Obama, Afghanistan, and Strasbourg


This is a video of a die-in in Strasbourg, France, by anti NATO activists protesting against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Already when Barack Obama was not yet president of the USA, but still only candidate of the Democratic Party, this blog contained criticism of his policies on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

While acknowledging that Obama in general would be an improvement on George W. Bush, this blog noted that his proposals on these two South Asian countries did not bring the “change” away from Bush’s imperialist militarism which was needed. While almost half of the people in the USA, and majorities in countries allied to the USA, want the troops to come home from Afghanistan now.

At the NATO conference in Baden-Baden in Germany and Strasbourg in France, Obama again spoke on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Basically, that speech was in the same vein as his speech on 27 March in the USA on that subject.

A critical analysis of that speech is here. One point at least is not mentioned in that criticism.

In his speech, Obama blamed Al Qaeda for the murder of Pakistani oppositionist Benazir Bhutto. While most people, not least of them Ms Bhutto herself in her suspicions, and her supporters, blame Pakistani military dictator Musharraf, a crony of George W. Bush, for that murder.

Obama calls his approach A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Real renewal, real change, should proceed from truth. Not from old Bush-era untrue propaganda on the Bhutto murder, then designed to shield George W.´s dictator pal from deserved disgust.

This point in Obama´s speech is symptomatic for other instances in which Obama does not make the necessary change from the Bush era. Obama acknowledged that since Bush started the Afghan war in 2001, the violence had only grown worse, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. But he did not analyze how the policies of the Bush administration had greatly contributed to that. When talking about the Taliban, Obama differentiated between a hard core. And others, who joined the Taliban `because of coercion or simply for a price`.

Here, he did not acknowledge at least two points. First, that is simplistic to label all resistance to the presence of US and other foreign forces in Afghanistan as `Taliban`. As much of that opposition is `localist`, nationalist, or Leftist. While in Pakistan, all political parties in parliament, from left to right, from religious to secular, condemn the killing of Pakistani civilians by United States bombs.

Also, let us presume that someone joins the Taliban, while not being a really extremist kind of Muslim. Would that only be `because of coercion or simply for a price`? Would it not be, more probably, because of anger about the bad situation in Afghanistan, of the mass hunger, of the torture in US and US approved prisons in Afghanistan, and the many civilians killed by armed forces of the USA and its allies? And, if Taliban would happen to be the only armed opposition close to a village where bombing by foreign military planes has killed your family or friends, then joining the Taliban might seem to become a possibility?

From British daily The Independent today:

US missile strike on Pakistan border kills 13 …

The dead and injured included local and foreign militants, but women and children were also killed in the attack, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media.

Hannity manipulates Strasbourg speech to claim ‘Obama attacks America’: here.

The NATO 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg ended with a headline commitment for Europe to provide “up to” 5,000 additional troops for Afghanistan: here.

In a rebuke to the Bush and Obama administrations’ bid to hold so-called enemy combatants indefinitely without charges or trials, a federal judge has ruled that three detainees at a US prison in Afghanistan have the right to challenge their detention in court: here.

In his two-day visit to Turkey, President Obama sought to distance himself from the disastrous foreign policy legacy of George W. Bush while pursuing the same strategic interests of US imperialism that motivated the wars launched by his predecessor: here.

7 thoughts on “Obama, Afghanistan, and Strasbourg

  1. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/KD02Df03.html

    Apr 2, 2009
    THE ROVING EYE
    The secrets of Obama’s surge
    By Pepe Escobar

    Is United States President Barack Obama telling it like it is as far as his new strategy for the Afghanistan and Pakistan war theater — AfPak, in Pentagonspeak — is concerned? There are reasons to believe otherwise.

