US elections over, Afghan war continues


This video from the USA is called Rethink Afghanistan War (Part 5): Women of Afghanistan.

By Tom Hayden (former Students for a Democratic Society anti-Vietnam war activist, former state senator in California, USA):

November 3, 2010 at 23:59:16

The November election was a setback for the peace movement, not only because of the defeat of Sen. Russ Feingold but for deeper reasons.

Both parties collaborated in keeping Afghanistan out of the national election debate and media coverage while during the period June-November alone, 274 American soldiers were killed and 2,934 were wounded on the battlefield.

[The official American toll under Obama in Afghanistan has reached 732 deaths and 6,480 wounded; the taxpayer costs under Obama are currently $12.5 billion per month, and Obama estimates $113 billion in direct costs/per year at current U.S. troop levels of 100,000.]

Democratic candidates this year chose not to use AfghanistanIraq as an issue perhaps because they have become Obama’s wars. According to the New York Times, the US even plans to orchestrate an invitation to remain in Iraq after the current 2011 deadline, but desperately wanted to keep the controversy out of the election debates. [NYT, Aug. 18]

With Republican control of the House, antiwar Democrats will have little room to hold hearings or maneuver against the wars. There were 162 House members, nearly all Democrats, who voted against funding the war or in favor of an exit strategy earlier this year, over one-fourth of the House. In the Senate, Feingold authored similar legislation that obtained 18 votes, a number not likely to increase either.

The notion among some that ultra-right fiscally conservative Republicans will vote with the peace Democrats is largely a fantasy. Republicans like Karl Rove did not want to advertise their support for Obama’s troop escalation this fall while they prepare to blast him for drawing down short of “victory” next July. For example, Sen. John McCain, who is planning a trip to Afghanistan, told Reuters that “this date for withdrawal that the president announced without any military advice or counsel has caused us enormous problems in our operations in Afghanistan, because our enemies are encouraged and our friends are confused over there.” [Reuters, Nov. 3]

McCain‘s comment was a huge lie, an indicator of the campaign rhetoric to come. As McCain well knows, Obama has not given a “date for withdrawal”, only a date to “begin” a phase-out. Obama had months of military advice and counsel, as reported in Bob Woodward’s most recent book. In fact, according to Woodward and Jonathan Alter, Obama had Petraeus’ word that they would have no complaints about the July 2011 deadline. In August, however, Petraeus declared, “the president didn’t send me over here to seek a graceful exit.”

Obama’s pledge to begin a July withdrawal may draw little or no peace movement support unless he includes a timeline and substantial numbers, and shows progress in diplomacy and talks with the Taliban. The president’s situation is similar to his problems with health care when he appeared to over-promise and under-deliver, leaving his base dispirited once again. [It should be noted that Obama took the strongest exit strategy position among his internal advisers, according to Woodward, with Hillary Clinton immediately supporting whatever troop escalation Petraeus wanted.]

The next test for Obama will be whether his December review of Afghanistan policy results in only another ratification of Afghanistan status quo. Then comes another budget battle, with antiwar forces in Congress at a greater tactical disadvantage than last year. By then Obama’s actual Afghan drawdown numbers will be publicly known, with Republicans, the military and most of the media opposed or skeptical.

The 2012 national election predictably will be fought over Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and the Long War favored by the Republicans and the generals, with Obama positioned as favoring gradual troop drawdowns in order to invest in his domestic agenda.

The wars will continue in any event, with increasing risks of terrorist attacks on the US, bloody quagmires on the battlefields, and the US propping up unpopular regimes in Kabul, Baghdad, Islamabad and Yemen. The wars are unwinnable and unaffordable, but no one in power dares say it.

The peace bloc activist groups, anti-war Congress members, writers and artists, here and across the NATO can exercise a massive drag against the war-making machine through 2012 as long as the wars remain deeply unpopular. But in the absence of political statesmanship, Petraeus need not worry, because the final stage will be anything but graceful.

Army doctors see sharp rise in severe injuries from Afghanistan: here.

In New Memoir, Bush Makes Clear He Approved Use of Waterboarding: here.

Pentagon Awards Jet Fuel Contract to Secretive Company: here.

9 thoughts on “US elections over, Afghan war continues

  1. Pak parliamentarians concerned about airspace violations by NATO

    From ANI

    Islamabad, Nov 4(ANI): Pakistani parliamentarians have expressed serious concern about the violation of the country’s airspace near the Afghan border by NATO allied forces based in Afghanistan.

    Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Raja Zafar-ul-Haq criticized the role of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government regarding the breach.

    “The government has failed to defend the sovereignty of the country despite repeated airspace violations by NATO forces,” the Daily Times quoted Zafar-ul-Haq, as saying.

    “If any agreement exists between NATO and Pakistan, then why does the government not produce it before the nation,” Haidri said.

    Meanwhile, the leader of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PCCR), Raza Rabbani, demanded from the House to summon NATO officials to appear in the Foreign Office.

    Rabbani was also of the opinion that if NATO does not support the issue, then Pakistan should use other options, including military retaliation.

    Earlier, it was reported that despite assuring Pakistan of stopping further intrusions into its territory, NATO aircraft had once again breached the country’s border limits in Kurram Agency on Tuesday.

    The helicopters allegedly entered about 600 meters inside Pakistani airspace, and after flying in the area for 10 minutes they returned back to Spin Boldak area in Afghanistan to their airbase.

    It came weeks after three Pakistani army men were killed in an air strike by NATO helicopters at a military post, 200 metres inside the Pakistani border in Kurram Agency.

    It was NATO’s fourth aerial violation of Pakistani territory in less than a week, but the first in which soldiers were killed.

    Reacting to the incident, Pakistan had suspended supply convoys along the Khyber Pass route, which links Peshawar in Pakistan with Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, and lodged a protest with the NATO command in Brussels, demanding an apology.

    The cross-border air strikes, seen by Pakistan as a violation of its territorial sovereignty, had sparked nationwide rumblings over the US-led incursions.

    Copyright Asian News International/DailyIndia.com

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  2. Afghan campaign destroys hundreds of houses: rights group

    By Ian Simpson

    KABUL | Thu Nov 4, 2010 8:52am EDT

    KABUL (Reuters) – Fighting between U.S.-led forces and the Taliban has destroyed or damaged hundreds of houses during a crucial campaign in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province, a human rights group said on Thursday.

    The widespread property damage reported by the Afghan Rights Monitor (ARM) in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Afghan Taliban, comes despite a U.S. strategy designed to weaken support for the Taliban by limiting harm to civilians.

    U.S.-led NATO forces have used aerial bombing to strike Taliban strongholds and to set off mines and homemade bombs sometimes hidden as booby traps in private homes, ARM said in a statement.

    ARM Director Samadi Ajmal said the widespread damage underscored the need for reconstruction funds for residents once the fighting was over.

    “Rebuilding is the most important part of this operation,” he told Reuters.

    The damage has been concentrated in the districts of Arghandab, Panjwai, Zheray and Daman, home to about 300,000 of the province’s more than 1 million inhabitants, Ajmal said.

    Civilian casualties have also jumped since the launch of the campaign in early September, Ajmal said, but gave no figures.

    In a mid-year report, the United Nations said civilian casualties had spiked by 31 percent in the first six months of 2010 compared to the same period last year, with more than three-quarters of them blamed on insurgents.

    The number attributed to foreign and Afghan forces fell sharply, due mainly to a tightening of the rules for aerial engagements, the U.N. report said.

    The ARM statement was based on reports from more than a dozen sources in the area. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is looking into the report, a spokeswoman said, but had no immediate comment.

    Tens of thousands of ISAF and Afghan troops are deployed in Kandahar in Operation Dragon Strike, a crucial stage of the battle to reclaim the initiative from the Taliban.

    The campaign is aimed at driving insurgents from districts around Kandahar city, about 600 km (370 miles) southwest of Kabul. Civilian and military casualties are at record levels, despite the presence of almost 150,000 foreign troops.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6A324120101104

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  3. Shooting the messenger
    The attack on Wikileaks for publishing war documents misses the mark

    Posted: November 3, 2010

    By Bill Cohn The Prague Post

    The debate in the Czech Republic over the war in Afghanistan is likely to intensify now that the opposition Social Democrats (ČSSD) have won control of the country’s Senate enabling them to impede a government plan to boost by 200 the more than 500 Czech troops already serving in Afghanistan. This debate on the wisdom of sending more troops should be informed by all available sources of information, including the war documents that have been posted by the controversial website Wikileaks.

