid night.

    Obama and the other presidents she has outlasted — Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush — “don’t support peace.”

    “It’s against what they do: invasions, occupations, wars.”

    Some Americans dismiss the Spanish-born Picciotto, who declines to give her age but is said to be 64, as a little old lady with a bone to pick.

    For many tourists, she is a colorful character who recites greetings in several languages and paints peace messages on rocks — a harmless flake who has spent most of her adult years living under the sun and stars, enjoying the best view in Washington.

    But others see her as someone far more vital: a rabid defender of free speech, a global peace activist who serves as the unheralded conscience of a nation grappling with its warrior/peacemaker past and present.

    To activist Jamilla El-Shafei, Picciotto is nothing less than “a living symbol of resistance,” defiantly anchored across the street and a world away from the most powerful leader on the planet.

    “She is an amazing example of grassroots democracy and she understands that power is with the people,” said El-Shafei, who has protested against the US-led war in Iraq alongside Picciotto.

    Colman McCarthy, a former columnist in Washington who now heads the Center for Teaching Peace, says she “steadfastly defines the madness of American militarism.”

    “She is certifiably sane,” McCarthy adds. “The rest of us, who think we can live with nuclear weapons, we are insane.”

    More than just about anyone in the US capital except longstanding members of Congress, the diminutive woman with several missing teeth and a helmet of brown hair is a Washington fixture.

    Her large signs — “Live By The Bomb, Die By The Bomb,” “Ban All Nuclear Weapons Or Have A Nice Doomsday” — are throwbacks to the early 1980s, and the tail end of an era of large-scale government protest.

    In the decades since, she has been cursed at, spat on and beaten up — and that’s just by the police, she claims.

    “We have had a very hard time with the government,” she whispers, batting her mittens together to keep warm.

    She recalls the dozens of arrests, the constant 50-dollar citations for illegal “camping” in the park, and dozens of forays by Thomas to Capitol Hill and courtrooms to protect their constitutional right to protest by challenging the various new regulations imposed on them.

    But just days after Obama’s January 20 inauguration, Picciotto’s world collapsed. Thomas, 61, died at their nearby office.

    “It was horrible. Horrible,” Picciotto recalls of the death of her longtime protest partner.

    “They killed Thomas in a way,” she says, referring to the harassment by US Park Police, the law enforcement arm responsible for Lafayette Park.

    The Park Police acknowledges the longstanding face-off, but insists it has followed the rules to the letter, even as the changing regulations on protests made for some uncomfortable clashes.

    “It’s like a marriage… but over the years, it’s been a good relationship,” Park Police information officer David Schlosser says.

    Picciotto scoffs at the suggestion that she and police have resolved their differences.

    “Just last night a policeman stopped me when I went to the trash can because it was more than three feet (one meter) away from my signs!”

    Yet Picciotto carries on, thanks to what McCarthy calls her “great grace of persistence.”

    The area in front of the White House bustles with protesters during the day, but when darkness falls, Picciotto is alone. She savors the silence, but the absence of other activists is glaring.

    “No one else has the courage to challenge (the government) and go through what we’ve gone through,” she says.

    Days later, she appears in jovial mood. Ten South Koreans are gathered around her vigil, and she offers greetings in Korean while the tourists snap pictures with her.

    A young woman in the group, perhaps mindful of the thousands of Koreans who died in the 1945 atomic blasts in Japan, bows slowly at the waist and wordlessly presses folded dollar bills into Picciotto’s palm.

    When asked what she would tell Obama if she had the chance, Picciotto says she would urge him to ban nuclear weapons, stop funding Israel’s military, pull troops out of Iraq “and put the money here, for people here.”

    Claiming good health, Picciotto aims to be around for years to come, and wants to write a book about her experiences. But for now she appears content with bringing her issues to light for the million or more tourists and Washingtonians who see her vigil each year.

    “She is standing up for her conviction, for peace … and she is a manifestation of the nation’s feelings about war,” El-Shafei said.

    “She is standing there for all of us.”


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