Sunday, December 20, 2009
Afghan News Sites
Afghanistan in the news
Labels: Afghan News
$57,077.60. That’s what we’re paying per minute. Keep that in mind -- just for a minute or so.
After all, the surge is already on. By the end of December, the first 1,500 U.S. troops will have landed in Afghanistan, a nation roughly the size of Texas, ranked by the United Nations as second worst in the world in terms of human development.
Women and men from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will be among the first to head out. It takes an estimated $1 million to send each of them surging into Afghanistan for one year. So a 30,000-person surge will be at least $30 billion, which brings us to that $57,077.60. That’s how much it will cost you, the taxpayer, for one minute of that surge.
By the way, add up the yearly salary of a Marine from Camp Lejeune with four years of service, throw in his or her housing allowance, additional pay for dependents, and bonus pay for hazardous duty, imminent danger, and family separation, and you’ll still be many thousands of dollars short of that single minute’s sum.
But perhaps this isn’t a time to quibble. After all, a job is a job, especially in the United States, which has lost seven million jobs since December 2007, while reporting record-high numbers of people seeking assistance to feed themselves and/or their families. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 36 million Americans, including one out of every four children, are currently on food stamps.
On the other hand, given the woeful inadequacy of that “safety net,” we might have chosen to direct the $30 billion in surge expenditures toward raising the average individual monthly Food Stamp allotment by $70 for the next year; that's roughly an additional trip to the grocery store, every month, for 36 million people. Alternatively, we could have dedicated that $30 billion to job creation. According to a recent report issued by the Political Economy Research Institute, that sum could generate a whopping 537,810 construction jobs, 541,080 positions in healthcare, fund 742,740 teachers or employ 831,390 mass transit workers.
For purposes of comparison, $30 billion -- remember, just the Pentagon-estimated cost of a 30,000-person troop surge -- is equal to 80 percent of the total U.S. 2010 budget for international affairs, which includes monies for development and humanitarian assistance. On the domestic front, $30 billion could double the funding (at 2010 levels) for the Children's Health Insurance Program and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Or think of the surge this way: if the United States decided to send just 29,900 extra soldiers to Afghanistan, 100 short of the present official total, it could double the amount of money -- $100 million -- it has allocated to assist refugees and returnees from Afghanistan through the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
Leaving aside the fact that the United States already accounts for 45 percent of total global military spending, the $30 billion surge cost alone would place us in the top-ten for global military spending, sandwiched between Italy and Saudi Arabia. Spent instead on “soft security” measures within Afghanistan, $30 billion could easily build, furnish and equip enough schools for the entire nation.
Continuing this nod to the absurd for just one more moment, if you received a silver dollar every second, it would take you 960 years to haul in that $30 billion. Not that anyone could hold so much money. Together, the coins would weigh nearly 120,000 tons, or more than the poundage of 21,000 Asian elephants, an aircraft carrier, or the Washington Monument. Converted to dollar bills and laid end-to-end, $30 billion would reach 2.9 million miles or 120 times around the Earth.
One more thing, that $30 billion isn’t even the real cost of Obama’s surge. It’s just a minimum, through-the-basement estimate. If you were to throw in all the bases being built, private contractors hired, extra civilians sent in, and the staggering costs of training a larger Afghan army and police force (a key goal of the surge), the figure would surely be startlingly higher. In fact, total Afghanistan War spending for 2010 is now expected to exceed $102.9 billion, doubling last year's Afghan spending. Thought of another way, it breaks down to $12 million per hour in taxpayer dollars for one year. That’s equal to total annual U.S. spending on all veteran's benefits, from hospital stays to education.
In Afghan terms, our upcoming single year of war costs represents nearly five times that country’s gross domestic product or $3,623.70 for every Afghan woman, man, and child. Given that the average annual salary for an Afghan soldier is $2,880 and many Afghans seek employment in the military purely out of economic desperation, this might be a wise investment -- especially since the Taliban is able to pay considerably more for its new recruits. In fact, recent increases in much-needed Afghan recruits appear to correlate with the promise of a pay raise.
