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Posts Tagged ‘afghanistan’

We Must Break the Vicious Circle of Violence!

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Texas Straight Talk
Rep. Ron Paul (R) – TX 14

Last week the National Bureau of Economic Research published a report on the effect of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq that confirmed what critics of our foreign policy had been saying for years. The killing of civilians, although unintentional, angers other civilians and prompts them to seek revenge. This should be self-evident. The Central Intelligence Agency has long acknowledged and analyzed the concept blowback in our foreign policy.

It still amazes me that so many think that attacks against our soldiers occupying hostile foreign lands are motivated by hatred toward our system of government at home, or by the religion of the attackers. In fact, most of the anger toward us is rooted in reactions towards seeing their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and other loved ones, being killed by a foreign army. No matter our intention, the violence of our militarism in foreign lands causes those residents to seek revenge if innocents are killed. One does not have to be a Muslim to react this way – just human.

Our battle in Afghanistan resembles the battle against the many-headed Hydra monster in Greek mythology. According to former General Stanley McChrystal’s so-called insurgent math, for every insurgent killed, ten more insurgents are created by the collateral damage to civilians. Every coalition attack leads to six retaliatory attacks against our troops within the following six weeks, according to the NBER report. These retaliatory attacks must then be acted on by our troops, leading to still more attacks, and so it goes. Violence begets more violence. Eventually more and more Afghanis will view American troops with hostility and seek revenge for the deaths of a loved one. Meanwhile we are bleeding ourselves dry militarily and economically.

Some say if we leave, the Taliban will be strengthened. However, those who make that claim ignore the numerous ways our interventionist foreign policy has strengthened groups like the Taliban over the years. I have already pointed out how we serve as excellent recruiters for them by killing civilians. Last week I pointed out how our foreign aid to Pakistan specifically makes it into the Taliban’s coffers. And of course we provided the Taliban with aid and resources in the 1980s when they were our strategic allies against the Soviet Union.

For example, our CIA supplied them with stinger missiles to use against the Soviets, which are strikingly similar to the ones now allegedly used against us on the same battlefield according to the Wikileaks documents. As usual, our friends have a funny way of turning against us. Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein are also prime examples. Yet Congress never seems to acknowledge the blowback that results from our interventionism of the past.

Our war against the Taliban is going about as well as our War on Drugs or our War on Poverty, or any of our government’s wars. They all tend to create more of the thing they purport to eradicate, thereby dodging any excuse to draw down and come to an end. It is hard to image even winning anything this way. We have done enough damage in Afghanistan, both to the Afghan people and to ourselves. It’s time to reevaluate the situation. It’s time to come home.

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Veterans Group Calls On Soldiers to Refuse Orders to Deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Veterans Group Calls On Soldiers to Refuse Orders to Deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Dahr Jamail
Truthout
Tue, 15 Dec 2009 18:55 EST

In response to President Barack Obama’s announcement on December 1 to deploy 30,000 additional troops to the occupation of Afghanistan, the organization March Forward!, comprising both veterans and active-duty members of the US military, has called on all soldiers to refuse their orders to deploy.

“March Forward! calls on all service members to refuse orders to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq,” reads a press release from the group from December 3. “We offer our unconditional support and solidarity. Join us in the fight to ensure that no more soldiers or civilians lose their lives in these criminal wars.”

Michael Prysner, a former corporal in the Army who served from 2001-2005 and a veteran of the occupation of Iraq, co-founded the group with another Iraq war veteran, James Circello.

Truthout asked Prysner how he responds to those who believe a soldier should always follow orders, no matter what.

“In my experience the majority of people joining the military today join out of necessity, like money, jobs, help for their family, etc., so most don’t join for ideological or patriotic reasons. Most are driven into the military by economic conditions. We see this playing out now, as people are joining in droves because of the economy.”

