Progressive Calendar 12.04.09
From: David Shove (
Date: Fri, 4 Dec 2009 06:27:46 -0800 (PST)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   12.04.09

1. Unsettling MN/KFAI 12.04 11am
2. Ffunch             12.04 11:30am
3. Audrey Thayer      12.04 3pm
4. FNVW holiday fair  12.04 4pm
5. Palestine vigil    12.04 4:15pm
6. RCTA/films         12.04 7pm
7. Economic refugees  12.04 7pm
8. Moyers/war films   12.04 9pm

9. Garry Wills     - Afghanistan: the betrayal
10. Laura Flanders - Echoes of Bush: all-too-familiar line on Afghanistan
11. Jim Hightower  - Obama's war
12. Ralph Nader    - Obama on Afghanistan
13. Kevin Zeese    - The peace movement is stepping it up
14. Fran Shor      - Ideological smokescreens: Obama and the dying empire
15. Phyllis Bennis - President Obama's Afghanistan election speech
16. ed             - A meal fit for a king  (haiku)

--------1 of 16--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: Unsettling MN/KFAI 12.04 11am

Fri.DEC. 4, 11am "Catalyst:politics&culture" KFAI Radio

Hear members of UNSETTLING MINNESOTA a new organzation of white activists
organzing as allies with Indigenous people in Minnesota, working on land
rights and other issues of sovereignty and justice.

--------2 of 16--------

From: David Shove <shove001 [at]>
Subject: Ffunch 12.04 11:30am

Learn to put up with the FFUNCH BUNCH!
First Friday Lunch (FFUNCH) for Greens/progressives.

Informal political talk and hanging out.

Day By Day Cafe 477 W 7th Av St Paul.
Meet in the private room (holds 12+).

Day By Day is non-smoking; has soups, salads, sandwiches, and dangerous
apple pie; is close to downtown St Paul & on major bus lines

--------3 of 16--------

From: Audrey M. Thayer <athayer [at]>
Subject: Audrey Thayer 12.04 3pm

Racial Justice And The Constitutional Issues In Northern Minnesota
Friday, December 4th, 3:00 p.m. at Sorin A & B
Guest Speaker: Audrey Thayer
speaking at Hamline University on Dec 4
FREE PIZZA! [now they have my interest -ed]

Audrey Thayer is Anishinabe enrolled with the White Earth Nation located
in Minnesota. She was born to a first generation full-blooded German
father and a full-blooded Ojibwe from White Earth who provided her with
the gifts of caring for people. Audrey has approximately 30 years in
organizing behind her with a Masters Degree in Education
Counseling/Psychology from Cambridge College, Mass. She is a mother of six
children (five living) and ten grandchildren.

The last five years, Audrey Thayer has worked as a community organizer in
Bemidji in racial, social and peace issues in Northern Minnesota which
includes the Red Lake, White Earth and Leech Lake reservations. She
teaches part time as an adjunct professor at Bemidji State University.
Thayer has served on many non-profit boards and committees locally,
tribally, state and federally which brings to the table a wealth of

Ms. Thayer was hired to develop and implement the Greater MN Racial
Justice Program (ACLU-MN), The ACLU is the nation's leading advocate of
constitutional and civil rights. The project focuses on racial justice in
Northern Minnesota, plus education in constitutional law and civil rights,
specializing in education, health care, racial profiling, criminal
justice, indigent advocacy, and other racial justice issues. Audrey Thayer
provides education in policy, advocacy, and community organizing.

--------4 of 16--------

From: Rowley Clan <rowleyclan [at]>
Subject: FNVW holiday fair 12.04 4pm

Annual FNVW Holiday Fair Offers Fun, Food, Community, Crafts!!!
Friday, Dec. 4th, 4:00 - 9:00
Saturday, Dec. 5th, 9:00 - 3:00
Minneapolis Friends Meeting House, 4401 York Ave S, Minneapolis

The annual FNVW Holiday Fair (formerly Craft Sale) has become a holiday
tradition for many.  It's been a great place to pick up presents for the
holidays; to enjoy food, friends, music and massages; and to help support
FNVW and its programs.

This year, you'll also be able to enjoy a delicious meal.  On Friday
evening, we'll be serving pot roast, roasted chicken or vegetarian lasagna
all complimented with roasted root vegetables, mashed potatoes and salad
($10 adult/$5 children 10 and under).  Or, come on Saturday for the a la
carte offerings, including potato pancakes, oatmeal, and (after 11am) soup
and sandwiches.

Bid on a lovely quilt: This gorgeous hand-quilted and -appliqued
queen-size quilt is available for on-line bidding and on-site silent

Gift Certificates now available: Want to support FNVW and help someone get
that massage,book, jewelry or craft?  Consider purchasing a gift
certificate using Paypal.

For more info. visit our web site  *  email us at
info [at] * call the office, 651-917-0383.