    On Oct. 22, Wikileaks released a trove of 391,832 Iraq war documents, the largest leak of classified documents in American history, painting a grim picture of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. The next day, Wikileaks announced plans to post additional secret documents on the Afghan war, after it already released 92,000 secret documents on that war July 25. Each of these releases was met with a predictable response from the generals and politicians leading these wars – harsh condemnation of irresponsible conduct that puts the lives of the troops at risk.

    Following the July posting of the Afghan war documents, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of Wikileaks at a press conference, “They might already have blood on their hands, the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.”

    A steady stream of such comments was made by officials and amplified by the mainstream press in the ensuing weeks.

    Much less attention was paid Oct. 17, when CNN and the Associated Press reported that a letter from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin said that, following a thorough Pentagon review of the documents posted, the Pentagon concluded that, “Wikileaks did not disclose any sensitive information sources or methods” and that a senior NATO official in Kabul said, “There has not been a single case of Afghans needing protection or to be moved because of the leak.” Coming months later, the corrections were noticed by few, while the attacks were headline news shaping public perceptions.

    In short, the harsh condemnation of Wikileaks following its Afghan war postings was unwarranted. Now, we are seeing the same attacks following Wikileaks’ postings of the Iraq war documents. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said, “We deplore Wikileaks…By disclosing such secret information, Wikileaks continues to put at risk the lives of our troops, their coalition partners, and those Iraqis and Afghans working with us. The only responsible course of action for Wikileaks at this point is to return the stolen material and expunge it from their websites as soon as possible.”

    Demonizing the messenger is a common diversionary strategy that neither addresses the substance of the information at issue (in this case, that the loss of life of innocent Afghans and Iraqis in the wars far exceeds official estimates, that the United States and NATO turn a blind eye to the brutal and lawless conduct of Afghan and Iraqi forces, and that lawless, reckless undisciplined private mercenaries are increasingly fighting these wars) nor the merits of the argument that the information supports (that staying the course in these wars is foolhardy because the wars are senseless, as they engender extreme brutality and loss of innocent life toward no viable aim). Wikileaks has been threatened with prosecution and put on an official U.S. watch list. Meanwhile, the two longest wars in American history continue.

    Whistleblowers serve an important societal role: They alert to hidden harmful practices. Daniel Ellsberg’s leak of “the Pentagon Papers” helped the public learn the true history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Jeffrey Wigand exposed the deceitful practices of the tobacco industry, and Mary McCarthy alerted the public to the existence of C.I.A.-run secret prisons in Europe where alleged terrorists were held incommunicado and tortured. The attack on Wikileaks is designed to confuse the public and intimidate potential future leakers. Ellsberg defended Wikileaks Oct. 23 while speaking out against the Obama administration’s aggressive crackdown on whistleblowers.

    Wikileaks is not beyond reproach and does indeed raise a dilemma inherent in balancing society’s interest in both affording public access to information and demanding accountability of those who provide that information. People should stand by their speech, but there are circumstances where anonymity is necessary to protect whistleblowers from retaliation. Web technologies, Wikileaks’ and P2P information systems enable both access and anonymity but raise concerns of a lack of accountability fostering irresponsible speech that degrades the quality of speech. New media gatekeepers must act with integrity, and redacting the names of those who may be victimized by disclosures – like the ones made by Wikileaks – is often necessary. Wikileaks has taken some such steps but can do better. They have done far more good than harm.

    The story here is not Julian Assange, the eccentric figurehead of Wikileaks, but rather the systemic use of torture and brutality against Iraqis and Afghans by those said to be bringing freedom and democracy to these countries. The leaks tell nothing that was not already known but rather add weight to the evidence of failed missions in these places.

    Attacking the messenger is a ruse of those who prefer that we not hear the message. The tactic calls to mind the Bush administration’s dirty and unlawful steps taken to impugn the integrity of Joe Wilson when he questioned official claims of Iraq having obtained uranium from Niger for its supposed weapons of mass destruction program in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

    Officials exert great influence over the flow of information and know that a lie told often enough becomes the truth (see, e.g. David Barstow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning report “Message Machine: Behind Military Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand”).

    History shows that, all too often, officials falsely claim that disclosing confidential information threatens national security. For example, when the documents at issue in U.S. v. Reynolds, the landmark 1953 Supreme Court case that established the state secrets defense, were declassified 40 years later, it was revealed that officials had misrepresented their contents in order to conceal embarrassing information.