Prysner added, “Yes, people do sign a contract to follow orders, but those orders are wrong and unlawful. We want to educate people to the fact that these are immoral orders, and they [soldiers] are being used as muscle for corporations, to colonize the developing world, and it’s not legitimate. People who join and take this oath seriously who think they are in [the military] to defend the US, this is not what we are being used for in the military today.”

Prysner has written about his experience in Iraq, “… there was no computer screen separating me from the suffering civilian population. I spent 12 months in Iraq, doing everything from prisoner interrogations, to ground surveillance missions, to home raids. It was my firsthand experiences in Iraq that radicalized me. I believed I was going to Iraq to help liberate and better the lives of an oppressed people, but I soon realized that my purpose in Iraq was to be the oppressor, and to clear the way for US corporations with no regard for human life.”

After he separated from the Army in 2005, Prysner “understood that the occupation I was a part of was a crime against humanity. I understood that illegal conquering of Iraq was for profit, carried out by a system that serves a tiny class of super-rich whose endless drive for wealth is at the expense of working people in the United States and abroad.”

According to Prysner, the lessons he learned from being part of the US occupation of Iraq taught him that, “I still had the same drive to fight for freedom, justice and equality as I did when I joined, and I understood that fighting for those things meant fighting against the US government, not on behalf of it.”

To those who call him and his organization “anti-American” and/or “unpatriotic,” Prysner has this to say:

“I would say that I have more in common with my sisters and brothers in Iraq and Afghanistan than I do with these people in DC who’ve sent us to war. If that’s unpatriotic, then yes, I am. But patriotism and racism are the only things the military has to fall back on to convince people to do the things we are being asked to do today.”

March Forward! was founded in 2008, and the aim of the organization is “to unite all those who have served and who currently serve in the US military, and who want to stand up for our rights and for that which is right.”

“We are new and growing,” Prysner explained. “We have seen somewhat consistent growth, and we’re expecting this to accelerate now.”

The group’s statement from December 3 adds, “On December 1, we got a clear order from President Obama. For many more years, we will be sent to kill, to die, to be maimed and wounded, in a war where ‘victory’ is impossible, against a people who are not our enemies. For over eight years, we have come home in coffins, in wheelchairs, with our skin burned and with our days and nights haunted by the trauma of war. We return home to a VA whose services are so inadequate that active duty soldiers who succumb to suicide outnumber those killed in combat.”

James Circello is a former Army sergeant and veteran of the US occupation of Iraq. Circello, who joined the military in 2001, describes his experience in Iraq as follows:

“During the occupation of Iraq, the truth about what the United States government has done to the country of Iraq became more apparent. Open wastewater flowed through neighborhood streets where children played soccer. Families were thrown out of their homes with simple accusations from others. Vehicles were taken on sight by the military if individuals couldn’t provide proper documents claiming they own the vehicle. These events and others helped in strengthening my opposition to the so-called ‘War on Terror.’”

In April 2007, Circello left his base in Vicenza, Italy, and went absent without leave (AWOL) in protest of US policy in the Middle East. In November 2007, he turned himself in to the military at Fort Knox and was discharged within three days.

Circello has remained very active with his work against US Foreign Policy, having worked with Iraq Veterans Against the War and the group Courage to Resist before joining March Forward!.

Circello’s decision to go AWOL was his way of refusing to deploy to Afghanistan.

I had been fighting myself internally after my time in Iraq, about whether to deploy again,” he explained to Truthout, “I ended up back in my old unit that was preparing to deploy, so at that moment I took it into my hands, and decided I wasn’t going to go kill Afghans that had done nothing to me, or the American people. It was a defining moment for me.”

According to Pentagon figures, since October 2001, more than 50,000 soldiers from all branches of the military have gone AWOL.

John Raughter is the communications director for the American Legion, an organization that describes itself as “a patriotic, war-time veterans organization, devoted to mutual helpfulness,” according to its web site.