All of this is, of course, so much fantasy, since we know just where that $30-plus billion will be going. In 2010, total Afghanistan War spending since November 2001 will exceed $325 billion, which equals the combined annual military spending of Great Britain, China, France, Japan, Germany, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. If we had never launched an invasion of Afghanistan or stayed on fighting all these years, those war costs, evenly distributed in this country, would have meant a $2,298.80 dividend per U.S. taxpayer.
Even as we calculate the annual cost of war, the tens of thousands of Asian elephants in the room are all pointing to $1 trillion in total war costs for Iraq and Afghanistan. The current escalation in Afghanistan coincides with that rapidly-approaching milestone. In fact, thanks to Peter Baker’s recent New York Times report on the presidential deliberations that led to the surge announcement, we know that the trillion-dollar number for both wars may be a gross underestimate. The Office of Management and Budget sent President Obama a memo, Baker tells us, suggesting that adding General McChrystal’s surge to ongoing war costs, over the next 10 years, could mean -- forget Iraq -- a trillion dollar Afghan War.
At just under one-third of the 2010 U.S. federal budget, $1 trillion essentially defies per-hour-per-soldier calculations. It dwarfs all other nations' military spending, let alone their spending on war. It makes a mockery of food stamps and schools. To make sense of this cost, we need to leave civilian life behind entirely and turn to another war. We have to reach back to the Vietnam War, which in today's dollars cost $709.9 billion -- or $300 billion less than the total cost of the two wars we're still fighting, with no end in sight, or even $300 billion less than the long war we may yet fight in Afghanistan.
Labels: afghanistar war cost
Friday, December 18, 2009
Al Qaeda Reaches Out to Women
Zawahiri's Wife Releases Statement, Tells Women They Can Be Suicide Bombers
Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's second-in-command, has been a regular presence on Islamic web sites for years , releasing statements and videos via al-Qaeda's propaganda arm that blast the West and urge Muslims to wage holy war. Now his wife may have joined the family business.
In what is thought to be her first public statement, Omaima Hassan published a statement on Islamic web sites Thursday that encouraged "Muslim sisters" to assist with jihad, but only in suitably feminine ways. She called supporting jihad "an obligation for all Muslims, men and women." ABC News could not independently confirm the authenticity of the statement.
In the seven-page letter, after assuring friends and family that she and her husband are safe and well, Hassan outlines the ways in which women can assist their men with jihad. Hassan suggests that women work side by side in defending Islam with their men, but underlines that the most important role for women is to support male mujahideen by caring for their children.
"Jihad is an obligation for every man and woman," wrote Hassan, "but the way of fighting is not easy for women."
"Our main role -- that I ask God to accept from us -- is to preserve the mujahideen in their sons, and homes, and their confidentiality, and to help them raise/develop their children in the best way."
But Hassan also suggests that women can become suicide bombers, which she refers to as "martyrdom missions."
Hassan also urges women to wear hijabs, or head coverings, and to ignore Western media. Zawahiri, an Egyptian-born doctor, is a polygamist who has had at least four wives, two of them widows. Fundamentalist Islamic doctrine allows men to have up to four wives at one time.
Zawahiri's first wife, Azza, who bore him six children, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2001. "My favorite wife's chest was crushed by a concrete ceiling," Zawahiri later wrote.
In 2008, Zawahiri sparked controversy when he said in a two-hour recorded interview posted on a web site that Al Qaeda did not have women members, and that the role of women in jihad was limited to taking care of the children of fighters and maintaining their homes.
Earlier this week, Zawahiri released his own statement, in which he blasted Egyptian and Palestinian leaders and expressed his support for Omar Abdel Rahman, Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, who are all in U.S. custody.
On Thursday, Al Qaeda's propaganda arm also released a 65-page book by Zawahiri called "The Morning and the Lantern," in which he criticizes the Pakistani government. Zawahiri is believed to be in Pakistan.
