Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yemen Next


By PATRICK COCKBURN
Yemen is the Afghanistan of the Arab world. It is the poorest Arab country, its government is weak, its people are armed, it already faces a serious rebellion, it is strongly tribal and its mountain ranges are a natural refuge for groups like al-Qa'ida.
There is nothing new about the growing political, social and economic crisis in Yemen, but the world is waking up to it only since the attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane has been linked to al-Qa'ida in Yemen. Last night the regional wing of the group claimed responsibility for training and arming Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with the Christmas Day bomb.
Yemen has been becoming increasingly unstable over the past two decades, ever since Saudi Arabia expelled a million Yemeni workers because Yemen refused to support the US-led war to expel Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait in 1990.
Osama bin Laden's family comes in part from Yemen. Yemenis played a role in the formation of al-Qa'ida. A significant number of the suicide bombers in Iraq come from there. It has been a convenient bolt-hole for Saudi militants under pressure at home to escape to.
The would-be Christmas Day bomber's personal connection to Yemen will be probed over coming days. But it is clear that al-Qa'ida in Yemen has become stronger and is operating in a sympathetic environment – in a country in which the mass of the population strongly opposes the US invasion of Iraq and intervention in Afghanistan.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Soldiers Forced to Go AWOL for PTSD Care

Dahr Jamail

MARFA, Texas, Dec 11 (IPS) - With a military health care system over-stretched by two ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, more soldiers are deciding to go absent without leave (AWOL) in order to find treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).Eric Jasinski enlisted in the military in 2005, and deployed to Iraq in October 2006 as an intelligence analyst with the U.S. Army. He collected intelligence in order to put together strike packets - where air strikes would take place.

Upon his return to the U.S. after his tour, Jasinski was suffering from severe PTSD from what he did and saw in Iraq, remorse and guilt for the work he did that he knows contributed to the loss of life in Iraq.

"What I saw and what I did in Iraq caused my PTSD," Jasinski, 23-years-old, told IPS during a phone interview, "Also, I went through a divorce - she left right before I deployed - and my grandmother passed away when I was over there, so it was all super rough on me."

In addition, he lost a friend in Iraq, and another of his friends lost his leg due to a roadside bomb attack.

Upon returning home in December 2007, Jasinski tried to get treatment via the military. He was self-medicating by drinking heavily, and an over- burdened military mental health counsellor sent him to see a civilian doctor, who diagnosed him with severe PTSD.

"I went to get help, but I had an 8 hour wait to see one of five doctors. But after several attempts, finally I got a periodic check up and I told that counsellor what was happening, and he said they’d help me… but I ended up getting a letter that instructed me to go see a civilian doctor, and she diagnosed me with PTSD," Jasinski explained, "Then, I was taking the medications and they were helping, because I thought I was to get out of the Army in February 2009 when my contract expired."

As the date approached, a problem arose.

"In late 2008 they stop-lossed me, and that pushed me over the edge," Jasinski told IPS, "They were going to send me back to Iraq the next month."

During his pre-deployment processessing "they gave me a 90-day supply of meds to get me over to Iraq, and I saw a counsellor during that period, and I told him "I don’t know what I’m going to do if I go back to Iraq."

"He asked if I was suicidal," Jasinski explained, "and I said not right now, I’m not planning on going home and blowing my brains out. He said, ‘well, you’re good to go then.’ And he sent me on my way. I knew at that moment, when they finalised my paperwork for Iraq, that there was no way I could go back with my untreated PTSD. I needed more help."

Why Do Airstrikes in Afghanistan Keep Killing Exactly 30 People?


By Megan Carpentier, Air America
Posted on December 11, 2009, Printed on May 24, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/144509/
This first appeared on Air America Radio.
On Monday, the anonymous blogger Security Crank noticed something interesting: all the U.S. and NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan seemingly kill exactly 30 people every time. How can that be?
Security Crank documented no less than 12 occasions in which news reports, relying on field commanders' estimates, noted that exactly 30 suspected Taliban were killed in airstrikes and, occasionally, artillery attacks. He said:
But the much more important point remains: how could we possibly have any idea how the war is going, here or anywhere else, when the bad guys seem only to die in groups of 30? The sheer ubiquity of that number in fatality and casualty counts is astounding, to the point where I don’t even pay attention to a story anymore when they use that magic number 30. It is an indicator either of ignorance or deliberate spin… but no matter the case, whenever you see the number 30 used in reference to the Taliban, you should probably close the tab and move onto something else, because you just won’t get a good sense of what happened there.
So, why is it always 30? Do thirty casualties seem like enough to justify a military attack, or few enough to not attract too much attention to an incident?