Raughter is clear about his stance on the rights of soldiers. “We have an all-volunteer force,” he explained to Truthout, “These are not draftees. They swore an oath to obey the orders of the Commander in Chief.”

According to Raughter, the American Legion does not, in any way, support AWOL soldiers or those who refuse to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. “Within reason, the military should be able to enforce obedience. Obedience and order are critical for the military to do its mission. People can’t pick and choose which orders to obey and which not to [obey]. If it’s a lawful order, they are obliged to obey.”

Yet the oath enlisted soldiers must take before being deployed, reads:

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild, is the co-author of “Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent” with Kathleen Gilberd. In the book, they write, “Rules of Engagement limit forms of combat, levels of force, and legitimate enemy targets, defining what is legal in warfare and what is not. (They’re also) defined by an established body of international (and US) law that leaves no ambiguity.”

Cohn and Gilberd argue that every US war since WWII has been illegal. Article 51 of the UN Charter only permits the “right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member … until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security.”

In addition, Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 (the war powers clause) of the US Constitution authorizes only both houses of Congress, not the president, to declare war. Nonetheless, that process has been followed only five times in our history and last used on December 8, 1941, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

Nevertheless, Raughter believes soldiers who are dissenting against the occupations should have never joined the ranks. “If they are ethically opposed to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I would say that most of these people have enlisted or reenlisted since the beginning of the war. These wars were occurring when they made this oath of enlistment. It should have come to their minds.”

Circello’s response to those who refer to their tactic of encouraging soldiers to refuse deployment orders as being “unpatriotic or un-American?

“This is a tactic of demonization and we reject it,” he explained, “The corporations profiting in these wars don’t care about America or the American people. Is providing mercenaries to kill innocent people overseas, and bombs to kill innocent people, is that American and patriotic? The people who use these terms are demagogues. We can’t forget that America was a land of institutionalized slavery, slavery was American, and folks like Dr. Martin Luther King, when they stood up to racism were called un-American … so the same thing happens today. When you protest war, or call on soldiers to desert based on their own interest, you are called un-American.”

Prysner and Circello’s organization has stated, “March Forward! supports the right of all service members to refuse illegal and immoral orders. Orders to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq are just that: illegal and immoral. We have no reason to fight in these wars, and we have every right to refuse to be a part of them.”

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Open Letter to Obama: Please Bring Our Troops Home Now!

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Open Letter to Obama: Please Bring Our Troops Home Now!

Mr. President:

I am writing to urge you to announce an immediate cease-fire followed by a withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan in the fastest way consistent with the safety of our forces.

I urge you to end the use of Predator drones that kill civilians.

I call upon you to cease all covert operations in Africa, Asia, and North and South America.

Too many of your military advisors are implicated in torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the peace. Your Justice Department operates at the zenith of injustice, defending Bush Administration criminality in U.S. Courtrooms.

I wrote to you earlier suggesting that if you did not investigate the crimes of the Bush Administration, you would be viewed as their accessory. Sadly, war crimes and torture are now committed with your name on them.

Please bring our troops home now.

Cynthia McKinney

(Cynthia McKinney is a former US Congresswoman)

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Dr. Ron Paul: It’s Time to Leave Afghanistan

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
United States House of Representatives