Labels: al-qaeda-women in jihad
Friday, October 02, 2009
Labels: israeli-hamas deal for prisoners
Monday, September 28, 2009
Labels: twisted propaganda
Gaza Strip-One family's desperation - video
Labels: gaza -video
Friday, July 24, 2009
bush's torture policy
President Carter: Many Children Were Tortured Under Bush
by Ralph Lopez
Global Research, July 20, 2009
While congress says it is gearing up to investigate what is old news, that CIA and Special Ops forces are killing Al Qaeda leaders, a decision of far different gravity is being contemplated by Attorney General Eric Holder. The new insistence of Congress on its oversight role, conspicuously absent throughout 8 years of Bush, is suddenly rearing its head in the form of questioning a policy which has been in place with no controversy for years. The U.S. has been hunting and killing Al Qaeda leaders outside of official war zones since 2004, when the New York Times reported that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had signed an order authorizing Special Forces to kill Al Qaeda where they found them.
As recently as September 2008 CBS reported that Special Forces struck Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.
The decision faced by Holder, whether or not to appoint a Special Prosecutor on torture, is of a different gravity altogether. A weight of evidence keeps building which indicates torture was employed on innocent men, that it didn't work, and that it didn't prevent any attacks. And it gets worse. Bush's own FBI Director Robert Mueller recently confirmed to the New York Times what he told Vanity Fair a year ago, that "to [his] knowledge" torture didn't prevent a single attack. Former Legendary CIA Director William Colby has said that torture is "ineffective."
Harper's Magazine's Scott Horton nows suggests there are two Eric Holders at war with each other: Holder the good soldier who knows well the preference of his boss for prosecutions to not take place, and Holder the servant of the law who is aware that what he does now may determine what is likely to happen again.
It is becoming clear that such an investigation, if it happens, will not stop with a few low-ranking scapegoats. Horton notes:
"President Obama’s assurance to CIA officials who relied on the opinions of government lawyers in implementing these programs, an assurance that Holder himself repeated, would have to be worked in. That suggests that the focus would likely be on the lawyers and policymakers who authorized use of the new techniques."
And CIA whistleblower Ray McGovern writes this week:
What changed with Holder? Horton writes in "The Torture Prosecution Turnaround?":
Holder began his review mindful of the clear preference of President Obama’s two key political advisers—David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel—that there be no investigation. Axelrod and Emanuel are described as uninterested in either the legal or policy merits of the issue of a criminal investigation. Their concerns turn entirely on their political analysis...Holder initially appeared prepared to satisfy their wishes.
This attitude seemed to change after Obama's speech at the CIA, when Emanual and Axelrod moved out front to say there would be no prosecutions. According to Horton:
To make things worse for the Bush administration, evidence is emerging that they can no longer even rely on exhibit A and B of the Torture Works theory, Al Zabudaya and Kalid Shiek Mohammed, the latter of whom is still confessing to everything short of being the real Boston Strangler. I guess if I'd been waterboarded 82 times I'd be babbling too. The FBI Special Agent who interrogated Abu Zubayda, recently breaking a 7-year silence after reading the "torture memos," wrote in the New York Times:
"One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.
It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence...This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives."
Then there is the political risk to the Obama administration that Axelrod and Emanual have miscalculated, and that, in fact, the rest of the president's agenda is hamstrung while a growing number of Americans call for existing laws to be enforced. What is haunting Americans could be, in Washington jargon, "sucking oxygen" out of the debate, and "moving forward" is a pipe dream until pending business is dealt with. Spontaneous and planned rallies calling for a Special Prosecutor are growing, not diminishing. In addition, the worse revelations may be yet to come in the horrifying saga of what happened when, as Major General Anthony Taguba says:
President Jimmy Carter wrote that the Red Cross, Amnesty International and the Pentagon "have gathered substantial testimony of torture of children, confirmed by soldiers who witnessed or participated in the abuse." In "Our Endangered Values" Carter said that the Red Cross found after visiting six U.S. prisons "107 detainees under eighteen, some as young as eight years old." And reporter Hersh, (who broke the Abu Ghraib torture scandal,) reported 800-900 Pakistani boys aged 13 to 15 in custody.
