As always, we're thinking of all the men and women in the military who can't be home with their families for Christmas. Thank you for your service.
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I'm taking a risk by writing this post but I think it's worth it to consider all aspects of our involvement in Afghanistan. The video above is from Assignment Earth, a PBS series. It details some of the alternative energy solutions being deployed by our military in Afghanistan. Solar panels, not guns. Wouldn't it be great if more of this were happening here? But it's not, largely thanks to the Koch/TeaBircher cabal.
Here's something else about Afghanistan. They are in the midst of a growing food crisis, brought on by drought and poppy profiteers. USAID has been instrumental in working with Afghans to secure their crops and with the assistance of US foreign aid, has begun to establish what could possibly be a stable agricultural economy one day.
These are not acts of war. It can be argued that the money would be better spent here in the US, but I would counter-argue that investments in humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan wouldn't happen without the assistance of the US military, and if that money were not spent, it would not find its way into the hands of those in this country who need it most. At least, not with our current House of Representatives.
Afghanistan is, and will remain, a country that fascinates me, frustrates me and rips my heart out, all at once. I have followed events in Afghanistan since 1975, when a relative of mine was posted there. I have pictures of family there over the years, and have met some wonderful Afghan people. It is complex, difficult, and worth more consideration than to simply write it off as hopeless.
In 2009, I wrote this:
Here is my dilemma.
Leaving Afghanistan means leaving a country with a weak government which will likely topple just as it has in the past. Only this time, a government overthrow could easily place the Taliban back in power like a bacteria that has mutated from abortive antibiotic treatment. It comes back stronger and harder to eradicate the second time around, with the possibility of a more lethal result.
Leaving Afghanistan means sanctioning a thriving illegal opium market as the primary economic driver in their country.
Leaving Afghanistan means leaving men, women and children in extreme poverty with no real defense against those who exploit them.
Leaving Afghanistan means abandoning all hope of the possibility of helping to build a nation that can actually survive the regional and internal conflicts that have torn it apart in the past.
Leaving Afghanistan means breaking promises we made when we sent our troops there.
I’m sure my fellow progressives and Democrats will demand my card at the door for the conflict I’m feeling over this. From everything I read, their answer is to get out and stay out, that it’s a losing proposition and we’re better off cutting our losses and moving on.
The problem I have? Accepting the idea that while it’s fine to pay verbal service to the poverty and genocide in the world, we’re unwilling to make a sacrifice to actually help end it. Our fight in Afghanistan doesn’t seem to be a fight for domination of their country, but for stabilization and a pathway to a self-sufficient, self-governing Afghan state.
American Street: The GOP plan to break the backs of suffering Americans
the talking dog:: Really old school
Alternate Brain: Support the Troops? NIMBY!
Scott Horton: Power Shortage for the National Security State
Inside Higher Ed: Organized against labor
INSTAPUTZ: Althouse Putziness
Two of McCain/Palin's most effective (and vile) smears about Obama are are that he voted to raise taxes on those making $42,000 a year, and that he voted to "cut off funding for our troops in the field." Obama refuted McCain on the later in the first debate, but he let the second one slide. Obama can learn a lot from Biden about how to diasrm this line of attack.
First on taxes:
The charge is absolutely not true. Barack Obama did not vote to raise taxes. The vote she's referring to, John McCain voted the exact same way. It was a budget procedural vote. John McCain voted the same way. It did not raise taxes. Number two, using the standard that the governor uses, John McCain voted 477 times to raise taxes. It's a bogus standard.
Now, on funding for the troops:
With regard to Barack Obama not quote funding the troops, John McCain voted the exact same way. John McCain voted against funding the troops because of an amendment he voted against had a timeline in it to draw down American troops. And John said I'm not going to fund the troops if in fact there's a time line. [...]
John McCain voted to cut off funding for the troops. Let me say that again. John McCain voted against an amendment containing $1 billion, $600 million that I had gotten to get MRAPS, those things that are protecting the governor's son and pray god my son and a lot of other sons and daughters. He voted against it. He voted against funding because he said the amendment had a time line in it to end this war. He didn't like that.