Statement Before Foreign Affairs Committee

December 10, 2009

Mr. Speaker thank you for holding these important hearings on US policy in Afghanistan. I would like to welcome the witnesses, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and General Stanley A. McChrystal, and thank them for appearing before this Committee.
I have serious concerns, however, about the president’s decision to add some 30,000 troops and an as yet undisclosed number of civilian personnel to escalate our Afghan operation. This “surge” will bring US troop levels to approximately those of the Soviets when they occupied Afghanistan with disastrous result back in the 1980s. I fear the US military occupation of Afghanistan may end up similarly unsuccessful.
In late 1986 Soviet armed forces commander, Marshal Sergei Akhromeev, told then-Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, “Military actions in Afghanistan will soon be seven years old. There is no single piece of land in this country which has not been occupied by a Soviet soldier. Nonetheless, the majority of the territory remains in the hands of rebels.” Soon Gorbachev began the Soviet withdrawal from its Afghan misadventure. Thousands were dead on both sides, yet the occupation failed to produce a stable national Afghan government.
Eight years into our own war in Afghanistan the Soviet commander’s words ring eerily familiar. Part of the problem stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation. It is our presence as occupiers that feeds the insurgency. As would be the case if we were invaded and occupied, diverse groups have put aside their disagreements to unify against foreign occupation. Adding more US troops will only assist those who recruit fighters to attack our soldiers and who use the US occupation to convince villages to side with the Taliban.
Proponents of the president’s Afghanistan escalation cite the successful “surge” in Iraq as evidence that this second surge will have similar results. I fear they might be correct about the similar result, but I dispute the success propaganda about Iraq. In fact, the violence in Iraq only temporarily subsided with the completion of the ethnic cleansing of Shi’ites from Sunni neighborhoods and vice versa – and all neighborhoods of Christians. Those Sunni fighters who remained were easily turned against the foreign al-Qaeda presence when offered US money and weapons. We are increasingly seeing this “success” breaking down: sectarian violence is flaring up and this time the various groups are better armed with US-provided weapons. Similarly, the insurgents paid by the US to stop their attacks are increasingly restive now that the Iraqi government is no longer paying bribes on a regular basis. So I am skeptical about reports on the success of the Iraqi surge.
Likewise, we are told that we have to “win” in Afghanistan so that al-Qaeda cannot use Afghan territory to plan further attacks against the US. We need to remember that the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001 was, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, largely planned in the United States (and Germany) by terrorists who were in our country legally. According to the logic of those who endorse military action against Afghanistan because al-Qaeda was physically present, one could argue in favor of US airstrikes against several US states and Germany! It makes no sense. The Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to remain in Afghanistan because both had been engaged, with US assistance, in the insurgency against the Soviet occupation.
Nevertheless, the president’s National Security Advisor, Gen. James Jones, USMC (Ret.), said in a recent interview that less than 100 al-Qaeda remain in Afghanistan and that the chance they would reconstitute a significant presence there was slim. Are we to believe that 30,000 more troops are needed to defeat 100 al-Qaeda fighters? I fear that there will be increasing pressure for the US to invade Pakistan, to where many Taliban and al-Qaeda have escaped. Already CIA drone attacks on Pakistan have destabilized that country and have killed scores of innocents, producing strong anti-American feelings and calls for revenge. I do not see how that contributes to our national security.
The president’s top advisor for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said recently, “I would say this about defining success in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the simplest sense, the Supreme Court test for another issue, we’ll know it when we see it.” That does not inspire much confidence.
Supporters of this surge argue that we must train an Afghan national army to take over and strengthen the rule and authority of Kabul. But experts have noted that the ranks of the Afghan national army are increasingly being filled by the Tajik minority at the expense of the Pashtun plurality. US diplomat Matthew Hoh, who resigned as Senior Civilian Representative for the U.S. Government in Zabul Province, noted in his resignation letter that he “fail[s] to see the value or the worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war.” Mr. Hoh went on to write that “[L]ike the Soviets, we continue to secure and bolster a failing state, while encouraging an ideology and system of government unknown and unwanted by [the Afghan] people.”
I have always opposed nation-building as unconstitutional and ineffective. Afghanistan is no different. Without a real strategy in Afghanistan, without a vision of what victory will look like, we are left with the empty rhetoric of the last administration that “when the Afghan people stand up, the US will stand down.” I am afraid the only solution to the Afghanistan quagmire is a rapid and complete US withdrawal from that country and the region. We cannot afford to maintain this empire and our occupation of these foreign lands is not making us any safer. It is time to leave Afghanistan.

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Kucinich: Afghan War is a Racket!