    Offering firsthand accounts of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Wikileaks documents inject a dose of reality, countering the sanitized narrative used by officials and re-parroted by the media. It cuts through euphemisms like “collateral damage,” revealing the real carnage of these wars. The Oct. 24 editorial in the United Kingdom’s Sunday Observer (“A moral catastrophe: The final reasons for going to war are being swept away”) says the Wikileaks files “reveal how allied forces turned a blind eye to torture and murder of prisoners held by the Iraqi Army. Reports of appalling treatment of detainees were verified by the U.S. Army and deemed unworthy of further investigation … build[ing] a portrait of a military occupation deeply implicated in practices that were illegal under international law and unconscionable in the eyes of any reasonable observer.”

    Truth is often the first casualty of war. Recall Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda. We must be skeptical of official attacks on whistleblowers, especially in matters of war. There is no more fateful act than the decision to wage war, and the history of war is largely one of lies and corpses. As the Pentagon Papers taught us about the Vietnam War, and the Downing Street memo teaches us about the Iraq war, the information provided by Wikileaks helps to inform us about the true nature of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Czechs would be wise to consider this as they deliberate on whether to send more of their kin to wage war in Afghanistan.

    – The author is a constitutional law scholar and member of the California Bar. He writes on law and policy and lectures on law, ethics and critical thinking at the University of New York in Prague.

    Bill Cohn can be reached at
    features@praguepost.com

    http://www.praguepost.com/opinion/6263-shooting-the-messenger.html

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  4. Warlords meet to discuss alliance

    CZECH REPUBLIC: Experts from Nato and its member countries met in Prague yesterday to discuss how the cold-war alliance can remain a relevant force despite dwindling financial resources.

    The closed-door meeting is taking place two weeks before a summit of Nato heads of state where the impact of defence cuts will be discussed.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/97254

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  5. http://blackagendareport.com/?q=content%2Ffreedom-rider-political-snobbery

    Freedom Rider: Political Snobbery
    By Margaret Kimberley
    Created 11/03/2010 – 19:37

    ——–
    “In case after case, Democratic presidents have taken positions identical to those of Republicans and yet their supporters seem not to notice or to care. . . . It is time for real change, and that means a change in allegiance to the Democratic Party.”
    ——–

    Increasingly, the Democratic Party is a near-empty vessel. Democrats “look down their noses at Tea Partiers with misspelled words on their signs but exalt Clinton era drug enforcement policies which filled the jails and the enactment of NAFTA and welfare ‘reform.'” Motivated more by prejudice than political substance, Democrats “rarely express opposition to any action, no matter how awful, if Democrats are behind it.”

    Freedom Rider: Political Snobbery

    by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

    “Democratic presidents have taken positions identical to those of Republicans and yet their supporters seem not to notice or to care.”

    Listening to most Democrats is akin to a former of auditory torture. They have nothing to offer in the way of true political discourse, and they have one constant refrain. “Anyone is better than the Republicans.” It doesn’t matter if Obama escalates war, keeps Guantanamo open, claims the right to assassinate American citizens, increases immigrant deportations, asks courts to uphold don’t ask don’t tell, allows the right wing to destroy ACORN, funnels trillions of dollars to Wall Street, and promises to undo the will of voters who want to decriminalize drug use. Nothing matters except keeping Republicans out of office.

    Republicans are compared to everyone from Attila the Hun to Hitler. The very thought of their presence is supposed to inspire apathetic voters to head for the polls, suspend disbelief and keep voting for the party which treats them like chumps.

    Closer inspection reveals something more disturbing, not about Republicans, but about Democrats. Most of them aren’t particularly concerned with the policy positions supported by their party. They rarely express opposition to any action, no matter how awful, if Democrats are behind it.

    Most Americans, regardless of party affiliation, are proud believers that the state has the authority and the right to exert control over human life in this country and around the world. The end result is a rate of incarceration higher than in any country on earth and a military budget larger than that of every other nation combined. There are precious few citizens, Republicans or Democrats, who see anything wrong with this state of affairs.

    “Most Democrats aren’t particularly concerned with the policy positions supported by their party.”

    While Sarah Palin’s very name is used to turn her into a bogey woman who can frighten Democrats into toeing the party line, Obama’s administration actually varies very little from what would be offered by a Republican president. It is true that Sarah Palin is an intellectual lightweight. She makes up words such as “refrudiate” and writes notes on her hand like a middle school student surprised by a pop quiz. She is decidedly conservative and her endorsement was sought by the new crop of right wing Tea Party candidates seeking office.

