Progressive Calendar 08.03.10
From: David Shove (
Date: Tue, 3 Aug 2010 14:20:49 -0700 (PDT)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   08.03.10

1. What's the news?   8.03 5pm
2. Gray Panthers/WAMM 8.03 5:30pm
3. Palestine          8.03 6pm
4. Auschwitz/StPaul   8.03 6:30pm
5. Beekeeping         8.03 6:30pm
6. KFAI pgm committee 8.03 7pm
7. Amnesty Intl       8.03 7pm StCloud MN
8. Peace/justice      8.03 8pm
9. ENP party          8.03 8:30pm

10. Alliant vigil     8.04 7am
11. Merriam meeting   8.04 6pm
12. CRA meeting       8.04 6:30pm

13. Ralph Nader   - Peace through war/ Obama's Afghan formula
14. Gareth Porter - BO drops 2009 pledge to withdraw combat troops/Iraq
15. Paul Street   - BO/WikiLeaks/the silly liberal faith in the emperor

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From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: What's the news? 8.03 5pm

Dear SPNN 15 viewers:
Tues, 8/3 @ 5pm & midnight + Wed, 8/4, 10am

"What's the Story?"
What is a front page story?  Jeff Nygaard of Nygaard Notes discusses
narrative, how we interpret "the news", racial disparities, Latin America,
Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan. (filmed 7/10)

"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN)
Channel 15 on Tuesdays at 5pm, midnight and Wednesday mornings at 10am,
after DemocracyNow!  Households with basic cable may watch.

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From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Gray Panthers/WAMM 8.03 5:30pm

Twin Cities Gray Panthers' Community Birthday Party: WAMM to Receive
Social Justice Award
Tuesday, August 3, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Rondo Community Library, 461 North
Dale Street (corner or Dale and University), St. Paul.

Come to a party in honor of the birthday of Maggie Kuhn who founded the
Gray Panthers 40 years ago. The party will celebrate everyone's birthday.
Join in lively discussion, social justice awards for local activists'
including WAMM - and a yummy birthday cake. Recognize that we are all
aging from the time we are born, discover positive aspects of aging and
help put a crack in the negativity of ageism. Sponsored by: the Twin
Cities Gray Panthers. Endorsed by: WAMM.

--------3 of 15--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Palestine 8.03 6pm

>From One West Bank to Another: Two Locals' Stories from Palestine
Tuesday, August 3, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The West Bank Social Center, 501
Cedar Avenue (above the Nomad World Pub), Minneapolis.

Local community
organizers Beth Atim and Elisabeth Geschiere invite you to learn with them
in an interactive presentation about life in the occupied West Bank of
Palestine. Elisabeth just spent two months of the Spring volunteering with
Israeli and Palestinian activists working within the non-violent
resistance movement. Beth recently returned from a year of volunteering
with a Lutheran school and a Palestinian human rights campaign in the city
of Ramallah. Please join others for a time of exploring the history,
narratives, and struggles facing the people of Palestine and Israel.
Endorsed by: the WAMM Middle East Committee.

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From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Auschwitz/StPaul 8.03 6:30pm

Tuesday, August 3, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mad Hatter's Tea House, 943 West
Seventh, St. Paul.
Join others at a talk by Roy Wolff entitled, "From Auschwitz to Hiroshima;
>From St Paul to Nagasaki." Endorsed by: WAMM. FFI: Call 651-227-3228.

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From: Do It Green! Minnesota <Do_It_Green_Minnesota [at]>
Subject: Beekeeping 8.03 6:30pm

Upcoming Do It Green! Minnesota Workshops - Building sustainable,
self-sufficient lifestyles

Backyard Beekeeping
August 3; 6:30-8:30pm
$15 or $12 for Do It Green! Members
Get an up-close view of raising bees in an urban environment.

For registration and workshop details email info [at] or call
612-345-7973. For additional details visit;

Do It Green! Workshops

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From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: KFAI pgm committee 8.03 7pm

The KFAI Program Committee meeting for August will take place on
Tuesday, August 3rd at 7pm at KFAI in Studio 5.

KFAI meetings are open to the public, but please RSVP before noon on
the 3rd if you intent to attend to ensure that enough materials can
be prepared.