Friday, December 11th, 2009

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Why I Oppose the Surge in Afghanistan

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

United States Senator Arlen Specter, For the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Dear Friends:

I want to share with you an op-ed (link here and copied below) I wrote that ran in today’s Philadelphia Daily News about why I oppose sending additional American troops to Afghanistan.

If you are interested in learning more about how I came to this decision, I encourage you read the floor statement I made in September in which I raised substantive questions about our mission in Afghanistan. At that time, I also wrote detailed letters to – and subsequently received responses and briefings from – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, CIA Director Leon Panetta, DNI Director Dennis Blair and Admiral Mike Mullen.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me on this and any other issues of importance to you.

Sincerely,

Arlen Specter

Why I oppose the Afghan surge
By ARLEN SPECTER

I’M OPPOSED to sending 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan because I don’t believe they are indispensable in our fight against al Qaeda.
If they were, I’d support such a surge because we have to do whatever it takes to defeat al Qaeda, which seeks to annihilate us.

But if al Qaeda can organize and operate out of Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere, then why fight in Afghanistan, which has made a history of resisting would-be conquerors – from Alexander the Great in the 3rd century BC, to Great Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries, to the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s?

In order to be successful in Afghanistan, it’s necessary to have a reliable ally in the Afghan government. The evidence demonstrates that President Hamid Karzai does not have the requisite reliability.

THE LEGITIMACY of his administration is suspect because of vote fraud. There is widespread corruption at the highest levels of his government. His government has tolerated, if not encouraged, drug-trafficking.

President Obama has said, “President Karzai’s inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction.” In my judgment, any such “message” amounts to a dubious and belated pledge of reform and deserves to be treated with the greatest skepticism.

For too long, the United States has borne the overwhelming weight of providing troops with only modest NATO contributions. We currently provide 68,000 troops, Britain 9,500 and the other countries just over 36,000. NATO has pledged another 7,000 troops, an inadequate response when you consider the combined populations of NATO countries – excluding the United States – and the threat they face from al Qaeda.

In the context of the Vietnam and Iraq wars, it is understandable that the American people are very skeptical about fighting in Afghanistan. Had we known that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, we would not have gone into Iraq.

Historians have replayed the tragic mistakes in Vietnam. When you add the 851 killed and 4,605 wounded in Afghanistan to the 4,369 killed and 31,575 wounded in Iraq, it is understandable that the American people do not want to continue the overwhelming burden of fighting in Afghanistan with so little assistance from our allies and so little prospects for success.

The cost of the Afghanistan war imposes an additional burden. It costs $1 million a year for each soldier, or $30 billion a year to support 30,000 additional troops. The cost for the total force in Afghanistan of approximately 100,000 soldiers would be more than $100 billion a year.

Pursuing a successful war in Afghanistan would require considerable additional support from Pakistan.

While Pakistan has been more helpful in recent weeks, their long-term commitment remains uncertain. For years, I’ve urged that the United States should take the lead in brokering a rapprochement with India that would allow Pakistan to redeploy forces from the Indian border to Taliban and al Qaeda strongholds in the mountainous regions of the north. If we could cool that tension with India, they could help us fight the Taliban and al Qaeda.

My opposition to the troop surge in no way diminishes my concern over the challenge we face in al Qaeda and the need to confront it wherever it emerges.

But I question whether Afghanistan is the primary front or even the only battlefield when we may face emerging challenges in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan itself. That is where we have the best chance to succeed.

We should concentrate on fighting al Qaeda without limitation on time or resources, but we should not engage in the laborious and problematic task of nation-building, or civil affairs, or the protection of other societies in place of their own security systems.

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Who Wants War?

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Texas Straight Talk – A weekly column
Rep. Ron Paul (R) – TX 14

Who Wants War?