These smears are so transparently false, it's almost surprising that they're still repeated ad nauseum. Almost because attacks and smears are all the GOP has left. The troop funding one really irks me. While it's technically true that Obama voted no on a funding bill that provided money for the troops, he didn't vote against it on that basis. Biden did a hell of a job pointing out that McCain "voted against funding for the troops" too when he voted against the bill that included a time line. But that's a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. While you can twist and distort a vote to accuse your opponent of hating the military, the Democrats choose not to. I wish McCain's "honorable" campaign compelled him to adhere to the same standard.
DownWithTyranny!: McCain's latest stunt backfires...badly. Some observers believe the real motive for the Psychogeezer's latest gimmick is to keep Sarah Palin from spending another moment of unscripted time in public. But count on McCain - if he shows up for the debate - to try and work his surge-centric attack on Obama's judgment into every answer, no matter what the question. Some of us remember a time when McCain always called for withdrawal of troops.
Bob Geiger:Bush asleep while Iraqi fraud funnels millions to al-Qaeda
David E's Fablog: Albert Brooks explains it all for you
The Satirical Political Report: Cheney asserts a link between Saddam and Mortgages of Mass Destruction
LAist: Michael Moore is giving away his new movie
Last week's Republican convention sure made every superficial effort to come off as pro-Troop and pro-Veteran. And, of course, the media ate it up, not challenging a single thing. But to those of us who did serve, it was offense after offense after offense. ... Maybe because it's because he has a terrible record, but not once in John McCain's speech did he talk about taking care of those who served their nation in the military. With exploding rates of PTSD, suicide, homelessness among veterans. With ridiculous wait times for veterans seeking care, and a VA that every major vets group says is woefully underfunded. With administrators dumping vets out of the veterans care system by diagnosing them with a lesser mental injury than they have. Not. A. Single. Word.
Soltz, who was an Army captain during Operation Freedom, goes on to list some of the sins Republicans don't want mentioned when it comes to their oft-mentioned "support" for servicemen and veterans. They include: Rush Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" accusation levelled at servicemen who disagree with Bush's awful policies on Iraq and Afghanistan; their faux-outrage when General Wesley Clark pointed out that being a POW isn't a qualification for being Commander in Chief and, of course, Sarah Palin's recent violation of OPSEC by revealing her son's deployment date.
Of course, we should add Rumsfield's "we go to war with the army we have" insult. When he said that, half of all casualties in Iraq up to that point had been because of a lack of vehicle and body armor the Bush administration had been unwilling to fund. We should add their repeated robbing of the soldier's paychestto force Congress into funding the Iraq occupation. And let us not forget the original Walter Reed debacle.
But that's not where McCain and his party end on their false "support. As a diary at Booman Tribune detailed back in February, Mr Straight Talk is full of doubletalk.
McCain voted against the Webb amendment calling for adequate troop rest between deployments.
McCain voted against an amendment that would provide $20 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for health care facilities.
McCain voted against increasing Veterans medical services funding by $1.5 billion in FY 2007 to be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes.
McCain voted to table an amendment by Senator Dodd that called for an additional $322,000,000 for safety equipment for United States forces in Iraq.
McCain urged other Senate members to table a vote (which never passed) to provide more than $1 billion for National Guard and Reserve equipment in Iraq related to a shortage of helmets, tents, bullet-proof inserts, and tactical vests.
McCain voted against increasing the amount available for medical care for veterans by $650,000,000.
When it comes to their claim to support the troops, John McCain and his party are flat-out liars. The message is simple - if you really support the troops, stop voting Republican.
I get to talk to John Amato multiple times a day, but it's easy for me to forget no matter how familiar and frequent that voice is in my ear, most other C&Lers don't know what John looks or sounds like. But luckily for all you curious C&Lers out there, Jason Linkins, HuffPo's roving reporter at the DNC, caught up with John in Denver and asked him his take on Maliki's insistence that the newly negotiated withdrawal of US troops from Iraq is a "real" withdrawal:
Iraq and the United States have agreed that all U.S. troops will leave by the end of 2011, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday, but Washington said no final deal had been reached.
"There is an agreement actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil," Maliki said in a speech to tribal leaders in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.
"An open time limit is not acceptable in any security deal that governs the presence of the international forces," he said.