Adam Mehl Program Director KFAI, Fresh Air Radio 1808 Riverside Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55454 (612) 341-3144 x20 (612) 341-4281 fax

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From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at]>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 8.03 7pm StCloud MN

Saint Cloud Area Amnesty International meets on Tuesday, August 3rd, from
7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the St. Cloud Public Library, 1300 W. St. Germain,
Saint Cloud. For more information contact Jerry Dirks, 320-251-6491 or
jerry.dirks [at]

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From: Tom Dooley <fellowcommoditydooley [at]>
Subject: Peace/justice 8.03 8pm

Twin Cities Peace and Justice Meetup Group was formed July 13, 2010 by
Steve. An intro meeting will be held tomorrow Aug 3 at 8 pm at Sebastian
Joes Ice Cream Shop at Hennepin and Franklin. As with any new group
support is needed.
Go to Twin Cities Peace and Justice Meetup Group to see more.

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From: jwilson [at]
Subject: ENP party 8.03 8:30pm

Comrades and Friends:

The next meeting has been changed to The Bad Waitress restaurant, 2 E.
26th St., Minneapolis. The meeting will be held Tuesday, 3 August 2010
from 8:30 to 10:00 PM.

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From: AlliantACTION <alliantaction [at]>
Subject: Alliant vigil 8.04 7am

Join us Wednesday morning, 7-8 am
Now in our 14th year of consecutive Wednesday
morning vigils outside Alliant Techsystems,
7480 Flying Cloud Drive Eden Prairie.
We ask Who Profit$? Who Dies?
directions and lots of info:

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From: "Krista Menzel (Merriam Park Neighbors for Peace)" <web [at]>
Subject: Merriam meeting 8.04 6pm

2010 Merriam Park Neighbors for Peace Meetings
First Wednesday of each month
6:00-7:45 p.m. (Note time change due to reduced library hours)
Merriam Park Library - Basement Meeting Room A or B
1831 Marshall Avenue (at Fairview Avenue), St. Paul, MN
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Please e-mail info [at] or call Anne at (651) 647-0580 or Krista at 
641-7592 for more information.

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From: Dave Bicking <dave [at]>
Subject: CRA meeting 8.04 6:30pm

The Mpls Civilian Police Review Authority (CRA) holds their board meetings
the first Wednesday of every month.  So that will be Wednesday, August 4,
6:30pm in Room 333 of City Hall.  The website says that the meeting will
start at 5:30 this month, but that is for a non-public section of the
meeting (discussion of cases, or lawyer- client relationship).  The public
portion will start no earlier than 6:30pm.

It's always good to have public attendance, and any member of the public
has an opportunity to speak on any topic relevant to the CRA for 3 minutes
in the middle of the meeting.  I don't know exactly what will be on the
agenda this month.

The CRA board is dealing with the new requirement to release information
on the disposition of cases, whether they were sustained or not sustained.
 For the last three years, the City Attorney has declared that that is not
public data - not even the Complainant was allowed to know the decision
made by the CRA about their case.  The CUAPB recently won a very favorable
ruling from the State Court of Appeals which declares the Mpls City
Attorney's Office to be wrong.  So now, there is a three-year backlog of
Complainants (and the public) to be notified of the outcome of their

Complainants have always had the right to ask for a reconsideration of
their complaint if it is not sustained.  But for three years there has
been a "Catch 22" - the CRA could not tell them if their complaint had
been sustained!  I understand that the Complainants from the last three
years have been notified, and some are requesting reconsiderations.  That
will be a considerable strain on the time of the board members to go back
and review these cases.  I sympathize with the current board members.
Damn the City Attorney's Office!  They created this mess with a ridiculous
- and wrong - interpretation of the Data Practices Act.  I think that the
obstruction of the CRA's work was intentional.

The major obstacle to civilian review still remains - the lack of
discipline imposed on officers.  Just last month, the Police Department
reported on discipline decisions in 4 cases involving 9 officers.  No
discipline whatsoever.  I have looked back over the last year of
discipline decisions: 20 cases involving 29 officers.  (July 2009 through
June 2010)  These are all cases that were "sustained" by the CRA.  There
was discipline in 4 cases (20%), of 5 officers (17%).  Two officers
received 20 hour suspensions without pay, and three received letters of
reprimand.  That is actually better than the previous year.
Nevertheless, it is totally unacceptable and makes a mockery of the CRA
and its purposes.  Those two officers lost perhaps $1600 total in wages
and benefits.  Meanwhile, taxpayers were "disciplined" to the tune of many
hundreds of thousands of dollars during the same time period, in the form
of settlements for police misconduct.  Of course, far worse is the harm
done to the victims of police abuse.  Both the CRA board and the public at
large must advocate strongly for improved oversight of the police.