--------5 of 16--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Palestine vigil 12.04 4:15pm

The weekly vigil for the liberation of Palestine continues at the
intersection of Snelling and Summit Aves in St. Paul. The Friday demo
starts at 4:15 and ends around 5:30. There are usually extra signs

--------6 of 16--------

From: Jason Stone <jason.stone [at]>
Subject: RCTA/films 12.04 7pm

Latino Voices Friday Film Series: "Restore Fairness" and "The Least of
These" - Dec. 4
Friday, Dec. 4 at 7:00pm
at the Resource Center of the Americas

Movies shown at the Resource Center, followed by discussion with the
Interfaith Coalition on Immigration on community and legislative action
Bring your own snacks!

--------7 of 16--------

From: Minnesota Fair Trade Campaign <aranney [at]>
Subject: Economic refugees 12.04 7pm

Refugees of the Global Economy
Should workers who migrate as a result of trade policies be considered
economic refugees? This teach-in will address globalization and

When: 7:00pm - 8:30pm Where: UFCW Local 789 Hall 266 Hardman Ave. N.,
South St. Paul, MN 55075 Friday December 4th

--------8 of 16--------

From: t r u t h o u t <messenger [at]>
Subject: Moyers/war films 12.04 9pm

Bill Moyers Journal | Filmmaker Oliver Stone

"Veteran Oliver Stone came back from Vietnam a changed man. Now, with four
films on the Vietnam War under his belt - 'Platoon' (1986), 'Born on the
Fourth of July' (1989), 'Heaven & Earth' (1993), and 'Pinkville' (2007) -
Stone talks with Bill Moyers about how his experiences of war have
affected his life, his work and his vision of the world today. Also on the
program, Bill Moyers comments on President Obama's decision to escalate
troops in Afghanistan."

--------9 of 16--------

Afghanistan: The Betrayal
by Garry Wills
Thursday, December 3, 2009
New York Review of Books
Common Dreams

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, are disheartening 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.

 2009 The New York Review of Books
Garry Wills is the author of nearly forty books focusing on religion,
history, and politics. These include Head and Heart: American
Christianities and What the Gospels Meant. He is the winner of the 1998
National Medal for the Humanities, a Pulitzer Prize for General
Non-Fiction for his book, Lincoln at Gettysburg: the Words that Remade
America, and two National Book Critics Circle Awards, one as a cowinner.
Wills is an emeritus professor of history at Northwestern University.

--------10 of 16--------

Echoes of Bush
All-Too-Familiar Line on Afghanistan
December 3, 2009

The President talked about America.s enduring values again at West Point
Tuesday night, and then he laid them out, a whole lot of values one can
only wish would endure a little less.

The President began his address to the nation on Afghanistan in the
traditional style of his predecessor, setting the tone for troop
deployments by recalling 9-11 and terror and fright. Then came the
retelling of the traditional Al Qaeda story, the one that omits any
mention of Saudi Arabia or Israeli occupation or post-Gulf War US bases -
in fact any mention of politics.

Sadly, our new president seemed to share George W. Bush's appreciation for
the value of a simple villain and not asking questions. So much for those
who seek a new narrative, one that might include the debate that exists
around the world about the merits and real demerits of war as a response
to a criminal terrorist act.

Having declared legitimacy, the president then claimed responsibility, a
special American responsibility and authority to invade, police, and act
in ways that other countries may not.

Amazingly, the nation's first Black president retold the simplest national
founding story: "Our union was founded in resistance to oppression". (For
his wife's ancestors it was not.) And he made the classic claim of
innocence "We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim
another nation's resources". (The US has a long history, of course, of
helping our corporations do just that, from Chevron to United Fruit.)

As tradition requires, Obama claimed progress is being made. Maybe so, but
it'd be more convincing in Afghanistan were it not for all those US-backed
Afghan warlords gearing up to fight each other with US weapons, fueled by
a heroin trade that the CIA stands accused of letting rip. Obama's words
were too familiar - so too his silences.

Finally and worst, for those who'd thought they'd voted for the death of
the Bush Doctrine. Sorry. Bush/Cheney live on in the new president's
embrace of the idea that the US has a right, not only to respond to
attacks, but also to deploy men and women in anticipation of them.

"New attacks are being plotted as I speak," said Obama.

Do I hear an echo? So much for those who had the audacity to hope.

Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv, which broadcasts weekdays on
satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. More...9415 Free Speech TV) on cable,
public television and online at and Follow
GRITtv or GritLaura on

--------11 of 16--------

Obama's War
by Jim Hightower
Published on Wednesday, December 2, 2009 by Creators Syndicate
Common Dreams

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to war we go! Pound the drums loudly, stand with
your country proudly!

Wait, wait, wait - hold it right there. Cut the music, slow the rush, and
let's all ponder what Barack Obama, Roberts Gates, Stanley McChrystal and
Co. are getting us into ... and whether we really want to go there. After
all, just because the White House and the Pentagon brass are waving the
flag and insisting that a major escalation of America's military mission
in Afghanistan is a "necessity" doesn't mean it is ... or that We the
People must accept it.