Friday, December 4, 2009

C.I.A. to Expand Use of Drones in Pakistan



WASHINGTON — Two weeks ago in Pakistan, Central Intelligence Agency sharpshooters killed eight people suspected of being militants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and wounded two others in a compound that was said to be used for terrorist training.
Then, the job in North Waziristan done, the C.I.A. officers could head home from the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters, facing only the hazards of the area’s famously snarled suburban traffic.
It was only the latest strike by the agency’s covert program to kill operatives of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their allies using Hellfire missiles fired from Predator aircraft controlled from half a world away.
The White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, officials said this week, to parallel the president’s decision, announced Tuesday, to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. American officials are talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time — a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas — because that is where Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to hide.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Afghanistan: The Betrayal

by Garry Wills

I did not think he would lose me so soon-sooner than Bill Clinton did. Like many people, I was deeply invested in the success of our first African-American president. I had written op-ed pieces and articles to support him in The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. My wife and I had maxed out in donations for him. Our children had been ardent for his cause.

Others I respect have given up on him before now. I can see why. His backtracking on the treatment of torture (and photographs of torture), his hesitations to give up on rendition, on detentions, on military commissions, and on signing statements, aredisheartening continuations of George W. Bush's heritage. But I kept hoping that he was using these concessions to buy leeway for his most important position, for the ground on which his presidential bid was predicated.

There was only one thing that brought him to the attention of the nation as a future president. It was opposition to the Iraq war. None of his serious rivals for the Democratic nomination had that credential-not Hillary Clinton, not Joseph Biden, not John Edwards. It set him apart. He put in clarion terms the truth about that war-that it was a dumb war, that it went after an enemy where he was not hiding, that it had no indigenous base of support, that it had no sensible goal and no foreseeable cutoff point.

He said that he would not oppose war in general, but dumb wars. On that basis, we went for him. And now he betrays us. Although he talked of a larger commitment to Afghanistan during his campaign, he has now officially adopted his very own war, one with all the disqualifications that he attacked in the Iraq engagement. This war too is a dumb one. It has even less indigenous props than Iraq did.

Iraq at least had a functioning government (though a tyrannical one). The Afghanistan government that replaced the Taliban is not only corrupt but ineffectual. The country is riven by tribal war, Islamic militancy, and warlordism, and fueled by a drug economy -interrupting the drug industry will destabilize what order there is and increase hostility to us.

We have been in Afghanistan for eight years, earning hatred as occupiers, and after this record for longevity in American wars we will be there for still more years earning even more hatred. It gives us not another Iraq but another Vietnam, with wobbly rulers and an alien culture.

Although Obama says he plans to begin withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011, he will meanwhile be sending there not only soldiers but the contract employees that cling about us now like camp followers, corrupt adjuncts in perpetuity. Obama did not mention these plagues that now equal the number of military personnel we dispatch. We are sending off thousands of people to take and give bribes to drug dealers in Afghanistan.

If we had wanted Bush's wars, and contractors, and corruption, we could have voted for John McCain. At least we would have seen our foe facing us, not felt him at our back, as now we do. The Republicans are given a great boon by this new war. They can use its cost to say that domestic needs are too expensive to be met-health care, education, infrastructure. They can say that military recruitments from the poor make job creation unnecessary. They can call it Obama's war when it is really theirs. They can attack it and support it at the same time, with equal advantage.

I cannot vote for any Republican. But Obama will not get another penny from me, or another word of praise, after this betrayal. And in all this I know that my disappointment does not matter. What really matters are the lives of the young men and women he is sending off to senseless deaths.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Obama Steals Bush’s Speechwriters