    Obama’s relentless media blitzkrieg stressed the new strategy is refocusing on al-Qaeda. Washington, we got a problem. Why deploy 17,000 troops against “the Taliban” in the poppy-growing province of Helmand, not in the east near the Pakistani tribal areas, where “al-Qaeda” is holed up, plus 4,000 advisers to train the Afghan Army, when Washington actually wants to fight no more than 200 or 300 al-Qaeda jihadis roaming in Afghanistan, plus another 400 maximum in the Pakistani tribal areas? And by the way they are not Afghans — they are overwhelmingly Arabs, with a few Uzbeks, Chechens and Uyghurs thrown in.

    President Hamid Karzai, the puppet in Kabul which has left Washington beyond exasperated, loved Obama’s plan to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Especially because it involves the improbable “hunt for the good Taliban” (always bribable by loads of US dollars) mixed with Special Ops inside Pakistan, and not Afghanistan.

    Former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto’s widower, President Asif Ali Zardari, the puppet in Islamabad, loved it too. But as the Pakistani daily Dawn revealed, his Foreign Office diplomats definitely did not.

    The Afghanistan-Pakistan war has got to be 2009’s prime theater of the absurd. It took the New York Times and the usual “American officials” something like 13 years to “discover” that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — a Central Intelligence Agency twin — helps the Taliban. And this while the CIA, alongside their ISI pals, is compiling a mega hit list in the Pashtun tribal areas inside Pakistan. Maybe this is what US Central Command supremo General David “I’m always positioning myself for 2012” Petraeus means by a “trilateral” love affair, as he told CNN’s State of the Union.

    The Pentagon’s preferred pal is doubtless Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani, who happens to approve of what’s not in Obama’s presentation of the surge: the relentless drone war — with inevitable “collateral damage” — over what is for a fact Pashtunistan. As for the Pakistani masses, which have no say in all of this, they see the whole thing as a charade, and al-Qaeda as a threat to the US — not to Pakistan.

    Obama is selling the surge basically as nation building, based on trust. A hard sell if there ever was one — as Washington cannot trust the ISI or the Pakistani government, while the Pakistani masses don’t trust Washington.

    Insistent rumors in Washington point to a troika — Holbrooke-Petraeus-Clinton — finally being able to convince Obama that the surge should be just the first step towards long-range nation building. Anyone with minimal familiarity with Afghanistan knows this is an impossible strategic target.

    The Salvador option

    And then Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy to AfPak, finally let it slip on CNN: the “people we are fighting in Afghanistan” are essentially … Pashtuns. This was followed by a stark admission: “In the informational side … we don’t have a strong enough counter-informational program to combat the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”

    So this amounts to the State Department admitting that the Pentagon/Petraeus “humint” (human intelligence) component of counter-insurgency in AfPak, hailed as a gift from the Messiah all across US corporate media, is essentially useless. This also means there’s no way of winning local hearts and minds.

    In the absence of “humint”, what prevails is inevitably The Salvador option, performed by a Dick Cheney-supervised-style “executive assassination wing”, as investigative icon Seymour Hersh first revealed in a talk at the University of Minnesota on March 10, “going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or to the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving”. The “assassination wing” is in fact the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — a shadowy, ultra-elite unit including Navy Seals and Delta Force commandos immune to Congressional investigations.

    So if you have such a unit killing “al-Qaeda” jihadis at random from Iraq to Kenya, from Somalia to countries in South and Central America (these are not necessarily “al-Qaeda”; let’s say they are inimical to “US interests”), why not let them loose in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas? Instead of a $5 million bounty on his head, why not send a crack JSOC commando to South Waziristan and take out Pakistani Taliban superstar Baitullah Mehsud, who has just boasted his outfit will “soon launch an attack on Washington that will amaze everyone in the world?”

    Well, maybe because US “humint” on South Waziristan is negligible — and even JSOC cannot infiltrate. JSOC by now should have been more than fully equipped to find Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Anyway, Vice-President Joseph Biden, to whom the unit would have to answer to, could at least come clean and state the “Salvador option” is not on the cards anymore. Or maybe it still is. The Obama administration is mum about it.