If anyone still doubted that this administration’s foreign policy would bring any kind of change, this week’s debate on Afghanistan should remove all doubt. The President’s stated justifications for sending more troops to Afghanistan and escalating war amount to little more than recycling all the false reasons we began the conflict. It is so discouraging to see this coming from our new leadership, when the people were hoping for peace. New polls show that 49 percent of the people favor minding our own business on the world stage, up from 30 percent in 2002. Perpetual war is not solving anything. Indeed continually seeking out monsters to destroy abroad only threatens our security here at home as international resentment against us builds. The people understand this and are becoming increasingly frustrated at not being heard by the decision-makers. The leaders say some things the people want to hear, but change never comes.

One has to ask, if the people who elected these leaders so obviously do not want these wars, who does? Eisenhower warned of the increasing power and influence of the military industrial complex and it seems his worst fears have come true. He believed in a strong national defense, as do I, but warned that the building up of permanent military and weapons industries could prove dangerous if their influence got out of hand. After all, if you make your money on war, peace does you no good. With trillions of dollars at stake, there is tremendous incentive to keep the decision makers fearful of every threat in the world, real or imagined, present or future, no matter how ridiculous and far-fetched. The Bush Doctrine demonstrates how very successful the war lobby was philosophically with the last administration. And they are succeeding just as well with this one, in spite of having the so-called “peace candidate” in office.

We now find ourselves in another foreign policy quagmire with little hope of victory, and not even a definition of victory. Eisenhower said that only an alert and informed electorate could keep these war racketeering pressures at bay. He was right, and the key is for the people to ensure that their elected leaders follow the Constitution. The Constitution requires a declaration of war by Congress in order to legitimately go to war. Bypassing this critical step makes it far too easy to waste resources on nebulous and never-ending conflicts. Without clear goals, the conflicts last forever and drain the country of blood and treasure. The drafters of the Constitution gave Congress the power to declare war precisely because they feared allowing the executive unfettered discretion in military affairs. They understood that making it easy for leaders to wage foreign wars would threaten domestic liberties.

Responses to attacks on our soil should be swift and brief. Wars we fight should always be defensive, clearly defined and Constitutional. The Bush Doctrine of targeting potential enemies before they do anything to us is dangerously vague and easily abused. There is nothing left to win in Afghanistan and everything to lose. Today’s military actions are yet another futile exercise in nation building and have nothing to do with our nation’s security, or with 9/11. Most experts agree that Bin Laden and anyone remotely connected to 9/11 left Afghanistan long ago, but our troops remain. The pressures of the war racketeers need to be put in check before we are brought to our knees by them. Unfortunately, it will require a mighty effort by the people to get the leadership to finally listen.

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Military Families Protest Obama’s Decision to Escalate War in Afghanistan

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Military Families Across the Country Protest President Obama’s Decision to Escalate War in Afghanistan

Contact: Deborah Forter, Military Families Speak Out, 617-983-0710, or press@mfso.org

http://mfso.org/article.php?id=1354

December 3, 2009 – Following President Obama’s announcement of increased troop levels in Afghanistan, members of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) and Gold Star Families Speak Out (GSFSO) expressed outrage and deep sadness by speaking out and taking part in protest actions across the country. While the military community is frequently tight-lipped about policy decisions, these military families broke that code of silence to publicly decry the President’s decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan.

MFSO members Linda and Phil Waste of Shellman Bluff, Georgia, describe how their families’ sense of duty to serve this country and their faith in President Obama has been abused:

We have lived in terror for over eight years now. Three of our sons and three grandchildren have served in the Army in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Our family has endured multiple deployments, extended deployments, stop loss, and the unconscionable practice of pressured reenlistment while in country. At present we have a grandson in Iraq and a granddaughter in Afghanistan. We believe all our sons suffer from some degree of PTSD, one more severe than the others. Our granddaughter is on all kinds of medication for PTSD, and yet is in Afghanistan on her 3rd deployment!