Public attention and pressure is still a good thing to help the CRA board
and staff deal with these issues.  I hope to see at least some of you
there!    - Dave Bicking

--------13 of 15--------

Peace Through War
Obama's Afghan Formula
August 2, 2010

The war in Afghanistan is nearly nine years old - the longest in American
history. After the U.S. quickly toppled the Taliban regime in October
2001, the Taliban, by all accounts, came back stronger and harsher enough
to control now at least 30 percent of the country. During this time, U.S.
casualties, armaments and expenditures are at record levels.

America's overseas wars have different outcomes when they have no
constitutional authority, no war tax, no draft, no regular on the ground
press coverage, no Congressional oversight, no spending accountability
and, importantly, no affirmative consent of the governed who are, apart
from the military families, hardly noticing.

This is an asymmetrical, multi-matrix war. It is a war defined by complex
intrigue, shifting alliances, mutating motivations, chronic bribery,
remotely-generated civilian deaths, insuperable barriers of language and
ethnic and subtribal conflicts. It is fought by warlords, militias,
criminal gangs, and special forces discretionary death squads. Millions of
civilians are impoverished, terrified and live with violent disruptions.
There is no central government to speak of. The White House uses illusions
of strategies and tactics to bid for time. In Afghanistan, the historic
graveyard of invaders, hope springs infernal.

Neatly dressed Generals - who probably would never have gotten into this
mess if they, not the civilian neocon, draft dodgers in the Bush regime,
had made the call - regularly trudge up to Congress to testify. There they
caveat their status reports, keeping expectations alive, while cowardly
politicians praise their bravery. General David Petraeus could receive the
Academy Award in Hollywood next year, as long as he doesn't say what he
really thinks, obedient soldier that he is. Listen to General Stanley A.
McChrystal, not known for his squeamishness. Speaking of civilian deaths
and injured at military checkpoints, he said: "We have shot an amazing
number of people, but to my knowledge, none have ever proven to be a

On the ground are 100,000 U.S. soldiers with another 100,000 corporate
contractors. The human and economic costs are huge. According to the CIA,
James Jones - Obama's national security adviser - and other officials,
there are only 50 to 100 Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and 300 to 400
members of the group in Pakistan. The rest have scattered to other nations
or just melded back into the population. Affiliates of Al Qaeda have
emerged in the southern Arabian peninsula, Somalia, North Africa,
Indonesia and other locales. There is something awry about this asymmetry.

The Taliban number no more the 30,000 irregular fighters of decidedly
mixed motivations entirely focused over there, not toward the U.S.
mainland. President Obama describes the Taliban as "a blend of hard-core
ideologues, tribal leaders, kids that basically sign up because it's the
best job available to them. Not all of them are going to be thinking the
same way about the Afghan government, about the future of Afghanistan. And
so we're going to have to sort through how these talks take place".

Helping Obama "sort through" are drones blowing up civilian gatherings -
by mistake of course - to destroy suspected militants often casually
chosen by other natives because grudges or the transfer of money.
Helicopter gunships and fighter planes spread havoc and terror through the
populace. "Special forces" go deeper into Pakistan with their secret
missions of mayhem. Local resentment and anger continues to boomerang
against the U.S. occupiers.

U.S. Army truckloads of hundred dollar bills are paying off various
personages of uncertain reliability. At the same time, Obama's
representatives regularly accuse President Karzai of rampant corruption.
In between, civilian Americans and USAID try to dig wells and construct
clinics and schools that might not be there very long in the anarchic,
violent, nightfall world of the Afghan tribal areas.

More military force is expected to clear the way for the assumption of
governmental duties and security in 2014 by a central government that is
neither central, nor governmental. The locals loath the government's
attempt to collect taxes, and continue to survive by growing poppies

In early 2001, George W. Bush awarded the Taliban $40 million for stamping
out the poppy trade; now Afghanistan is the number one narco grower in the
world. U.S. soldiers walk right past the poppy fields so as not to turn
the locals against them.

U.S. dollars pay warlords and the Taliban in order for them not to blow up
U.S. conveys going through mountain passes, some carrying fuel that costs
taxpayers $400 per delivered gallon. The Taliban receive half the
electricity from a U.S. built power plant and collect the monthly electric
bills in their controlled areas. The more electricity, the more money for
the Taliban to fight the American and British soldiers.

Last year, over three billion dollars in cash moved out of Kabul's airport
unaccounted for, while billions of US dollars flow into Kabul for
undocumented purposes.

Despite fighting against "insurgents" possessing rifles, propelled
grenades and suicide vests, the Obama administration - with an arsenal of
massive super-modern weaponry at hand - keeps saying there is no military
solution and that only a political settlement will end the conflict.