    A priceless, self-described “hip pocket” manual prepared by the US Army Training and Doctrine Command — TRADOC, one more wonderful, Pentagon acronym to memorize — and available only to “US government personnel, government contractors and additional cleared personnel for national security purposes and homeland defense” spells out what’s (visibly) going on. On page 5, one learns this is a US war against, yes, Pashtuns, as Holbrooke said on CNN. The overwhelming majority of the “insurgent syndicate”, they are funded by drug smuggling and US allies in the Gulf such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Emirates, and are trained and assisted by, yes, the ISI, with some — in fact marginal — al-Qaeda assistance.

    Al-Qaeda is a detail here. TRADOC does not seem to understand that al-Qaeda has a pan-Islamic agenda while the various groups bundled as “Taliban” are essentially in a war against foreign occupation and interference, with no dreams of establishing a Caliphate.

    On page 7, TRADOC estimates the Taliban in Afghanistan to be around 30,000, half of them Pakistani, and supported by the ISI. That’s correct. But they overestimate al-Qaeda to be 2,000; these “Arab-Afghans” plus some recently arrived “white moors” (European Arabs) are probably no more than 700.

    On page 10, TRADOC finally admits that Karzai in Kabul is supported by a myriad of “warlord militias” profiting from crime, narco-trafficking and smuggling. The key element here is not “terrorism” — but regional wars for control over ultra-profitable poppy/heroin manufacturing and smuggling routes.

    Then there’s this stark admission, by former Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Salam, currently governor of a town in poppy-infested Helmand province. He told Reuters that the Taliban are not the real enemy. If Kabul was not so corrupt, and capable of providing security to the rest of the country, most Pashtuns would not even be Taliban. No wonder the Obama administration has stacks of reasons to get rid of Karzai.

    An opening in The Hague

    Asia knows this whole thing is upside down. The crucial Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), grouping China, Russia and the Central Asian “stans”, all concerned neighbors of Afghanistan, met in Moscow last Friday to discuss it, ahead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting in The Hague this Tuesday privileged by the US.

    This is how Asia sees it — and that’s an absolutely taboo issue for Obama to touch upon every time he faces American public opinion: Asians simply don’t want US military bases in Central Asia. No wonder Iran, which is currently an observer, and soon to become a full member, officially said the SCO is the right forum to solve the Afghan tragedy, not NATO. A minimum of 40% of Afghans are either Shi’ites or they speak Dari, a Persian language.

    Well, at least Holbrooke admits “the door is open” for Iran to have a say on Afghanistan, but always with conditions attached (“plus our NATO allies”). If Holbrooke is clever, he should immediately buy dinner for legendary mujahid Ishmail Khan, the Lion of Herat, in Western Afghanistan. Khan, a complex mix of feudal warlord and economic developer, told al-Jazeera English “friendship between Iran and America” is essential to solve the Afghan riddle.

    What Washington has to admit is that Iran has been deeply involved for years in visible, post-Taliban reconstruction in Afghanistan — from roads and railroads to restoration of mosques, financing of libraries and madrassas and the provision of electricity. The Iranian Consulate in Herat, for instance, houses no less than 40 diplomats. Khan — the key Iranian liaison in Herat — was so successful in spite of Kabul that Karzai, under US pressure, stripped him off his enormous powers as local governor and gave him an innocuous ministry in Kabul.

    At the UN-sponsored, US-backed international conference on Afghanistan this Tuesday in The Hague, Mohammad Mehdi Akhundzadeh — one of Iran’s deputy foreign ministers — officially broke the ice, offering to help the rebuilding and stabilization of Afghanistan, something that Iran is already doing anyway.

    Akhunzadeh was specifically referring to projects fighting drug trafficking — which badly affects Iranian society. But he was also very clear on how Iran views NATO: “The presence of foreign forces has not improved things in the country and it seems that an increase in the number of foreign forces will prove ineffective, too.”