Remember the wisdom of Mark Twain about war-whooping generals and
politicians: "Loyalty to the country, always. Loyalty to the government
when it deserves it."

How many more dead and mangled American soldiers does the government's
"new" Afghan policy deserve? How many more tens of billions of dollars
should we let them siphon from our public treasury to fuel their war
policy? How much more of our country's good name will they squander on
what is essentially a civil war?

We've been lied to for nearly a decade about "success" in Iraq and
Afghanistan - why do the hawks deserve our trust that this time will be

Their rationales for escalation are hardly confidence boosters. The goal,
we're told, is to defeat the al-Qaida terrorist network that threatens our
national security. Yes, but al-Qaida is not in Afghanistan! Nor is it one
network. It has metastasized, with strongholds now in Pakistan, Indonesia,
Morocco, Yemen and Somalia, plus even having enclaves in England and

Well, claims Obama himself, we must protect the democratic process in
Afghanistan. Does he think we have suckerwrappers around our heads?
America's chosen leader over there is President Hamid Karzai - a preening
incompetent who was "elected" this year only through flagrant fraud and
whose government is controlled by warlords, rife with corruption and
opposed by the great majority of Afghans.

During the election campaign from July through October, 195 Americans were
killed and more than 1,000 wounded to protect this guy's "democratic
process." Why should even one more American die for Karzai?

Finally, Washington's war establishment asserts that adding some 30,000
more troops will let us greatly expand and train the Afghan army and
police force during the next couple of years so they can secure their own
country and we can leave.

Mission accomplished!

Nearly every independent military analyst, however, says this assertion is
not just fantasy, it's delusional - it'll take at least 10 years to raise
Afghanistan's largely illiterate and corrupt security forces to a level of
barely adequate, costing us taxpayers more than $4 billion a year to train
and support them.

Obama has been taken over by the military industrial hawks and national
security theorists who play war games with other people's lives and money.
I had hoped Obama might be a more forceful leader who would reject the
same old interventionist mindset of those who profit from permanent war.
But his newly announced Afghan policy shows he is not that leader.

So, we must look elsewhere, starting with ourselves. The first job of a
citizen is to keep your mouth open. Obama is wrong on his policy - deadly
wrong - and those of you who see this have both a moral and patriotic duty
to reach out to others to inform, organize and mobilize our grassroots
objections, taking common sense to high places.

Also, look to leaders in Congress who are standing up against Obama's war
and finally beginning to reassert the legislative branch's constitutional
responsibility to oversee and direct military policy. For example, Rep.
Jim McGovern is pushing for a specific, congressionally mandated exit
strategy; Rep. Barbara Lee wants to use Congress' control of the public
purse strings to stop Obama's escalation; and Rep. David Obey is calling
for a war tax on the richest Americans to put any escalation on-budget,
rather than on a credit card for China to finance and future generations
to pay.

This is no time to be deferential to executive authority. Stand up. Speak
out. It's our country, not theirs. We are America - ultimately, we have
the power and the responsibility.

Copyright 2009
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the
book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim
Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of
the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families,
environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

--------12 of 16--------

Obama on Afghanistan
Ralph Nader

Misusing professional cadets at West Point as a political prop, President
Barack Obama delivered his speech on the Afghanistan war forcefully but
with fearful undertones. He chose to escalate this undeclared war with at
least 30,000 more soldiers plus an even larger number of corporate

He chose the path the military-industrial complex wanted. The "military"
planners, whatever their earlier doubts about the quagmire, once in, want
to prevail. The "industrial" barons because their sales and profits rise
with larger military budgets.

A majority of Americans are opposed or skeptical about getting deeper into
a bloody, costly fight in the mountains of central Asia while facing
recession, unemployment, foreclosures, debt and deficits at home.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), after hearing Mr. Obama's speech said,
"Why is it that war is a priority but the basic needs of people in this
country are not?"

Let's say needs like waking up to do something about 60,000 fatalities a
year in our country related to workplace diseases and trauma. Or 250
fatalities a day due to hospital induced infections, or 100,000 fatalities
a year due to hospital malpractice, or 45,000 fatalities a year due to the
absence of health insurance to pay for treatment, or, or, or, even before
we get into the economic poverty and deprivation. Any Obama national
speeches on these casualties?

Back to the West Point teleprompter speech. If this is the product of a
robust internal Administration debate, the result was the same
cookie-cutter, Vietnam approach of throwing more soldiers at a poorly
analyzed situation. In September, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
Admiral Mike Mullen told an American Legion Convention, "I've seen the
public opinion polls saying that a majority of Americans don't support the
effort at all. I say, good. Let's have the debate, let's have that

Where? Not in Congress. There were only rubberstamps and grumbles;
certainly nothing like the Fulbright Senate hearings on the Vietnam War.