Tell that to the Afghan people, who suffer from brutal sectarian struggles
fueled by American and coalition occupiers and invaders. To them, there's
a disconnect between what Obama does and what he says he wants.

Meanwhile, the war spills ever more into Pakistan and its turbulent
politics generates more hatred against Americans. These people had nothing
to do with 9/11 so why, they ask, are the Americans blowing up their

President Obama says the soldiers should start coming home in July 2011,
depending on conditions on the ground. He wants the Taliban commanders,
whom he is destroying one by one, to agree to negotiations with Kabul that
requires their subservience. His formula is peace through more war. But
the Taliban are not known to surrender. They know the terrain where they
live and they believe they can wear Obama down, notwithstanding U.S.
special forces and drones expected to stay there for years.

Congress - an inkblot so far - needs to assert its constitutional
authority over budgets and policy toward the war. Members are regular
rubber-stamps of White House recklessness under Bush and Obama.

Furthermore, nothing will happen without a few million Americans back home
stomping, marching and bellowing to end the boomeranging, costly invasions
of Iraq and Afghanistan and concentrate on America's needs at home.

Ralph Nader is the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel.

--------14 of 15--------

[Obama is a lying promise-breaking traitorous war-criminal. Don't vote for
him in 2012. Vote third party, begin the long revolution. -ed]

Obama Drops 2009 Pledge to Withdraw Combat Troops from Iraq
by Gareth Porter
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Inter Press Service
Common Dreams

WASHINGTON - Seventeen months after President Barack Obama pledged to
withdraw all combat brigades from Iraq by Sept. 1, 2010, he quietly
abandoned that pledge Monday, admitting implicitly that such combat
brigades would remain until the end of 2011.

Herson Blanco carries a mock coffin draped in an American flag during a
protest march calling for an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan on March 2010 in Washington, DC. US public support for the
Iraq and Afghan war and President Barack Obama's handing of the conflict
has hit an all-time low after the leak of secret military documents, a
poll showed Tuesday.

(AFP/Brendan Hoffman)Obama declared in a speech to disabled U.S. veterans
in Atlanta that "America's combat mission in Iraq" would end by the end of
August, to be replaced by a mission of "supporting and training Iraqi
security forces".

That statement was in line with the pledge he had made on Feb. 27, 2009,
when he said, "Let me say this as plainly as I can: by Aug. 31, 2010, our
combat mission in Iraq will end."

In the sentence preceding that pledge, however, he had said, "I have
chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18
months." Obama said nothing in his speech Monday about withdrawing "combat
brigades" or "combat troops" from Iraq until the end of 2011.

Even the concept of "ending the U.S. combat mission" may be highly
misleading, much like the concept of "withdrawing U.S. combat brigades"
was in 2009.

Under the administration's definition of the concept, combat operations
will continue after August 2010, but will be defined as the secondary role
of U.S. forces in Iraq. The primary role will be to "advise and assist"
Iraqi forces.

An official who spoke with IPS on condition that his statements would be
attributed to a "senior administration official" acknowledged that the
50,000 U.S. troops remaining in Iraq beyond the deadline will have the
same combat capabilities as the combat brigades that have been withdrawn.

The official also acknowledged that the troops will engage in some combat
but suggested that the combat would be "mostly" for defensive purposes.

That language implied that there might be circumstances in which U.S.
forces would carry out offensive operations as well.

IPS has learned, in fact, that the question of what kind of combat U.S.
troops might become involved in depends in part on the Iraqi government,
which will still be able to request offensive military actions by U.S.
troops if it feels it necessary.

Obama's jettisoning of one of his key campaign promises and of a
high-profile pledge early in his administration without explicit
acknowledgment highlights the way in which language on national security
policy can be manipulated for political benefit with the acquiescence of
the news media.

Obama's apparent pledge of withdrawal of combat troops by the Sept. 1
deadline in his Feb. 27, 2009 speech generated headlines across the
commercial news media. That allowed the administration to satisfy its
anti-war Democratic Party base on a pivotal national security policy

At the same time, however, it allowed Obama to back away from his campaign
promise on Iraq withdrawal, and to signal to those political and
bureaucratic forces backing a long- term military presence in Iraq that he
had no intention of pulling out all combat troops at least until the end
of 2011.

He could do so because the news media were inclined to let the apparent
Obama withdrawal pledge stand as the dominant narrative line, even though
the evidence indicated it was a falsehood.

Only a few days after the Obama speech, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
was more forthright about the policy. In an appearance on Meet the Press
Mar. 1, 2009, Gates said the "transition force" remaining after Aug. 31,
2010 would have "a very different kind of mission", and that the units
remaining in Iraq "will be characterized differently".