    But, significantly, he tipped his hat to Obama’s decision to send those 4,000 trainers for the Afghan Army, when he stressed “Afghanization should lead the government-building process”. As for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she described corruption in the Kabul government, ie Karzai and his gang, as a “cancer” as threatening to Afghanistan as the Taliban. One more sign from Washington that Karzai’s days may be numbered.

    Follow the money

    Did Obama’s “strategic reviewers” read this Carnegie Endowment report (http://carnegieendowment.org/files/afghan_war-strategy.pdf)? Apparently not. It states flatly “the mere presence of foreign soldiers fighting a war in Afghanistan is probably the single most important factor in the resurgence of the Taliban”.

    So the question Americans must ask themselves is this: Would you buy a used car — sorry — war from people like Mullen, Petraeus, McKiernan? Well, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who’s seen them all since John F Kennedy, wouldn’t. For him, “they resemble all too closely the gutless general officers who never looked down at what was really happening in Vietnam. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the time have been called, not without reason, ‘a sewer of deceit’.”

    So what if the AfPak quagmire had nothing to do with “terrorists” but with these facts:

    1. A Cold War mentality in action still prevailing at the Pentagon. That explains a Vietnam-style surge — expanding the war to Cambodia then, expanding it to Pakistan now. As University of Michigan’s Juan Cole has pointed out, the rationale is the same old fallacious domino theory (communism will take over Southeast Asia, terrorism will take over Central/South Asia). The Taliban are simply not able to take over and control the whole of Afghanistan (they didn’t from 1996 to 2001). Al-Qaeda simply can’t have bases in Afghanistan: they would be bombed to smithereens by the 80,000-strong Afghan Army plus Bagram-based US air strikes.

    2. The US Empire of Bases still in overdrive, and in New Great Game mode — which implies very close surveillance over Russia and China via bases such as Bagram, and the drive to block Russia from establishing a commercial route to the Middle East via Pakistan.

    3. The fear of a spectacular NATO failure. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, absolutely despised by progressives in Brussels and assorted European capitals, is pressuring everyone for more troops to avoid what he calls the “Americanization” of the war. No one is impressed — especially because Scheffer himself was forced to admit troops will have to stay on the ground “for the foreseeable future”.

    4. Last but not least, the energy wars. And that involves that occult, almost supernatural entity, the $7.6 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which would carry gas from eastern Turkmenistan through Afghanistan east of Herat and down Taliban-controlled Nimruz and Helmand provinces, down Balochistan in Pakistan and then to the Pakistani port of Gwadar in the Arabian Sea. No investor in his right mind will invest in a pipeline in a war zone, thus Afghanistan must be “stabilized” at all costs.

    So is AfPak the Pentagon’s AIG — we gotta bail them out, can’t let them fail? Is it a Predator drone war disguised as nation building? Will it become Obama’s Vietnam? Whatever it is, it’s not about “terrorists”. Not really. Follow the money. Follow the energy. Follow the map.

    Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

    He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

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  2. Aid agencies release scathing critique of Afghan counter-insurgency efforts

    By Peter O’Neil, Europe Correspondent, Canwest News ServiceApril 3, 2009

    STRASBOURG, France — Canada, the U.S. and the United Kingdom are jeopardizing the lives of Afghan civilians by backing a new “outreach” program that pays Afghans to report on militant activities, a coalition of international aid agencies said Friday in a scathing critique of counter-insurgency efforts in Afghanistan.

    The report, released to coincide with the opening of the two-day leaders’ summit here of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also warned that President Barack Obama’s troop “surge” could backfire if it leads to more civilian deaths.

    The report, called Caught in the Conflict, said Canada is one of several countries backing the Afghan Social Outreach Program that was approved by Afghan government authorities last September.

    The program is intended to create district councils in several provinces, including Kandahar where Canada’s 2,800 troops are headquartered, in order to improve communication with ordinary Afghans and provide information on insurgent activities.

    Council appointees draw government salaries and are appointed by senior Afghan government officials, leading to likely accusations of patronage and potential inter-tribal tensions if there are ethnic imbalances on councils, the critics argued in Friday’s report.