Where else? Not in the influential commercial media. Forget jingoistic
television and radio other than the satire of Jon Stewart plus an
occasional non-commercial Bill Moyers show or rare public radio
commentary. Not in the op-ed pages of The New York Times and the
Washington Post.

A FAIR study published in the organization's monthly newsletter EXTRA
reports that of all opinion columns in The New York Times and the
Washington Post over the first 10 months of 2009, thirty-six out of
forty-three columns on the Afghanistan War in the Times supported the war
while sixty-one of the sixty-seven Post columns supported a continued war.

So what would a rigorous public and internal administration debate have
highlighted? First, the more occupation forces there are, the more they
fuel the insurgency against the occupation, especially since so many more
civilians than fighters lose their lives. Witness the wedding parties,
villagers, and innocent bystanders blown up by the U.S. military's
superior weaponry.

Second, there was a remarkable absence in Obama's speech about the tribal
conflicts and the diversity of motivations of those he lumped under the
name of "Taliban." Some are protecting their valleys, others are in the
drug trade, others want to drive out the occupiers, others are struggling
for supremacy between the Pashtuns on one side and the Tajiks and Uzbeks
on the other (roughly the south against the north). The latter has been
the substance of a continuing civil war for many years.

Third, how can Obama's plan begin to work, requiring a stable, functioning
Afghan government - which now is largely a collection of illicit
businesses milking the graft, which grows larger in proportion to what the
American taxpayers have to spend there - and the disorganized, untrained
Afghan army - mainly composed of Tajiks and Uzbeks loathed by the

Fourth, destroying or capturing al Qaeda attackers in Afghanistan ignores
Obama's own intelligence estimates. Many observers believe al Qaeda has
gone to Pakistan or elsewhere. The New York Times reports that "quietly,
Mr. Obama has authorized an expansion of the war in Pakistan as well - if
only he can get a weak, divided, suspicious Pakistani government to agree
to the terms."

Hello! Congress did not authorize a war in Pakistan, so does Obama, like
Bush, just decree what the Constitution requires to be authorized by the
legislative branch? Can we expect another speech at the Air Force Academy
on the Pakistan war?

Fifth, as is known, al Qaeda is a transnational movement. Highly mobile,
when it is squeezed. As Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, the former CIA officer
operating in Pakistan, said: "There is no direct impact on stopping
terrorists around the world because we are or are not in Afghanistan." He
argues that safe havens can be moved to different countries, as has indeed
happened since 9/11.

Sixth, the audacity of hope in Obama's speech was illustrated by his
unconvincing date of mid-2011 for beginning the withdrawal of U.S.
soldiers from Afghanistan. The tendered exit strategy, tied to unspecified
conditions, was a bone he tossed to his shaky liberal base.

The White House recently said it costs $1 million a year to keep each
single soldier in Afghanistan. Take one fifth of that sum and connect with
the tribal chiefs to build public facilities in transportation,
agriculture, schools, clinics, public health, and safe drinking water.

Thus strengthened, these tribal leaders know how to establish order. This
is partly what Ashraf Ghani, the former respected Afghan finance minister
and former American anthropology professor, called concrete "justice" as
the way to undermine insurgency.

Withdraw the occupation, which now is pouring gasoline on the fire. Bring
back the saved four-fifths of that million dollars per soldier to America
and provide these and other soldiers with tuition for their education and

The principal authority in Afghanistan is tribal. Provide the assistance,
based on stage-by-stage performance, and the tribal leaders obtain a stake
in stability. Blown apart by so many foreign invaders - British, Soviet,
American - and internally riven, the people in the countryside look to
tribal security as the best hope for a nation that has not known unity for

Lifting the fog of war allows other wiser policies urged by experienced
people to be considered for peace and security.

Rather than expanding a boomeranging war, this alternative has some
probability of modest success unlike the sure, mounting loss of American
and Afghani lives and resources.

--------13 of 16--------

Doubletalk on Afghanistan: War is Peace; Escalation is Withdrawal
The Peace Movement Is Stepping it Up
by Kevin Zeese / December 3rd, 2009
Dissident Voice

If I ever get cancer, I want Barack Obama to tell me I'm dying. He could
probably convince someone like me who does not believe in the supernatural
that death is life.

He certainly did his best on Tuesday night to convince the American public
that war means peace, and escalation means withdrawal.

President Obama is not President Bush. He is a much more effective and
eloquent advocate for American militarism who makes his case in ways that
will challenge people who oppose war. He does not seek to merely energize
his base, as President Bush did, but more to nullify and confuse it,
something he is not only doing on war but on health care, banking, climate
change - seemingly every issue he touches.

In his new Afghanistan war plan he tried to give everyone something. He
gave General McChrystal and the war hawks what they want - tens of
thousands of more troops. He gave the majority of Americans who oppose the
war what they want - a promise, however vague, to begin withdrawal in 18
months. He told Pakistan that the U.S. will be there for them and
escalated the war in Pakistan without clearly saying so. He gave the
corrupt President Karzai the protection he needs to stay in office.
Everybody's happy, right?