"They will be called advisory and assistance brigades," said Gates. "They
won't be called combat brigades."

But "advisory and assistance brigades" were configured with the same
combat capabilities as the "combat brigade teams" which had been the basic
U.S. military unit of combat organization for six years, as IPS reported
in March 20009.

Gates was thus signaling that the military solution to the problem of
Obama's combat troop withdrawal pledge had been accepted by the White

That plan had been developed in late 2008 by Gen. David Petraeus, the
CENTCOM chief, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the top commander in Iraq, who were
determined to get Obama to abandon his pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat
brigades from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.

They came up with the idea of "remissioning" - sticking a non-combat label
on the combat brigade teams - as a way for Obama to appear to be
delivering on his campaign pledge while actually abandoning it.

The "remissioning" scheme was then presented to Obama by Gates and the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, in Chicago on
Dec. 15, 2008, according a report in the New York Times three days later.

It was hardly a secret that the Obama administration was using the
"remissioning" ploy to get around the political problem created by his
acceding to military demands to maintain combat troops in Iraq for nearly
three more years.

Despite the fact that the disparity between Obama's public declaration and
the reality of the policy was an obvious and major political story,
however, the news media - including the New York Times, which had carried
multiple stories about the military's "remissioning" scheme - failed to
report on it.

The "senior administration official" told IPS that Obama is still
"committed to withdrawal of all U.S. forces by the end of 2011". That is
the withdrawal deadline in the U.S.-Iraq withdrawal agreement of November

But the same military and Pentagon officials who prevailed on Obama to
back down on his withdrawal pledge also have pressed in the past for
continued U.S. military presence in Iraq beyond 2011, regardless of the
U.S. withdrawal agreement with the Iraqi government.

In November 2008, after Obama's election, Gen. Odierno was asked by
Washington Post correspondent Tom Ricks "what the U.S. military presence
would look like around 2014 or 2015". Odierno said he "would like to see a
...force probably around 30,000 or so, 35,000", which would still be
carrying out combat operations.

Last February, Odierno requested that a combat brigade be stationed in
Kirkuk to avoid an outbreak of war involving Kurdish and Iraqi forces
vying for the region's oil resources - and that it be openly labeled as
such - according to Ricks.

In light of the fact that Obama had already agreed to Odierno's
"remissioning" dodge, the only reason for such a request would be to lay
the groundwork for keeping a brigade there beyond the 2011 withdrawal

Obama brushed off the proposal, according to Ricks, but it was unclear
whether the reason was that Iraqi political negotiations over a new
government were still ongoing.

In July, Odierno suggested that a U.N. peacekeeping force might be needed
in Kirkuk after 2011, along with a hint that a continued U.S. presence
there might be requested by the Iraqi government.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in
U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book,
"Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam",
was published in 2006.

 2010 Inter Press Service

--------15 of 15--------

Revealing Moments
Obama, WikiLeaks, the "Good War" Myth, and Silly Liberal Faith in the
By Paul Street
Sunday, August 01, 2010

War Crime Whistleblower in Obama's Sights, War Criminals Not

Private First Class Bradley Manning, a 22 year old U.S. Army intelligence
analyst stationed in Iraq, is being prosecuted by the Obama administration
for disclosing a classified video showing American troops murdering
civilians in Baghdad from an Apache Attack Helicopter in 2007. Eleven
adults were killed in the attack captured on tape, including two Reuters
journalists.  Two children were critically injured. The video (available
at was published by WikiLeaks in early April of
this year. The soldiers shown in the video have yet to face charges.
Manning is looking at 52 years in federal prison if convicted.

It might seem odd to some that the Obama White House is going after
Manning and not the war criminals Mannning may have helped expose. Didn't
Obama use his opposition to the highly unpopular Iraq War to advance his
presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008? Yes, he did, but once he succeeded
in exploiting the Iraq War to gain the nation's highest office, Obama
became commander in chief of the world's greatest imperial killing
machine.  He and his handlers hardly want to do anything that might
inhibit the American military's freedom of action as he conducts a
"five-front terror war" (Glenn Greenwald) in Iraq (where Obama has defied
his campaign promises by acting to sustain the U.S. occupation), Ethiopia,
Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

It should also be remembered that U.S. Senator and presidential candidate
Obama repeatedly voted to fund the Iraq occupation, campaigned for pro-war
against anti-war Democrats in the 2006 congressional primaries, and never
once criticized Cheney and George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq on moral or
legal grounds.  Candidate Obama's only problem with the Iraq occupation
was that it did not make strategic sense for the interests of the
supposedly benevolent and exceptionally humane and democratic American
Empire. He saw the Iraq occupation like the elite Democratic "doves" of
the late 1960s saw the Vietnam War - as a tactical "mistake" carried out
with the best, indeed an excess, of democratic intentions.