    The councils could also be infiltrated by the rebels, they said.

    The outreach initiative was endorsed last September by the Joint Co-ordination and Monitoring Board, a body made up of senior Afghan ministers and representatives of the international community.

    “Despite being criticized by a range of Afghanistan experts, the program has been endorsed by the monitoring board, and several donors are intending to implement the program: the U.S. in six provinces, the U.K. in Helmand, Canada in Kandahar, and possibly others elsewhere,” according to Caught in the Conflict.

    “As it stands, the program carries a high risk of failing to deliver positive political or security outcomes, or even exacerbating local conditions.”

    The report also denounced the Afghan Public Protection Force, a pilot U.S. program in Wardak province, which provides local men with arms and only a month of training, leading to “considerable potential for the abuse of power and violation of human rights.”

    These militias could also be infiltrated and co-opted by militants, warlords or criminal groups, the report asserted.

    It noted that on average three Afghans suspected of co-operating with government or allied authorities are summarily executed by insurgents every four days.

    “The Afghan Social Outreach Program and the Afghan Public Protection Force are a distraction from essential reforms in security and governance,” CARE Afghanistan spokesman Lex Kassenberg stated in a news release.

    “In this environment these program put Afghans at even greater risk.”

    The report, which called on the Afghan Public Protection Force to be shutdown and Afghan Social Outreach Program suspended pending full review, was signed by 11 agencies. They include Oxfam, Afghanaid, CARE Afghanistan, Christian Aid, and Save the Children U.K..

    Among the other criticisms in the 27-page document:

    – Obama’s troop surge, unless accompanied by new rules, could worsen the civilian casualty total that jumped 30 per cent, to 2,100, in 2008. While noting 55 per cent of casualties were caused by militants, it cited a sharp jump last year in fatalities caused by U.S. and NATO air strikes.

    The report said tougher rules should be imposed on air assaults, on special forces’ operations in general, and on coalition and Afghan soldiers involved in night raids.

    “Despite taking steps to reduce civilian casualties, and repeated calls for restraint, too many military operations by foreign troops involve excessive force, loss of life and damage to property,” said Oxfam’s Matt Waldman in the news release. “This is causing anger, fear and resentment among Afghans, and is steadily eroding popular support for the international presence.”

    – The critics complained there is no standardized system to investigate incidents in which Afghan civilians suffer casualties and/or property damage, or to provide them with compensation.

    “The systems for compensating civilians are insufficient, fragmented and inaccessible to most Afghans,” said Save the Children U.K.’s Palwasha Abed.

    – The report repeated ongoing allegations the military are harming development efforts, and risking lives, by “blurring” the distinction between civilian aid workers and soldiers. The military’s “hearts-and-minds” aid programs, which are aimed at winning popular support, jeopardize the role of aid agencies who don’t want to be identified too closely with Afghan and western military forces.

    The U.S. and French militaries in particular are among countries that use unmarked, white vehicles, traditionally used by civilian aid agencies, including the United Nations, to identify themselves as non-combatants, according to Caught in the Conflict.

    – The military-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) should be phased out, they argued. The vast funding for PRTs — the $200 million U.S. annual budget for American PRTs exceeds Afghan government spending on health and education combined, the report said — could then be channelled towards civilian organizations.

    © Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

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  3. Afghan demonstrators demand sacking provincial governor

    07.04.09 14:06

    Thousands of people in Afghanistan’s northern Samangan province took to the street Tuesday calling on the central government to sack provincial governor Qazi Anayatullah Anayt, Xinhua reported.

    Blocking the Kabul-Mazar highway for hours, the speakers accused the governor of involvement in corruption, saying he has failed to deliver.

    “We do not have access to potable water, we do not have electricity and the reconstruction process in the province is very slow. So we need a governor to serve us,” one speaker said.

    Meanwhile, governor Anayat in talks with media rejected the claim, adding he has been doing his best to launch development projects but does not have enough funds.