    Obama differs in every way. He is supposedly liberal, no one questions his intellectual grasp of the issues, but neither his acumen nor his party affiliation have inspired him to uphold progressive positions. He was a constitutional law professor, but in office he has asked courts to uphold Bush era decisions on surveillance and he has chosen to protect his predecessor from prosecution of any crimes. He has asserted his right to assassinate American citizens for any reason he deems necessary. Could civil libertarians be any worse off with a dumb Republican president? When a federal court ordered the military to stop enforcing the anti-gay don’t ask, don’t tell policy, the Obama administration went to court seeking permission to continue enforcing a rule it claims to want to do away with. Could gay rights activists be any worse off with a conservative Republican in the White House?

    Barack Obama and his Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton were loved in part because they were the “right” kind of people. They came from the best schools, law school graduates of Harvard and Yale. Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review and Clinton was a Rhodes scholar. Their backgrounds are contrasted with Palin’s lack of achievement, but did their intellects really make for a better, or more humane government?

    “Could civil libertarians be any worse off with a dumb Republican president?”

    In case after case, Democratic presidents have taken positions identical to those of Republicans and yet their supporters seem not to notice or to care. If a Democrat with the right credentials sends the nation and the world on the road to hell, party loyalists never question them.

    Should Sarah Palin become president we would hear endless jokes about her stupidity, and her daughter’s teenage motherhood, and the baby’s daddy, and her inarticulateness. Democrats would moan and groan that the president was dumb and preceded in office by a smart man who wrote his own speeches.

    Simply put, most Democratic political attitudes are based on little more than class snobbery. They look down their noses at Tea Partiers with misspelled words on their signs but exalt Clinton era drug enforcement policies which filled the jails and the enactment of NAFTA and welfare “reform.” He and Obama were the total package, representing the nation’s elite, complete with equally smart trophy wives. Image is enough to silence the faithful.

    It is easy to sneer at Sarah Palin who hunts wolves, claims to see Russia from her house, and will soon star in a reality television show. Apparently it is hard to see that Obama’s health care reform is a giveaway to the health insurance industry and that he actively sabotaged both the Copenhagen conference [4] on climate change and the Durban II conference [5] on racism. Most progressives will hotly proclaim the importance of either or both of those issues in the making of their ideology, but most would be unaware of or staunchly defend their idol’s decision to actively oppose them on issues that are allegedly of importance.

    The smarty pants Ivy Leaguer Democrats have no allegiance to their supporters and their duplicity cannot be forgiven or forgotten. There should be no reason to fear support for other parties or the damage that support may do to the Democrats who are not only useless to their supporters, but incompetent in maintaining popular support. It is time for real change, and that means a change in allegiance to the Democratic Party.

    Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. [6] Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.com.

    Source URL: http://blackagendareport.com/?q=content/freedom-rider-political-snobbery

    Links:
    [1] http://blackagendareport.com/?q=category/us-politics/democrats
    [2] http://blackagendareport.com/?q=category/us-politics/new-democrats
    [3] http://blackagendareport.com/?q=category/americas/undefined
    [4] http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/us-reaps-trillions-while-condemning-africa-climate-catastrophe
    [5] http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/avoiding-world-conference-racism-shows-obamas-disrespect-blacks
    [6] http://freedomrider.blogspot.com/
    [7] http://www.addtoany.com/share_save?linkurl=http%3A%2F%2Fblackagendareport.com%2F%3Fq%3Dcontent%2Ffreedom-rider-political-snobbery&linkname=Freedom%20Rider%3A%20Political%20Snobbery

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  6. Toxic Brew: the Tea Party Movement

    (Deluded and inspired by billionaires; by funding numerous rightwing organisations, the mega-rich Koch brothers have duped millions into supporting big business)

    Posted October 25, 2010

    The Tea Parties didn’t arise spontaneously: they were boiled up by big business.

    By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 26th October 2010

    The Tea Party movement is remarkable in two respects. It is one of the biggest exercises in false consciousness the world has ever seen. And it is the biggest astroturf operation in history. These accomplishments are closely related.