Well, not exactly. In fact, promising all things to all people seems
likely to make no one happy. But, it may confuse people enough so that
Obama gets the war funding he needs to escalate the wars in Afghanistan
and Pakistan.

>From the perspective of a peace voter, I can say, I'm not happy. It makes
no sense to send more troops to Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence estimates
that there are 100 al Qaeda left in Afghanistan. Do we need 100,000 troops
to defeat them? Obama is concerned about the momentum of the Taliban.
Aren't more air strikes, killings of civilians and a larger presence of
U.S. forces going to be a recruiting tool for the Taliban? And, with more
than 10% unemployment, nearly 20% underemployment, record foreclosures,
rising bankruptcies and record debt - how does it make economic sense to
borrow more money to pay the $1 million per troop cost of escalation?
Wouldn't it be better to come home, America?

As to the promise to begin withdrawing troops in 18 months, this was the
only thing different from what President Bush would have done in
Afghanistan. It is consistent with Obama's style of trying to give all
sides something and he coupled it with the escalation:

"And, as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital
national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home".

No doubt the unpopularity of the Afghanistan War and people persistently
pushing Congress to end the war made Obama include the withdrawal plan.
But, he did not provide any details and only discussed beginning the
withdrawal not completing the withdrawal. And, he made it clear that
things could change depending on the situation saying "we will execute
this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the
ground". Does that mean if the escalation is failing that the troops will
stay? Or, does that mean if the escalation is succeeding the troops will

Obama has raised a challenge to the peace movement to continue to push to
have the war end and troops return home. The peace movement is showing
signs of stepping up after being confused by a media that labeled Obama
the peace candidate. Cindy Sheehan is leading an effort in Washington, DC,
Peace of the Action (see, that promises "an
historic escalation of Peace Activism like we have not seen in the United
States for a very long time". Another new coalition, End US Wars is
bringing together anti-war activists for an emergency rally against the
escalation on December 12th. Plans are being made for mass anti-war
rallies in Washington, DC on the anniversary of the Iraq invasion on
Saturday, March 20th.

People who oppose the war need to remember that under the Constitution it
is the Congress that declares war and funds war. So, Obama is not the last
word. And, in Congress it is our job to make sure they hear our voices.

Peace advocates need to support efforts in Congress for an exit strategy
from Afghanistan (Rep. Jim McGovern's resolution favoring an exit strategy
H.R. 2402 which is 100 co-sponsors deserves support) and efforts to stop
funding of the escalation (Rep. Barbara Lee's bill to prevent funding, HR
3699, has 23 co-sponsors). Rep. Obey, the Chair of the powerful House
Appropriations Committee, is talking about a war tax to pay for the war,
but the White House and Democratic leadership does not seem interested.
The peace community needs to point out the U.S. cannot afford more war.
Anti-war advocates are counting heads in Congress - join the effort.

We cannot let Obama's vague 18 month withdrawal confuse us. War does not
equal peace and escalation does not equal withdrawal. Americans know
better than to believe that. The anti-war movement needs to unify and
speak against the wars so that the majority of Americans who oppose them
recognize they can make a difference.

Kevin Zeese is the executive director of the Campaign for Fresh Air &
Clean Politics whose projects include VotersForPeace.US,
ProsperityAgenda.US, and TrueVote.US. He is also
a member of the board of Velvet Revolution. Read other articles by Kevin,
or visit Kevin's website.

--------14 of 16--------

Ideological Smokescreens
Obama and the Dying Empire
December 2, 2009

Old habits die hard, especially imperialist ones.  Imperial imperatives,
whether economic, geopolitical, or ideological, persist because the ruling
elites are dependent on them.  In order to conceal imperialist objectives,
presidents and other leaders of the US political class rely on the
rhetoric of national security and America's supposed benevolent global

And, so, with President Obama's announcement of sending 30,000 more US
troops to Afghanistan, the cadets at West Point and the viewing public
once more heard that our national security was at stake.  A spreading
"cancer," threatening to metastasize throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan,
had to be militarily extirpated.  Conveniently overlooking the correlation
between the growth of a Pashtun insurgency and US occupation, Obama tried
to wrap his rhetoric in the resonances of 9/11 and the longer shadow of
US-sponsored global security.  No mention of the politics of pipelines,
only the "noble struggle for freedom".

Once more an imperial mission was hidden behind an ideological
smokescreen.  Yet, this continuing military intervention, even with a
well-timed exit strategy, cannot stop the inexorable march of declining US
global hegemony.  It is proving more difficult to round-up an
international posse for this so-called "reluctant sheriff".  Although
Obama made obtuse allusions to NATO allies in Afghanistan, many countries
are pulling out, the most recent being Canada and the Netherlands.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, civilian casualties from US drone attacks
continue, even in the face of universal condemnation by human rights
organizations.  All of Obama's rhetorical skills cannot hide these hideous
facts on the ground.  Added to these egregious war crimes are other
instances of on-going US arrogance from refusing to sign the landmine
treaty to expanding military bases in Colombia.