In late 2006, speaking to the Chicago Council of Global Affairs, Obama
even had the cold imperial audacity to say the following in support of his
claim that most U.S. citizens supported "victory" in Iraq: "The American
people have been extraordinarily resolved. They have seen their sons and
daughters killed or wounded in the streets of Fallujah [emphasis added]".
This was a spine-chilling selection of locales. Fallujah was the site for
colossal U.S. atrocity - American crimes included the indiscriminate
slaughter of civilians, the targeting even of ambulances and hospitals,
and the practical leveling of an entire city - by the U.S. military in
April and November of 2004. The town was designated for destruction as an
example of the awesome state terror promised to those who dared to resist
U.S. power. Not surprisingly, Fallujah became a powerful and instant
symbol of American imperialism in the Arab and Muslim worlds.  It was a
deeply provocative and insulting place for Obama to have chosen to
highlight American sacrifice and "resolve" in the imperialist occupation
of Iraq. For these and many other reasons detailed in the fourth chapter
of my early 2008 book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics
(Paradigm, 2008), it is hardly surprising that Obama as president is going
after an America Iraq war crime whistleblower, not American war crimes in

Obama's Response to the WikiLeaks War Logs: Deplore, Downplay, and (Yet)

Now mainstream news sources are speculating that Bradley Manning may be
involved in a new leak of more than 90,000 secret documents - dubbed the
Afghanistan "war logs" - made public by WikiLeaks last Sunday.  We can
expect the military and the White House to pursue criminal investigations.
The documents reveal massive internal U.S government intelligence on the
difficulty and even futility of the American colonial war in and on
Afghanistan, a great historical graveyard of empires past and present.

That continues unabated and escalated in the age of the supposed peace
president Barack Obama, who ran for the presidency on a promise to
increase imperial violence in South Asia even as many of his "progressive"
supporters foolishly took his tactical critique of George W. Bush's Iraq
invasion as proof that he was an "antiwar" candidate. There is some
analogy between this latest (Wiki)-leak and the famous Pentagon Papers,
famously released to the New York Times by former Pentagon analyst and
super-whistle-blower Daniel Ellsburg. Like the Pentagon Papers, the
Afghanistan "war logs" reveal a disconnect between the officially positive
rhetoric of the executive branch and Pentagon and the harsh and bloody
"on-the-ground" reality of a vicious colonial war - a war in which the
U.S. is a pitiful imperial giant experiencing little success in winning
popular "hearts and minds" and ending resistance to its supposedly
benevolent invasion. Like its Vietnam-era predecessor the new leak of
classified documents suggests a murderous empire that is out of control,
compelled to kill and kill again like a pitiless Mafia Don in order to
create an illusion of success and to hide its inability to manage events
and populations in distant peripheries. It shows Obama's supposed "good"
and proper war - Afghanistan - to be an at least partly Vietnam-like

The new war president's administration has undertaken a reprehensible
three-track response to the WikiLeaks' revelations.
 Track one is to deplore the leak, claiming that it is a violation of
national security that puts innocent Afghanis and Americans at risk of
murder and terrorist attack. The claim is not very impressive. The primary
threat to Afghan civilians is the U.S. occupation, characterized by 10
years of bombings, drone-slaughters, checkpoint shootings, targeted
death-squad assassinations, massive political de-stabilization and more.
Just ask the survivors of Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama's May 2009
bombing of Bola Boluk - an epic slaughter of women and children for which
the White House refused to apologize (even as it apologized to the people
of New York City because of an ill-advised Air Force One flyover that
briefly reminded Manhattan residents and workers of 9/11). Al Qaeda and
other Islamic terror networks hardly depend on Afghanistan or Pakistan for
"safe havens". and the U.S. imperial presence in Afghanistan and elsewhere
(characterized by some incredibly bloody dealings that are detailed in the
Afghan War Logs) are precisely the sort of American actions that inspire
countless Muslims to attack US symbols, structures, and people.