Maliki's remarks were the most explicit statement yet that the increasingly assertive Iraqi government expects the U.S. presence to end in three years as part of a deal between Washington and Baghdad to allow them to stay beyond this year.
The Belgravia Dispatch: Thoughts on Georgia
Beat the Press: Why do reporters find it so difficult to understand protectionism for people like themselves? The atrocities continue below...
ANNALS OF JOURNALISM: They print the propaganda first, because their good friends in the White House tell 'em to...WaPo or The Onion?...The Sleeping Media....Nearly half of Americans favor government mandated political balance on radio and TV...Lifting the ban on press photographing coffins of returning dead...The corporate media continues to operate as the propaganda arm of the Pentagon...Limbaugh: "Nobody had the guts to stand up and say no to a black guy"...Any press criticism of the Israeli government is off limits...Corsi frequent guest on White Supremacist radio..News Corp stock in the toilet...US targets Al Jazeera
Most of the time, the conservative culture-war efforts are simply annoying. Some far-right activists will try some stunt, it’ll fail in the courts, and the rest of us can focus our attention on real problems.
But it’s much harder to tolerate conservative intolerance when national security is at stake.
This morning’s Christian Science Monitor reports that the Army is preparing to offer a staggering $150,000 retention bonus to service members who are proficient in Arabic, “in reflection of how critical it has become for the US military to retain native language and cultural know-how in its ranks.” Indeed, as the war in Iraq goes on, and the military subsequently finds fewer and fewer people anxious for extended stays in the desert, retaining trained troops is becoming a critical centerpiece of many commanders’ strategies. The supply of Arabic speakers just isn’t keeping up with the demand created by ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The military’s conventional language training program, the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., could not churn out enough American soldiers proficient in Arabic, Kurdish, Dari, Pashtu, and Farsi, and the military quickly turned to private contractors to fill the gap,” reporter Gordon Lubold writes. “Numerous programs have sprouted up, including one at Fort Lewis, Wash., where soldiers are given a 10-month immersion program in language and culture.”
The Army is taking almost every step imaginable — from six-figure bonuses to civilian interpreters in the warzone to recruitment campaigns targeting Arab-American communities — to beef up its language capability.
Well, almost every step imaginable. While the military is searching desperately, and willing to pay enormous sums for those proficient in Arabic, the exact same military, at the exact same time, has driven 60 linguists who specialize in Arabic or Farsi out of the military because of their sexual orientation.
Republicans, including John McCain, think this makes sense. I have no idea why.
Oh those silly Republicans, trying to show how seriously they take their job to represent their
oil lobbyist buddies constituents by repeating the shenanigans of Friday. We've got Roy Blunt castigating the 110th Congress for not passing an appropriations bill, and yet here Congress is, trying to get a veterans' appropriations bill passed and there goes the Republicans, playing games.
The Republicans' unsuccessful attempt to derail the veterans bill comes after President Bush threatened to veto the legislation over excessive spending on veterans and our troops and after Senate Republicans blocked the National Defense Authorization Act in the Senate over the same issue. The House did pass the FY 2009 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, H.R. 6599 despite the Republican obstruction. This bill provides another much-needed funding increase for veterans' care (11 percent more than last year and $2.9 billion more than the President's request) - building on last year's largest ever increase in the 77-year history of the Veterans' Administration. All of the major veterans groups endorse the measure.
As Chairman Edwards explained, Veterans' organizations also called for its swift passage: "we urge that no impediments are put in its way and that its passage can come quickly and smoothly. The issues in this bill ...are not controversial, and they have broad bipartisan support. Attaching non-germane issues to the veterans funding bill that serve to delay or block passage would truly be wrong." [VFW, 7/25/08] Nonetheless, Republicans attempted to derail the bill by attaching drilling provisions that would destroy some of the nations most pristine areas forever in exchange for savings of only pennies per gallon more than 15 years from now, according to President Bush's own Energy Department. The provisions, however, would provide billions of dollars in profits for the oil industry.
Josh Nelson breaks down exactly how far $2,228,995 goes with some members of Congress.
I don't know how long it will last, but there's a YouTube up of their shenanigans on Friday.