We worked hard to get President Obama elected and sent money out of our retirement to support his election. His many words of ‘hope’ did indeed give us ‘hope’, however, his deeds dashed our hopes on the rocks of more death and destruction of continued wars. The only sane solution is to bring the troops home now!

GSFSO members Kevin and Joyce Lucey of Belchertown, Massachusetts, whose son Jeffrey suffered severe psychological injuries of war and committed suicide after being denied proper care from the Veteran’s Administration, questioned President Obama about this surge in a recent open letter:

You talk of war talk but what of veterans’ care? Our loved ones still lack the care they desperately need. What of the way you continue to treat families of suicides? You stated that you sign letters to all those who lose their lives due to this war. That is not true due to the fact that you continue to refuse to send letters to those loved ones’ families who have committed suicide. The number of these families continues to grow as the military suicides rates rise to unprecedented levels, yet you ignore these families as your predecessor did. Where is the change?

You offer up not troops but citizens of this nation – our loved ones; you are sacrificing them. And for what? Have you any concept of the pain, grief, loss and destruction this policy will create and prolong?

MFSO and GSFSO members protested and responded to the President’s announcement Tuesday evening at venues across the country: speaking at a demonstration in West Point in New York; holding a press conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota; gathering together in Long Beach, California to watch the speech and share reflections with local and national press; holding vigils in New Jersey and other areas. Protests continued across the country on December 2nd, where members of Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families Speak Out shared personal experiences with the human cost of the current wars and the urgent need to bring them to an end.

Members of Military Families Speak Out, including families with loved ones currently in Afghanistan or those facing deployment or redeployment, along with members of Gold Star Families Speak Out, whose loved ones have died as a result of these wars, are available for interview.

To arrange for an interview, contact Deborah Forter at Military Families Speak Out, 617-983-0710 or press@mfso.org

Military Families Speak Out is a national organization of over 4,000 families who are opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and have loved ones serving or who have served in the military since 2001. For more information, see http://www.mfso.org. Gold Star Families Speak Out is a chapter of MFSO whose members’ loved ones have died as a result of the current wars. For more information see http://www.gsfso.org.

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Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) says bring the troops home

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Saying it’s time for Republicans to do more than “take pot shots at ACORN,” freshman Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz will call on President Barack Obama on Monday to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan.

Chaffetz’s push for a troop withdrawal — to be unveiled in a speech at the Hinckley Institute of Politics in Salt Lake City — runs counter to the position of House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and other leading Republicans in Congress. But it also reflects the divisions within the conference about the question of Afghanistan. Chaffetz told POLITICO the issue “has been probably the most difficult one as a freshman in the minority.”

“So much of this is easy, black and white, but Afghanistan is very different and very difficult,” he said.

Chaffetz said he thinks he will “suffer” for the decision and that it would be safer for him politically to stay the course he’s been on.

“I can take pot shots at [Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now] all day long, and I’m good at it,” Chaffetz said. “But even though I am probably going against where the party is on this traditionally, I just think we need to stand up and support the notion that it is time to bring our soldiers home.”

Earlier this year, Chaffetz traveled to the region and said that, since then, he’s “become more engrossed in my conviction it is time to bring our troops home.”

“I am opposed to nation building, and I quite frankly don’t see or understand what victory looks like,” he said. “I believe, as most people do, that our military can do everything we want them to do. … But we’re asking them to fight a war that is not very well-defined. And we are asking them to do so with one hand tied behind their back.”

Chaffetz said the House GOP is divided over whether to “go big or go home” and acknowledged that the “go home” contingent is probably in the minority.

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An Open Letter to President Obama from Michael Moore

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Dear President Obama,

Do you really want to be the new “war president”? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do — destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they’ve always heard is true — that all politicians are alike. I simply can’t believe you’re about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn’t so.

It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That’s the way General Washington insisted it must be. That’s what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. “You’re fired!,” said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we f*#&in’ hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption).