Journalist Seymour Hersh's (who broke the Abu Ghraib scandal) bombshell before the ACLU some years ago has been in a temporary slumber, as there is question as to whether the videotapes in possession of the Pentagon were among those claimed to be destroyed. Destroyed or not, there is still the conscience of soldiers and agents who bore witness to contend with, as the reign of political terror against whistleblowers which characterized the Bush administration subsides. Hersh said:
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said at the time:
History is just beginning to sort out the Bush era, with stubborn facts showing a resilience that Fox News talking points cannot, and more emerging. Today, even among Republicans, it is difficult to find those who will embrace Richard Nixon, though for a while he was every bit the perceived victim of "left-wing hate" that Bush and Cheney are now. Incredibly, to compare Nixon to Bush-Cheney is to do a deeply flawed man a disservice. Nixon inherited Vietnam. He did not orchestrate from whole cloth a campaign to link Saddam with 9/11, and strenuously push to war despite the objections of his countrymen and the world. Nixon spied on political enemies. He did not use a tragedy to illegally spy on millions, the true numbers of which we still do not know because congress has never investigated.
It's almost possible to feel sorry for the shifty, friendless Nixon. It is less possible to feel so for the smirking Bush, who thought nothing of telling soldier's families that war critics were saying that their loved ones "had died in vain."
A compilation in November 2008 of other evidence of alleged incidents involving children at the time recounts:
-- Iraqi lawyer Sahar Yasiri, representing the Federation of Prisoners and Political Prisoners, said in a published interview there are more than 400,000 detainees in Iraq being held in 36 prisons and camps and that 95 percent of the 10,000 women among them have been raped. Children, he said, "suffer from torture, rape, (and) starvation" and do not know why they have been arrested. He added the children have been victims of "random" arrests "not based on any legal text."
-- Former prisoner Thaar Salman Dawod in a witness statement said, "[I saw] two boys naked and they were cuffed together face to face and [a U.S. soldier] was beating them and a group of guards were watching and taking pictures and there was three female soldiers laughing at the prisoners."
-- Iraqi TV reporter, Suhaib Badr-Addin al-Baz, arrested while making a documentary and thrown into Abu Ghraib for 74 days, told Mackay he saw "hundreds" of children there. Al-Baz said he heard one 12-year-old girl crying, "They have undressed me. They have poured water over me." He said he heard her whimpering daily.
-- Al-Baz also told of a 15-year-old boy "who was soaked repeatedly with hoses until he collapsed." Amnesty International said ex-detainees reported boys as young as 10 are held at Abu Ghraib.
-- German TV reporter Thomas Reutter of "Report Mainz" quoted U.S. Army Sgt. Samuel Provance that interrogation specialists "poured water" over one 16-year-old Iraqi boy, drove him throughout a cold night, "smeared him with mud" and then showed him to his father, who was also in custody. Apparently, one tactic employed by the Bush regime is to elicit confessions from adults by dragging their abused children in front of them.
-- Jonathan Steele, wrote in the British "The Guardian" that "Hundreds of children, some as young as nine, are being held in appalling conditions in Baghdad’s prisons...Sixteen-year-old Omar Ali told the "Guardian" he spent more than three years at Karkh juvenile prison sleeping with 75 boys to a cell that is just five by 10 meters, some of them on the floor. Omar told the paper guards often take boys to a separate room in the prison and rape them.
-- Raad Jamal, age 17, was taken from his Doura home by U.S. troops and turned over to the Iraqi Army’s Second regiment where Jamal said he was hung from the ceiling by ropes and beaten with electric cables.
-- Human Rights Watch (HRW) last June put the number of juveniles detained at 513. In all, HRW estimates, since 2003, the U.S. has detained 2,400 children in Iraq, some as young as ten.
-- IRIN, the humanitarian news service, last year quoted Khalid Rabia of the Iraqi NGO Prisoners’ Association for Justice(PAJ), stating that five boys between 13 and 17 accused of supporting insurgents and detained by the Iraqi army "showed signs of torture all over their bodies," such as "cigarette burns over their legs," she said.
-- One boy of 13 arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 was held in solitary for more than a year at Bagram and Guantanamo and made to stand in stress position and deprived of sleep, according to the "Catholic Worker."
Attorney General Holder is a man of conscience who now serves both President Obama and the law. A Newsweek piece last week says he has no illusions that:
Such a decision [to appoint a Special Prosecutor] would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. "I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president's agenda," he says. "But that can't be a part of my decision."
There can be redemption for a nation which faces its past. One that does not can only become more monstrous.
Global Research Articles by Ralph Lopez
Labels: bush-torture policy