Track two is to downplay the significance of the material leaked, claiming
that - as Obama said earlier this week, "These documents don't reveal any
issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan."[1]
While it is true that what passes for a "public debate" in the narrow,
corporate-managed culture imposed by dominant war and entertainment media
has permitted some acknowledgement that things aren't going so hot for
Uncle Sam in Afghanistan, the president's statement is far too strong.
Amid rising establishment and media concern that Barack Obama's "surge"
strategy is breaking down, the "war logs" detail how coalition forces have
killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents; how a secret "black"
unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for "kill or capture"
without trial; how the Pentagon covered up evidence that the Taliban has
acquired lethal surface-to-air missiles; and how the coalition is
increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets
by remote control from a base in Nevada.  I've missed detailed discussion
of all this and more that emerge from the "war logs" in our not-so
"informed" "public debate".

Track three is to exploit the "war logs" by claiming that the WikiLeaks
disclosures about the "mishandling" of the Afghan war justify his
"decision to embark on a new strategy." "The period of time covered in
these documents (January 2004-December 2009) is before the President
announced his new strategy," the White House told reporters via email last
Sunday.  "Some of the disconcerting things reported are exactly why the
President ordered a three month policy review and a change in
strategy".[2] In his first public statement about the leaked documents
last week, Obama argued that the material highlighted the challenges that
led him to announce a "change in strategy" that involved sending an
additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan late last year. "We failed for
seven years to implement a strategy adequate to the challenge," Obama said
today, of the period starting with the 9/11 attacks. That is why we have
increased our commitment there and developed a new strategy," he said,
adding he has also sent "one of the finest generals in the US," General
David Petraeus. Claiming that his "'new strategy' can work,". Obama
concluded with a plea for the U.S. House of Representatives to join the
U.S. Senate in passing legislation to fund the Afghan war for yet another
year.  The plea worked in spite of the fact that just a third of the U.S.
populace now approves (according to a recent Reuters poll) of Obama's
Afghan policy.

The claim that the "war logs" relate only to the Bush era and predate the
supposedly new strategy under Obama is not impressive. As the former Obama
supporter and left media and social critic Norman Solomon notes:

"Unfortunately, the 'change in strategy' has remained on the same basic
track as the old strategy - except for escalation. On Tuesday morning, the
lead story on The New York Times web site noted: 'As the debate over the
war begins anew, administration officials have been striking tones similar
to the Bush administration's to argue for continuing the current
Afghanistan strategy, which calls for a significant troop buildup'."

"Even while straining to depict the US war policy as freshly hatched since
last winter, presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs solemnly proclaimed that
the basis for it hasn't changed since the autumn of 2001. 'We are in this
region of the world because of what happened on 9/11,' Gibbs said on
Monday. 'Ensuring that there is not a safe haven in Afghanistan by which
attacks against this country and countries around the world can be
planned'. In other words: a nifty rationale for perpetual war".

"What has been most significant about "the president's new policy" is the
steady step-up of bombing in Afghanistan and the raising of US troop
levels in that country to a total of 100,000. None of what was basically
wrong with the war last year has been solved by the 'new policy'. On the

As is so often the case, the Obama administration's claims of change and
novelty seem to represent little more than deceptive cover for substantive
policy continuity, the same old imperial regime.

"A War That Was Necessary"

It is depressing if unsurprising to see the leftmost reaches of narrow
mainstream commentary cling in its "war logs" coverage to the notion of
Afghanistan as "the good war," the noble "ball" that Bush "dropped"
because of his great Iraq "mistake" (crime anyone?)  Listen to the
following reflections (linked on the New York Times Web site) from Neal
Sheehan, a New York Times reporter who helped break the Pentagon Papers

'The [Afghan war logs] show how difficult the war in Afghanistan is. It's
a very complicated situation. You've got a government in Kabul which is
corrupt and untrustworthy. You've got Pakistani allies which are not
necessarily always your allies. You've got a Taliban movement which is
resurgent, but also isn't unified. It has its own factions, but it's a
resilient movement".

"The WikiLeaks revelations are very valuable, I think. They show how hard
it is going to be to reach the objective the U.S. wants to reach, which is
basically pacifying the country. Coming up with a sort of agreement which
will pacify the country and end the insurgency. It shows how difficult it
is to deal with your own allies".