    An astroturf campaign is a fake grassroots movement: it purports to be a spontaneous uprising of concerned citizens, but in reality it is founded and funded by elite interests. Some astroturf campaigns have no grassroots component at all(1). Others catalyse and direct real mobilisations. The Tea Party movement belongs in the second category. It is mostly composed of passionate, well-meaning people who think they are fighting elite power, and who are unaware that they’ve been organised by the very interests they believe they are confronting. We now have powerful evidence that the movement was established and has been guided with the help of money from billionaires and big business. Much of this money, as well as much of the strategy and staffing, were provided by two brothers who run what they call “the biggest company you’ve never heard of.”(2)

    Charles and David Koch own 84% of Koch Industries, which is the second-largest private company in the United States. It runs oil refineries, coal suppliers, chemical plants and logging firms. It turns over roughly $100bn a year, and the brothers are each worth $21bn(3). The company has had to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements for oil and chemical spills and other industrial accidents(4,5). The Kochs want to pay less tax, keep more profits and be restrained by less regulation. Their challenge has been to persuade the people harmed by this agenda that it’s good for them.

    In July 2010, David Koch told New York magazine, “I’ve never been to a Tea Party event. No one representing the Tea Party has ever even approached me.”(6) But a new fascinating film, (Astro)Turf Wars, by Taki Oldham, tells a fuller story(7). Oldham infiltrated some of the movement’s key organising events, including the 2009 Defending the Dream summit, convened by a group called Americans for Prosperity. The film shows David Koch addressing the summit. “Five years ago,” he explains, “my brother Charles and I provided the funds to start Americans for Prosperity. It’s beyond my wildest dreams how AFP has grown into this enormous organisation.”

    A convenor tells the crowd how AFP mobilised opposition to Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms. “We hit the button and we started doing the Twittering and Facebook and the phonecalls and the emails, and you turned up!” Then a series of AFP organisers tell Mr Koch how they have set up dozens of Tea Party events in their home states. He nods and beams from the podium like a chief executive receiving rosy reports from his regional sales directors. Afterwards, the delegates crowd into AFP workshops, where they are told how to run further Tea Party events(8).

    Americans for Prosperity is one of several groups set up by the Kochs to promote their politics. We know their foundations have given it at least $5m(9), but few such records are in the public domain and the total could be much higher. It has toured the country organising rallies against healthcare reform and the Democrats’ attempts to tackle climate change. It provided the key organising tools which set the Tea Party movement running. The movement began when the CNBC reporter Rick Santelli called from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for a bankers’ revolt against the undeserving poor(10). (He proposed that the traders should hold a tea party to dump derivative securities in Lake Michigan to prevent Obama’s plan to “subsidise the losers”: by which he meant people whose mortgages had fallen into arrears). On the same day, Americans for Prosperity set up a Tea Party Facebook page and started organising Tea Party events(11).

    Oldham’s film shows how AFP crafted the movement’s messages and drafted its talking points. The New Yorker magazine, in the course of a remarkable exposure of the Koch brothers’ funding networks, interviewed some of their former consultants(12). “The Koch brothers gave the money that founded [the Tea Party]”, one of them explained. “It’s like they put the seeds in the ground. Then the rainstorm comes, and the frogs come out of the mud – and they’re our candidates!” Another observed that the Kochs are smart. “This right-wing, redneck stuff works for them. They see this as a way to get things done without getting dirty themselves.”

    The AFP is one of several groups established by the Koch brothers. They set up the Cato Institute, which was the first free market thinktank in the US. They also founded the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which now fills the role once played by the economics department at Chicago University: as the originator of extreme neoliberal ideas(13,14). Fourteen of the 23 regulations that George W. Bush put on his hitlist were, according to the Wall Street Journal, first suggested by academics working at the Mercatus Center(15).

    The Kochs have lavished money on more than 30 other advocacy groups, including the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, the Reason Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute(16). These bodies have been instrumental in turning politicians away from environmental laws, social spending, taxing the rich and distributing wealth. They have shaped the widespread demand for small government. The Kochs ensure that their money works for them. “If we’re going to give a lot of money,” David Koch explained to a libertarian journalist, “we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent. And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with, we withdraw funding.”(17)

    Most of these bodies call themselves “free market thinktanks”, but their trick, as (Astro)Turf Wars points out, is to conflate crony capitalism with free enterprise, and free enterprise with personal liberty. Between them they have constructed the philosophy which informs the Tea Party movement: its members mobilise for freedom, unaware that the freedom they demand is freedom for corporations to trample them into the dirt. The thinktanks the Kochs have funded devise the game and the rules by which it is played; Americans for Prosperity coaches and motivates the team.