So now you feel backed into a corner. 30 years ago this past Thursday (Thanksgiving) the Soviet generals had a cool idea — “Let’s invade Afghanistan!” Well, that turned out to be the final nail in the USSR coffin.

There’s a reason they don’t call Afghanistan the “Garden State” (though they probably should, seeing how the corrupt President Karzai, whom we back, has his brother in the heroin trade raising poppies). Afghanistan’s nickname is the “Graveyard of Empires.” If you don’t believe it, give the British a call. I’d have you call Genghis Khan but I lost his number. I do have Gorbachev’s number though. It’s + 41 22 789 1662. I’m sure he could give you an earful about the historic blunder you’re about to commit.

With our economic collapse still in full swing and our precious young men and women being sacrificed on the altar of arrogance and greed, the breakdown of this great civilization we call America will head, full throttle, into oblivion if you become the “war president.” Empires never think the end is near, until the end is here. Empires think that more evil will force the heathens to toe the line — and yet it never works. The heathens usually tear them to shreds.

Choose carefully, President Obama. You of all people know that it doesn’t have to be this way. You still have a few hours to listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking. You know that nothing good can come from sending more troops halfway around the world to a place neither you nor they understand, to achieve an objective that neither you nor they understand, in a country that does not want us there. You can feel it in your bones.

I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush’s Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it.

Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you’re doing it so you can “end the war”) will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you’ve said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone — and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout “tea bag!”

Choose carefully, Mr. President. Your corporate backers are going to abandon you as soon as it is clear you are a one-term president and that the nation will be safely back in the hands of the usual idiots who do their bidding. That could be Wednesday morning.

We the people still love you. We the people still have a sliver of hope. But we the people can’t take it anymore. We can’t take your caving in, over and over, when we elected you by a big, wide margin of millions to get in there and get the job done. What part of “landslide victory” don’t you understand?

Don’t be deceived into thinking that sending a few more troops into Afghanistan will make a difference, or earn you the respect of the haters. They will not stop until this country is torn asunder and every last dollar is extracted from the poor and soon-to-be poor. You could send a million troops over there and the crazy Right still wouldn’t be happy. You would still be the victim of their incessant venom on hate radio and television because no matter what you do, you can’t change the one thing about yourself that sends them over the edge.

The haters were not the ones who elected you, and they can’t be won over by abandoning the rest of us.

President Obama, it’s time to come home. Ask your neighbors in Chicago and the parents of the young men and women doing the fighting and dying if they want more billions and more troops sent to Afghanistan. Do you think they will say, “No, we don’t need health care, we don’t need jobs, we don’t need homes. You go on ahead, Mr. President, and send our wealth and our sons and daughters overseas, ’cause we don’t need them, either.”

What would Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would your grandmother do? Not send more poor people to kill other poor people who pose no threat to them, that’s what they’d do. Not spend billions and trillions to wage war while American children are sleeping on the streets and standing in bread lines.

All of us that voted and prayed for you and cried the night of your victory have endured an Orwellian hell of eight years of crimes committed in our name: torture, rendition, suspension of the bill of rights, invading nations who had not attacked us, blowing up neighborhoods that Saddam “might” be in (but never was), slaughtering wedding parties in Afghanistan. We watched as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were slaughtered and tens of thousands of our brave young men and women were killed, maimed, or endured mental anguish — the full terror of which we scarcely know.

When we elected you we didn’t expect miracles. We didn’t even expect much change. But we expected some. We thought you would stop the madness. Stop the killing. Stop the insane idea that men with guns can reorganize a nation that doesn’t even function as a nation and never, ever has.

Stop, stop, stop! For the sake of the lives of young Americans and Afghan civilians, stop. For the sake of your presidency, hope, and the future of our nation, stop. For God’s sake, stop.

Tonight we still have hope.

Tomorrow, we shall see. The ball is in your court. You DON’T have to do this. You can be a profile in courage. You can be your mother’s son.

We’re counting on you.

Yours,
Michael Moore

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