Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The antiwar movement retreats

Many in the antiwar movement ardently opposed the war in Iraq while remaining silent about an equally immoral war in Afghanistan.
EIGHT YEARS into the war on Afghanistan--and with no end in sight--seems a peculiar time for antiwar activists to claim that U.S. forces need to stay there even longer for the sake of the Afghan people.
Yet Yifat Susskind, communications director for the human rights organization MADRE, recently argued on CommonDreams.org, "'Bring the Troops Home' is a bumper sticker, not a policy." She continued, "For MADRE, U.S. obligations stem from the fact that Afghanistan's poverty, violence against women and political corruption are, in part, results of U.S. policy over the past 30 years."
Code Pink cofounders Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans began arguing for a "responsible withdrawal" after their recent visit to Afghanistan, which focused on discovering Afghan women's attitudes toward the U.S. occupation. While there, they met with a handpicked group of politically connected Afghan women that included President Hamid Karzai's sister-in-law, Wazhma Karzai.
According to Code Pink, many of these members of parliament and businesswomen opposed sending an additional 40,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, but also said they rely on U.S. troops for their own personal safety.
On October 6, the Christian Science Monitor published an interview with Benjamin and reported on her change of heart, based on conversations with some of the women she met in Kabul. For example, CSM reported, "Shinkai Karokhail, an Afghan member of parliament and woman activist, told them. 'International troop presence here is a guarantee for my safety.'"
Benjamin claimed she was misrepresented in the Christian Science Monitor. Yet Benjamin herself said in a recent interview:
[W]e certainly did hear some people say that they felt if the U.S. pulled out right now, there would be a collapse, and the Taliban might take over, there might be a civil war. But we also heard a lot of people say they didn't want more troops to be sent in, and they wanted the U.S. to have a responsible exit strategy that included the training of Afghan troops, included being part of promoting a real reconciliation process and included economic development; that the United States shouldn't be allowed to just walk away from the problem. So that's really our position.
This reasoning assumes, of course, that the U.S. is capable of behaving responsibly toward the Afghan people. It is not.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

UN: Record 1 Billion Go Hungry

UN agency blames cuts in agricultural aid and investment as record 1 billion go hungry


The Associated Press

Parents in some of Africa's poorest countries are cutting back on school, clothes and basic medical care just to give their children a meal once a day, experts say. Still, it is not enough.
A record 1 billion people worldwide are hungry and a new report says the number will increase if governments do not spend more on agriculture. According to the U.N. food agency, which issued the report, 30 countries now require emergency aid, including 20 in Africa.
The trend continues despite a goal set by world leaders nine years ago to cut the number of hungry people in half by 2015.
"It's actually a world emergency that calls for action from both developing and developed countries," said Otive Igbuzor, the head of international campaigns for ActionAid International.
"We know a child dies every six seconds of malnutrition," he said.
Spiraling food prices have added to hardships, especially in the world's most desperate countries where the poor could barely afford a single daily meal to begin with. The inflated prices — which caused riots across the globe last year — have stabilized but remain comparatively high, especially in the developing world, Jacques Diouf, director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, told AP Television News.
In Somalia, ravaged by violence and anarchy for almost two decades, the monthly expenditure for food and other basic needs for a family of six has risen 85 percent in the past two years, said Grainne Moloney of the Somalia Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit.
On average, such a family spent $171 in September this year, compared with $92 for the same amount of food and other needs in March 2007, said Moloney, a nutrition expert for the Horn of Africa nation.
"Families are cutting out the school, cutting out the clothes. A lot of them are going for cheaper cereals," said Moloney, adding that despite those desperate measures, one in five children in Somalia is acutely malnourished.
Igbuzor said the trend can be seen in impoverished countries across Africa.
In Kenya, herders have seen scores of their animals die and crops have withered because of drought. Today, 3.8 million people in Kenya need food aid, up from 2.5 million earlier in the year.
After worldwide gains in the fight against hunger in the 1980s and early 1990s, the number of undernourished people started climbing in 1995, reaching 1.02 billion this year amid escalating food prices and the global financial meltdown, the FAO said in its Wednesday report.
The long-term trend is due largely to reduced aid and private investments earmarked for agriculture since the mid 1980s, the Rome-based agency said in its State of Food Insecurity report for 2009.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Historic Success In Military Recruiting

In Midst of Downturn, All Targets Are Met

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
For the first time in more than 35 years, the U.S. military has met all of its annual recruiting goals, as hundreds of thousands of young people have enlisted despite the near-certainty that they will go to war.
The Pentagon, which made the announcement Tuesday, said the economic downturn and rising joblessness, as well as bonuses and other factors, had led more qualified youths to enlist.
The military has not seen such across-the-board successes since the all-volunteer force was established in 1973, after Congress ended the draft following the Vietnam War. In recent years, the military has often fallen short of some of its recruiting targets. The Army, in particular, has struggled to fill its ranks, admitting more high school dropouts, overweight youths and even felons.
Yet during the current budget year, which ended Sept. 30, recruiters met their targets in both numbers and quality for all components of active-duty and reserve forces.
"We delivered beyond anything the framers of the all-volunteer force would have anticipated," Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, said at a Pentagon news conference.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are considered by experts to be an unprecedented test of the volunteer military's resilience. Its ability to bring fresh recruits into the force is critical not only to increasing the overall size of the Army and Marine Corps, but to ensuring that additional units are available to rotate into conflict zones. Some Army units sent overseas recently have been deployed at less than full strength.
As lengthy, multiple combat tours place U.S. forces under enormous stress, the willingness of young people to enlist has surprised even military leaders, experts said.