When Obama cites, as he did in his West Point address, US criticism of
tyranny, he pointedly neglects Colombia's abysmal human rights record.
Alluding briefly to the "fraud" of the recent Afghanistan presidential
election, Obama ignores the endemic corruption and tyranny of US allies
among Tajik warlords.  In Honduras, while Obama seemed to signal
opposition to the brutal coup against Zelaya, he eventually reconciled US
policy with support for an illegitimate presidential election there.

>From Latin America to the Middle East and South Asia, the US is more and
more a declining and isolated power, alienated from the aspirations of
people throughout these regions.  Beyond the growing geopolitical
isolation, the Obama Administration's Wall Street economic orientation is
on the defensive against erstwhile allies like England and France and
major investors like China.  Even the 2008 US National Intelligence
Council's report on Global Trends in 2025 predicted declining US power and
constrained leverage.

For all Obama's efforts to use "smart" power to navigate during this
period of decline, he cannot, as a member of the political class,
acknowledge that decline and eschew, in the process, an imperial agenda.
At best, he may try to find ways to bargain with the inevitable death of
the empire.  But bargaining, as psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross noted
in her classic study of death and dying, is a temporary and last-ditch
effort to escape the inevitable.  For historian Eric Hobsbawm, "the age of
empires is dead.  We shall have to find another way of organizing the
globalized world of the twenty-first century".  And we will have to do it
against those elite forces, whether neo-conservative or neo-liberal, that
are incapable of ending their self-appointed imperial missions.

Fran Shor teaches at Wayne State University and is the author of the
recently published Routledge Press book, Dying Empire: U.S. Imperialism
and Global Resistance

--------15 of 16--------

President Obama's Afghanistan Election Speech
by Phyllis Bennis
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Foreign Policy in Focus
Common Dreams

There was one way in which President Obama's escalation speech brought
significant relief to the 59% of people in this country, as well as the
overwhelming majorities of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle
East and elsewhere who oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan: It was a pretty
lousy speech. That is, it had none of the power, the lyricism, the passion
for history, the capacity to engage and to persuade virtually every
listener, even those who may ultimately disagree, that have characterized
the president's earlier addresses.

And for that failure, we should be very grateful.

Because everything else in this politically and militarily defensive
speech reflected accountability not to President Obama's base, the
extraordinary mobilization of people who swept this anti-war and
anti-racist candidate into office, but rather to the exigencies of
Washington's traditional military, political, and corporate power-brokers
who define "national security".

In a speech like this, widely acknowledged to be setting the framework for
the security/foreign policy/military paradigm for the bulk of Obama's
still-new presidency, location matters. West Point was crucial partly for
tactical reasons (nowhere but a military setting, with young cadets under
tight command, could the president count on applause and a standing
ovation in response to a huge escalation of an unpopular war). But it was
also important for Obama to claim West Point as his own after Bush's 2002
speech there, an address that first identified preemptive war as the basis
of the Bush Doctrine and a new foreign policy paradigm.

There was an important honesty in one aspect of President Obama's speech.
All claims that the U.S. war was bringing democracy to Afghanistan,
modernizing a backward country, and liberating Afghan women, are off the
agenda - except when the Pentagon identifies them as possible "force
multipliers" to achieve the military goal. And that goal hasn't changed -
"to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan,
and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the
future". So now it's official. It's not about Afghanistan and Afghans at
all - it's all about us.

It's a good thing the White House has dropped that rhetoric as the past
eight years has brought few social improvements. Afghanistan ranks second
to last in the UN's Human Development Index, and just in the last few
weeks UNICEF identified Afghanistan as one of the three worst places in
the world for a child to be born. As for improving the lives of women
Afghanistan retains the second-highest level of maternal mortality of any
country in the world - even after eight years of U.S. occupation. Is
further military escalation likely to change that?

                          Ironic Timing

Less than two days after his escalation speech, Obama will host a jobs
summit at the White House. Whatever his official message, the millions of
unemployed in the U.S. know that 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan adds
$30 billion this year to the already out-of-control war budget - and means
that the only jobs available will be in the military. What clearer example
could there be of the Afghanistan war as a war against poor people - those
who die in Afghanistan and those left jobless and desperate here at home?
A week later, Obama travels to Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. Not
even the best speechwriters will be able to portray sending thousands of
young women and men across the world to kill and die as evidence of the
newest Nobel laureate's commitment to global peace.