    A similar demonstration was held in the northeast Badakhshan province on Monday calling on the central government to replace provincial governor Abdul Majid.

    http://news-en.trend.az/world/afghanistan/1452038.html

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  4. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/03/us/politics/02web-baker.html?ref=us

    April 3, 2009
    On the White House
    The Words Have Changed, but Have the Policies?
    By PETER BAKER

    WASHINGTON — When President Obama briefed Congressional leaders at the White House last week on his plans to send more troops to Afghanistan, Senator Harry Reid offered some advice: Whatever you do, he told the president, don’t call it a “surge.”

    Not to worry. Mr. Obama didn’t and wouldn’t. The exchange, confirmed by people briefed on the discussion, underscored the sensitivity about language in the new era. Mr. Obama and his team are busily scrubbing President George W. Bush’s national security lexicon, if not necessarily all of his policies.

    They may be sending 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, much as Mr. Bush did to Iraq, but it is not a “surge.” They may still be holding people captured on the battlefield at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but they are no longer “enemy combatants.” They may be carrying the fight to Al Qaeda as their predecessors did, but they are no longer waging a “war on terror.”

    So if not a war on terror, what then? “Overseas contingency operations.”

    And terrorist attacks themselves? “Man-caused disasters.”

    Every White House picks its words carefully, using poll-tested, focus-grouped language to frame issues and ideas to advance its goals. Mr. Bush’s team did that assertively. The initial legislation expanding government power after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was the “U.S.A. Patriot Act.” The warrantless eavesdropping that became so controversial was rebranded the “Terrorist Surveillance Program.” The enemy was, for a time, dubbed “Islamofascism,” until that was deemed insensitive to Muslims.

    Now Mr. Obama is coming into office determined to sweep all that rhetoric away, even if he is keeping much of the policy that underlies it. Aides argue that they are not trying to spin their priorities through words, only to excise the spin applied relentlessly by the Bush administration. But they are also trying to send a clear and unmistakable message that the old order is gone.

    “You have to tell the American public and the world that there’s a new sheriff in town without opening up the jail and letting all the prisoners out,” said Matt Bennett, vice president of Third Way, a moderate Democratic advocacy group. “The changing of the way they talk is a low-risk way of purging some of the Bush-era stuff without doing any damage.”

    Indeed, for all the shifting words, Mr. Obama has left the bulk of Mr. Bush’s national security architecture intact so far. He has made no move to revise the Patriot Act or the eavesdropping program. He has ordered Guantanamo to be closed in a year but has not turned loose all the prisoners. The troop buildup in Afghanistan resembles the one Mr. Bush ordered in Iraq two years ago.

    In cautioning against the “surge” label, Mr. Reid clearly wanted to avoid associating the Obama strategy in Afghanistan with the Bush strategy in Iraq, a strategy that both he and the president opposed at the time. The two have never repudiated their opposition to the Iraq buildup, even though many now credit it with helping to stabilize the country. And any language suggesting parallels between the two approaches could aggravate the party’s liberal base, much of which is already suspicious of committing more forces to Afghanistan.

    Gordon Johndroe, the last National Security Council spokesman for Mr. Bush, said he detected a great degree of overlap in actual policy between the two presidents that is not masked by different words. “A change in rhetoric is fine as long as they don’t lead people to believe the threat from violent extremists is over,” Mr. Johndroe said.

    Obama advisers said they were not trying to de-emphasize the danger of extremism but to take the politics out of it. Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, used the term “terrorism” during her Senate confirmation testimony, but also referred to it as “man-caused disasters.” She later said that it was a deliberate attempt to change the tone.

    “That is perhaps only a nuance,” she told Der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine, “but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.”

    But the risk, in the minds of some critics, is looking like the government no longer takes the dangers of the world seriously. “They seem more interested in the war on the English language than in what might be thought of as more pressing national security matters,” said Shannen W. Coffin, who served as counsel to former Vice President Dick Cheney. “An Orwellian euphemism or two will not change the fact that bad people want to kill us and destroy us as a free people.”