    Astroturfing is now taking off in the United Kingdom. Earlier this month Spinwatch showed how a fake grassroots group set up by health insurers helped shape the Tories’ NHS reforms(18). Billionaires and corporations are capturing the political process everywhere; anyone with an interest in democracy should be thinking about how to resist them. Nothing is real any more. Nothing is as it seems.

    http://www.monbiot.com

    References:

    1. See, for example, the exposure of astroturfing in Chapter 2 of my book Heat: how to stop the planet burning, 2006.

    2. http://www.portfolio.com/executives/features/2008/10/15/Profile-of-Billionaire-David-Koch/index3.html

    3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/13/tea-party-billionaire-koch-brothers

    4. http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/Global/usa/report/2010/3/koch-industries-secretly-fund.pdf

    5. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer?currentPage=all

    6. http://nymag.com/news/features/67285/

    7. http://astroturfwars.org/

    8. http://astroturfwars.org/

    9. Greenpeace’s report on funding by the Koch brothers and their foundations shows that they spent $5m on AFP’s Hot Air tour alone. http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/Global/usa/report/2010/3/koch-industries-secretly-fund.pdf

    10. http://www.cnbc.com/id/29283701/Rick_Santelli_s_Shout_Heard_Round_the_World

    11. http://astroturfwars.org/

    12. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer?currentPage=all

    13. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer?currentPage=all

    14. http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/Global/usa/report/2010/3/koch-industries-secretly-fund.pdf

    15. http://mercatus.org/media_clipping/rule-breaker-washington-tiny-think-tank-wields-big-stick-regulation

    16. http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/Global/usa/report/2010/3/koch-industries-secretly-fund.pdf

    17. Interview with Brian Doherty, reported by The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer?currentPage=all

    18. http://www.spinwatch.org.uk/blogs-mainmenu-29/tamasin-cave-mainmenu-107/5391-private-health-lobby-out-in-force-at-tory-conference

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  7. Afghans turn to Pakistan for medical treatment

    By MIRWAIS KHAN, Associated Press

    Associated Press November 4, 2010 10:41 PM Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    (11-04) 22:41 PDT SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (AP) —

    At southern Afghanistan’s largest hospital, a steady flow of patients caught in the crossfire in battles between Taliban and NATO forces leaves doctors scrambling to keep up and overwhelms the limited bed space. On some days, the floor is red with blood.

    The overflow at Kandahar’s Mirwais hospital has forced hundreds of sick and injured Afghans to cross the border into Pakistan every day to seek medical treatment, according to Afghans waiting at the Spin Boldak border crossing, some 70 miles (110 kilometers) east of Kandahar city.

    NATO and Afghan troops have been pushing into the Taliban heartland in southern Afghanistan since July in an attempt to quell the insurgency. The fighting has pushed the province’s already shaky medical services to the limit.

    The central government’s ability to provide services like medical care, education and infrastructure is crucial to weaning support away from the insurgency.

    And yet, many Afghans are unable to get to basic health care.

    Thirty years of conflict have left the country’s health care system struggling to cope. Many clinics are wrestling with shortages of doctors and medicine, and Afghans living in rural areas often find it hard to get medical help because of the poor roads, lack of security and cost of transport. Aid groups like the Red Cross are trying to fill some of the gaps, but they say many Afghans are simply unable to reach hospitals for treatment.

    Last month, the Red Cross said Mirwais hospital, which has 350 beds, was treating record highs of war-wounded — almost 1,000 a month, twice as many as last year. The Red Cross supplies medical personnel, equipment and drugs, but said many people were putting off seeking treatment until their condition was serious because they were afraid of getting caught in the fighting if they traveled.

    That, however, was a risk 34-year-old Naimat Agha had to take after his two sons were burned by an explosive device they found. The young boys were wrapped in blankets on the pavement, their large, raw pink burns visible on their arms and torsos. Their father, unable to afford an expensive taxi, was stuck at the concrete walls and razor wire that marked the border crossing in Spin Boldak, searching for a cheaper car to take them to Pakistan.

    “I am so angry because I am so helpless,” Agha said. “I am just watching my child screaming with pain in front of me. I want to overthrow this useless government.”

    “I would like to appeal to the present government to build up the medical center. Their promises do not mean anything until we can see the improvements,” he said, after complaining the doctors at Kandahar hospital varied greatly in quality and the medicine prescribed was often fake or expensive.