And the day of the speech itself was World AIDS Day. The UNAIDS noted that
all of its country goals - treatment for 6.7 million people, screening 70
million pregnant women, providing preventive services to 37 million people
- could be accomplished with just $25 billion. That's what the United
States will spend fighting in Afghanistan in just three months. Timing

The result was a speech that reflected Obama's centrist-in-chief effort to
please all his constituencies. Some will be quite satisfied. Mainstream
Republicans were delighted. They were careful not to praise too much, but
as Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss noted, President Obama's escalation
was "the right analysis, the right decision". General McChrystal, Obama's
handpicked top commander in Afghanistan, was quite satisfied: He had asked
for 40,000 new troops, and got 30,000 U.S. troops and a promise (we'll
see.) of 5,000 more from NATO and other allies. More significantly, he and
Bush hold-over Secretary of Defense Robert Gates got the president's
endorsement of a full-scale counterinsurgency plan.

Mainstream Democrats were likely delighted - assertion of their party's
military credentials, with talk of a "transition to Afghan responsibility"
to soothe their constituents' outrage. They may be uneasy about the
additional costs, but could take solace in Obama's promise to "work
closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our
deficit". Just how anyone would "address" these spiraling billions remains

The ones not happy - besides the young cadets in the audience, other
soldiers facing new and endlessly renewed deployments, and their families
- are the massive numbers of people who swept Obama into office on a
mobilized tide of anti-war, anti-racist and anti-poverty commitments. Talk
of beginning a "transition" 18 months down the line, with NO commitment
for an actual troop withdrawal, isn't going to satisfy them.

And President Obama seemed to know that. So he resorted to an old tactic,
long relied on by George W. Bush: book-ending his speech with the trope of
9/11, pleading for a return to the moment "when this war began, we were
united - bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by
the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I
refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again". What
Obama left out, and perhaps hoped that we have forgotten, was that the
human solidarity that created such unity in the wake of the 9/11 attacks -
not only across the United States, but around the world as well - began to
erode as soon as the war in Afghanistan began. Because we knew then, as we
know today, that the war in Afghanistan was never legitimate, was never
moral, was never going to keep us safe, - and was never a "good war".

                   What Did the Speech Say?

- Thirty thousand new U.S. troops will be sent to Afghanistan "at the
fastest possible pace." In July 2011, 18 months from now, the U.S. will
"begin to transfer our forces out of Afghanistan".

- No more "blank checks" to the Afghan government; the U.S. expects those
it assists to combat corruption and "deliver for the people," and that
those "who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable".

- The U.S. goals in Afghanistan are to "deny al Qaeda a safe haven. We
must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow
the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's
Security Forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility
for Afghanistan's future".

- The government of Pakistan is our friend and ally, and "our success in
Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan".

- Unlike the Soviets and other earlier empires in Afghanistan, the U.S.
has "no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the
Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence
and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a
partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect".

                         What Was Left Out

- The 18-month timeline references only the "beginning" of transferring
U.S. troops out of Afghanistan; there was no reference to finishing
transfer of all troops out of Afghanistan and ending the occupation. The
words "exit" or "exit strategy" do not appear in the speech, and the word
"withdraw" appears only in a reference to what the U.S. will NOT do.

- There was absolutely no explanation of how this year's $30 billion
additional costs for the 30,000 more troops, on top of the billions more
already in the pipeline, would be paid for. Obama referred only to his
intention to consult with Congress to "address" these costs while bringing
down the deficit. The inevitable impact this spending would have on jobs,
health care, or climate change was ignored.

- The speech assumed Afghan support for the U.S. occupation, ignoring the
massive evidence to the contrary. Just hours before Obama spoke, the Wall
Street Journal stated matter-of-factly that "when the U.S. forces enter an
area, the levels of violence generally increase, causing anger and
dissatisfaction among the local population". It quoted a pro-Karzai
parliamentarian who said, "If new troops come and are stationed in
civilian areas, when they draw Taliban attacks civilians will end up being

- Obama paid no attention to the increasingly visible opposition to the
Karzai government and the U.S. occupation from the majority Pashtun
population - whose southern and eastern Afghanistan territory will be the
operations center for the new troop escalation. The Journal quoted a
shopkeeper in the southern city of Kandahar who said, "If we get more
troops, there will be more bloodshed. Only Afghans themselves can solve
this problem". The Pashtuns, who make up the majority of the Taliban, are
increasingly defining Afghanistan's civil war as an ethnic war against
supporters of the old U.S.-backed Northern Alliance, whose Tajik and Uzbek
militants now make up the majority of the Afghan National Army.

- There was no reference to the U.S.-paid mercenaries (both local and
internationals, all paid through U.S. contractor corporations) in
Afghanistan, whose numbers rose by 40% just between June and September,
now totaling 104,101, and already outnumbering U.S. troops.

- While claiming the U.S. may not have the same interests as earlier
empires, Obama has now acknowledged that the U.S. is occupying Afghan land
not to protect Afghan interests, but to protect the U.S. and U.S.

- There was no acknowledgement of the widely held view that there are
than 100 members of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and perhaps as few as 300
over the border in Pakistan - so the U.S. will now be deploying more than
100,000 of its own troops, plus tens of thousands of NATO and other allied
troops, in a global, lethal, impoverishing war to go after 400 people.