    The White House dismisses such criticism, saying the president is not focused on wordsmithing national policy. “He’s far less concerned with” language, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, told reporters last week, “and much more concerned with steps that he’s taken and that we need to take as a country to protect our citizens and to keep our homeland safe. And I think that’s what he’s focused on.”

    Still, the degree to which the Obama team seems intent on distancing itself from any language associated with Mr. Bush has drawn ridicule even from the left. On “The Daily Show” on Tuesday night, Jon Stewart vigorously mocked the Obama administration after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said “the administration has stopped using the phrase” war on terror.

    Mr. Stewart showed repeated clips of Mr. Obama’s budget director, Peter R. Orszag, referring instead to “overseas contingency operations.”

    “Yeah, that’ll catch on like Crystal Pepsi,” Mr. Stewart joked.

    Summoning one of the most memorable moments of the Bush presidency, Mr. Stewart then showed a mocked up photograph of Mr. Obama in a pilot’s flight suit on the deck of an aircraft carrier under a banner proclaiming, “Redefinition Accomplished.”

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  5. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6036512.ece

    April 5, 2009

    Thousands flee bomb attacks by US drones

    Daud Khattakin and Christina Lamb

    AMERICAN drone attacks on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are causing a massive humanitarian emergency, Pakistani officials claimed after a new attack yesterday killed 13 people.

    The dead and injured included foreign militants, but women and children were also killed when two missiles hit a house in the village of Data Khel, near the Afghan border, according to local officials.

    As many as 1m people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas to escape attacks by the unmanned spy planes as well as bombings by the Pakistani army. In Bajaur agency entire villages have been flattened by Pakistani troops under growing American pressure to act against Al-Qaeda militants, who have made the area their base.

    Kacha Garhi is one of 11 tented camps across Pakistan’s frontier province once used by Afghan refugees and now inhabited by hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis made homeless in their own land.

    So far 546,000 have registered as internally displaced people (IDPs) according to figures provided by Rabia Ali, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Maqbool Shah Roghani, administrator for IDPs at the Commission for Afghan Refugees.

    The commissioner’s office says there are thousands more unregistered people who have taken refuge with relatives and friends or who are in rented accommodation.

    Jamil Amjad, the commissioner in charge of the refugees, says the government is running short of resources to feed and shelter such large numbers. A fortnight ago two refugees were killed and six injured in clashes with police during protests over shortages of water, food and tents.

    On the road outside Kacha Garhi camp, eight-year-old Zafarullah and his little brother are among a number of children begging for coins and scraps. “I want to go back to my village and school,” he said.

    With the attacks increasing, refugees have little hope of returning home and conditions in the camps will worsen as summer approaches and the temperatures soar.

    Many have terrible stories. Baksha Zeb lost everything when his village, Anayat Kalay in Bajaur, was demolished by Pakistani forces. His eight-year-old son is a kidney patient needing dialysis and he has been left with no means to pay.

    “Our houses have been flattened, our cattle killed and our farms and crops destroyed,” he complained. “There is not a single structure in my village still standing. There is no way we can go back.”

    He sold his taxi to pay for food for his family and treatment for his son but the money has almost run out. “God bestowed me with a son after 15 years of marriage,” he said. “Now I have no job and I don’t know how we will survive.”

    Pakistani forces say they have killed 1,500 militants since launching antiTaliban operations in Bajaur in August. Locals who fled claim that only civilians were killed.

    Zeb said he saw dozens of his friends and relatives killed. Villagers were forced to leave bodies unburied as they fled.

    Pakistani officials say drone attacks have been stepped up since President Barack Obama took office in Washington, killing at least 81 people. A suicide attacker blew himself up inside a paramilitary base in Islamabad, killing six soldiers and wounding five yesterday.

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  6. Pingback: Get French troops out of Afghanistan | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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