    The U.S. Congress has allocated $56 billion for reconstruction projects in Afghanistan since 2001 — mostly for the security services but also for humanitarian aid. But Afghans say little of that money has trickled down to the Afghan people.

    Provincial health director Qayum Pokhla defended the Mirwais hospital’s record, saying it was doing its best under trying circumstances. He said he had appealed for extra doctors and specialists and additional funds to expand the hospital, and appealed to residents to have patience.

    When the AP visited Mirwais, almost all the beds were full, and Pokhla acknowledged there was a severe shortage of space.

    “Mirwais hospital is the only hospital available over here and to give everyone equal attention is impossible for us,” he said. “I know the people complain but the main issue is that these impatient people want all their problems solved now. For us that’s not possible — we just don’t have enough resources.”

    And that has led Afghan’s who can afford it to seek treatment instead in neighboring Pakistan.

    It takes nearly two hours by car to travel to the Pakistani border from Kandahar. A fare for a single passenger is about $5, roughly a day’s wages for a farm laborer. Crossing the border is an extra $2, although guards don’t ask for passports or visas. Hundreds of patients were lining up to cross, a process that can take between 30 minutes or several hours, depending on the time of day. Many said their biggest problems were finding money to pay the fare and the fear of getting caught in fighting.

    The Red Cross does not track the number of Afghans traveling to Pakistan for medical treatment. Most of those interviewed by The Associated Press said they were going to the Pakistani city of Quetta to seek care.

    Border guard Ali Islam Adozia says that hundreds of people seeking treatment pass his station at the Chaman border crossing every day. Sometimes lines of hundreds of people formed and no one was authorized to clear the sick through, he said. Police on both sides of the border harassed the travelers and the journey was expensive, adding to people’s worries, he said.

    “People are accompanied by sick babies or old people, who might be very ill,” he said. “The taxi drivers charge fortunes because they waste hours waiting and later because the cars need repairs after traveling on these rough roads.”

    Zarghoon Baacha said he had been waiting for hours to cross the border to seek treatment for a kidney condition that doctors at Mirwais hospital could not diagnose. If the war didn’t kill him, he said, the disease probably would.

    “Many people in power like ministers and (President Hamid) Karzai himself said health issues would be sorted out soon,” he said. “But soon never came.”

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2010/11/04/international/i224145D16.DTL#ixzz14Oorm7fL

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  8. After Barack Obama won the White House in 2008, many thought George Bush’s political empire was over – like Darth Vader’s Galactic Empire at the end of the original Star Wars.

    But in last week’s election, Bush’s Empire Struck Back.

    The “Architect” of stolen election 2010 was Karl Rove. He raised and spent hundreds of millions in secret money, sat at FOX spinning lies, and ran smear attack ads to defeat Democrats and elect a new generation of rightwing Republicans who are loyal to him.

    Who is Karl Rove? The mastermind of the Bush Empire and strategist for the billionaires and bureaucrats behind it. Where did Rove’s money come from? The same billionaires and bureaucrats who put the Bushes in power for 12 years – and are determined to do it again.

    If we want to stop them we must know the truth, which is exposed in Russ Baker’s brilliant book, just $13.60 on Amazon:
    Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years

    George W. Bush himself struck back this week with the pre-release of “Decision Points,” which hit #1 on Amazon even before its release. He’s desperate to rewrite history since he created such historic disasters during his eight long years in power.

    Here’s one key rewrite you may have heard: Bush insists he was against conquering Iraq, but Rumsfeld and the Neocons made him do it. But Bush’s own ghostwriter revealed to Russ Baker how candidate Bush was already talking privately in 1999 about invading Iraq – an action he believed would gain him “political capital” as president (chapter 21).

    That’s why we’re doing a “Book Bomb” to replace Bush’s lies now at the top of Amazon with Russ Baker’s truth (just $13.60 on Amazon):
    Family of Secrets: the Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years

    Despite 12 years in the White House, Americans never got the real story about the Bush Empire. Who is really behind their power? Why, despite election rejections, do they play permanent role in our lives?

    Russ Baker, perhaps the most important investigative reporter of our era, reveals the truth. Gore Vidal called it one of the most important books of the decade. Russ Baker’s work is also praised by Dan Rather, Sydney Schanberg, and Bill Moyers.

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    Also, watch this video about Family of Secrets and tell others about it.

    Thanks for all you do!

    Bob Fertik

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  9. Pingback: United States wars, more decades yet? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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