- Obama spoke of Afghanistan as a war of necessity, saying "We did not ask
for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and
used them to murder nearly 3,000 people". He ignored the fact that none of
the hijackers were Afghans, none lived in Afghanistan (they lived in
Hamburg), none trained in Afghanistan (they trained in Florida), and none
went to flight school in Afghanistan (that was in Minnesota).

- Obama spoke of the existing involvement of NATO and other allied
governments, and asked for additional troop commitments; he did not
mention the massive opposition to the war all those government face (70%
opposition in the UK, the highest troop contributor), with several
countries pulling their troops out. He described the "broad coalition of
43 nations that support our aims," but ignored the reality that many of
those nations have deployed troops numbering only in the double or even
single digits - one from Georgia, two from Iceland, four from Austria,
seven each from Ireland and Jordan, 10 from Bosnia, etc.

- The speech acknowledged that the recent election of President Karzai was
"marred by fraud," but maintained the fiction that Karzai's presidency is
somehow still "consistent with Afghanistan's laws and constitution". There
was no acknowledgement of the widespread Afghan view of Karzai as
simultaneously corrupt, incompetent, and dependent on the U.S. occupation,
and that trying to win "hearts and minds" to back a government lacking
local legitimacy ensures failure.

- Describing an alleged "partnership" with Pakistan, Obama ignored the
danger of a U.S. troop escalation further destabilizing Pakistan, and
sidelined the fact that recent polls indicate 59% of Pakistanis view the
U.S. as the greatest threat, more than three times as those who see
arch-rival India as the most threatening, and almost six times more than
those who identify the Taliban. Obama stayed silent about the on-going
special forces and drone strikes in Pakistan, with no indication whether
his future escalation will include ratcheting up those attacks.

- There was no reference to the need for a broad regional diplomatic
strategy; the word "India" did not appear in the speech and Obama ignored
Islamabad's concerns vis-a-vis India, which shape much of Pakistan's
historic support for the Taliban and other insurgent forces in
Afghanistan. He thus disregarded the most important regional dynamics at

- While referencing the U.S. "transition" out of Iraq, Obama didn't
acknowledge the level of violence continuing there, where more civilians
continue to die than are dying in Afghanistan, nor the 113,731 mercenaries
bolstering the U.S. military there. While proposing Iraq as a model for
getting U.S. troops out, he ignored the reality that there are still
124,000 U.S. troops occupying Iraq.

                  Anti-War Escalation Needed

Near the end of his speech, Obama tried to speak to his antiwar one-time
supporters, speaking to the legacy of Vietnam. It was here that the
speech's internal weakness was perhaps most clear. Obama refused to
respond to the actual analogy between the quagmire of Vietnam, which led
to the collapse of Johnson's Great Society programs, and the threat to
Obama's ambitious domestic agenda collapsing under the pressure of funding
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he created straw analogies,
ignoring the massive challenge of waging an illegitimate, unpopular war at
a moment of dire economic crisis.

Obama also did not acknowledge that about 30% of all U.S. casualties in
the 8-year war in Afghanistan have occurred during the 11 months of his
presidency. He did not remind us that the cost of this war, with the new
escalation, will be about $100 billion a year, or $2 billion every week,
or more than $11 million every hour. He didn't tell us that the same
one-year amount, $100 billion, could cover the cost of ALL of the United
Nations Millennium Development Goals: clean water, health care, primary
education and vaccinations for the people of every one of the poorest 21
countries in the world.

He didn't ask us to consider what adding another $100 billion - let alone
$500 billion, or half a TRILLION dollars over the next five years - to the
already ballooning deficit will do to our chances for real health care

President Obama didn't ask us that. But we know the answer to that
question. We need to build a movement that can respond to that answer,
that can respond to the new challenges of these new conditions - because
while this is not a new war, we face a new political moment. We need to
build new alliances into a movement that can bring this war and occupation
to a rapid end, so that we can begin to make good on our real obligations
to the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as to the people of our
own country who struggle to find jobs, health care, and climate justice.
We need to build a movement with roots in the trade unions, in the labor
movement, and among those struggling for economic rights, particularly
among communities of color. We have to push Congress to make good on their
"concerns" regarding this new escalation by refusing to pay for it, and to
support those members of Congress who are trying to do just that. Congress
hasn't given Obama a blank check for this war yet - not even a $30 billion
check. And there's still time for us to make sure they don't.

We have a lot of work to do.

Copyright  2009, Institute for Policy Studies
Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and
co-author with David Wildman of the forthcoming Ending the US War in
Afghanistan: A Primer.

--------16 of 16--------

 Obama's hope-filled
 mouth and hands drip red blood and
 chunks of bone and flesh.

 "Yum yum" he chortles
 in manic glee, "My thing! A
 meal fit for a king!"


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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