"It gives you a good insight into the war, the kind of war Americans are
faced with. It shows the extent to which the Bush administration neglected
Afghanistan and wasted resources in Iraq on a war that wasn't necessary,
and ignored a war that was necessary in Afghanistan. The situation has
worsened markedly as a result of that neglect".[4]

It's sad to see Sheehan reflexively spit out the standard imperial good
war (Afghanistan)/bad war (Iraq) dichotomy and the ease with which he
ignores the WiklLeaks findings on distinctly uncomplicated U.S.
criminality in its supposedly "necessary" war. As the prominent U.S. legal
scholar Marjorie Cohn noted in July of 2008, "The invasion of Afghanistan
was as illegal as the invasion of Iraq."   The U.S. attack on Afghanistan
after 9/11/2001 met none of the United Nations' criteria for legitimate
self-defense.  The United States ' attack on Afghanistan met none of the
standard international moral and legal criteria for justifiable
self-defense and occurred without reasonable consultation with the United
Nations Security Council. The U.N. Charter requires member states to
settle international disputes by peaceful means.  Nations are permitted to
use military force only in self-defense or when authorized by the Security

After 9/11, the Council passed two resolutions, neither of which
authorized the use of military force in Afghanistan. Assaulting that
country was not legitimate self-defense under article 51 of the Charter
since the jetliner assaults were criminal attacks, not "armed attacks" by
another country. Afghanistan did not attack the U.S. and 15 of the 19 9/11
hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, there was no "imminent
threat of an armed attack on the United States after September 11 or Bush
would not have waited three weeks before initiating his October 2001
bombing campaign." As Cohn notes, international law requires that "The
necessity for self-defense must be 'instant, overwhelming, leaving no
choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.' This classic principle
of self-defense in international law has been affirmed by the Nuremberg
Tribunal and the U.N. General Assembly."

Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs' repetition of the "safe haven"
argument is depressing. As Harvard Kennedy School of Government professor
Stephen Walt noted in an August 2009 Foreign Policy essay, Obama's "safe
haven myth" rests on the fundamentally flawed premise that al Qaeda or its
many and various imitators couldn't just as effectively plot and conduct
future terror attacks from any of a large number of other locations,
including Western Europe and the U.S. itself. At the same time, Walt
observed, Obama's expanded engagement in the "ambitious social and
political reconstruction and re-engineering of Afghanistan and perhaps
even Pakistan" simply reinforced al Qaeda's core (and correct) claim that
the West's and the above all the United States' presence in South Asia is
about imperial control.  The more the U.S. is seen as "trying to
restructure their societies along lines that we think are appropriate,"
Walt notes, "the more we play into the narrative that they use to try and
attract support and recruit people in Afghanistan itself." [5]

"If Only He Knew"

The award for the single most childish comment on Obama and the WikiLeaks
War Logs goes to Katrina Vanden Heuvel, the manager of the supposedly left
liberal magazine The Nation. "I hope," Vanden Heuvel writes, "the ensuing
discussion will lead President Obama to understand that the human and
financial costs of continuing on this path [of escalation in Af-Pak] far
outstrip any conceivable security benefits. In fact, it is clear from the
granular details in the war logs, and especially in the sections about
collusion between Pakistan intelligence services and the Taliban, that any
homeland security provided by the war is significantly undermined by the
anger and resentment - and armed resistance - of our Central and South
Asian hosts. And the evidence that U.S. troops have sanitized accounts of
bloody scenes they've left in their wake underscores that our presence in
Afghanistan is counterproductive".[6]

One might raise more-than-minor quibbles with Vanden Heuvel's word choices
here. "Hosts" is an odd term to describe those the U.S. has imperially
invaded and assaulted: you do not "host" me when I break into your house
and start killing people.  And "counterproductive" seems like something of
an understatement when applied to an invasion that is criminal,
mass-murderous, and deeply provocative. The bigger problem, however, is
what the insightful blogger "IOZ" calls Vanden Heuvel's "curious conceit"
that "the public revelation of information to which the administration has
always been privy will spark a 'discussion [that] will lead President
Obama to understand'". ."IOZ" hypothesizes (correctly in my view) that
Vanden Heuvel's silly "hope" (always a keyword in relation to Obama!)
reflects exaggerated self-importance combined with an overly strong
identification with Obama that is all too common among the president's
power-worshipping fan club: "I suppose it is, at least, a testament to the
over-inflated self-regard of the Vanden Heuvels of the world, to suppose
that if they jabber persistently enough, the emperor will come to know
what he's always known. There actually seems to be broad confusion among
the President's supporters on this fact - so resolutely have they
self-identified with the man that they have half-accepted the crazy notion
that the military and "intelligence community"  kept this information
classified . . . foom him". Vanden Heuvel has it completely backwards:

"The lesson; no, the message; no, um, the takeaway of the leaked documents
is not: if only they knew how badly it's going, how hard it's going to be,
then the administration would bring an end to the conflict. Rather, the
takeaway; no, the message is that even knowing how badly the war goes,
they persist. The lesson is not the Administration's blindness, but its
dogged intransigence, its total commitment to the endeavor, regardless of
the means or outcome, regardless of the possibility of reward, regardless
of the cost, regardless of suffering, regardless of sense and duration.
The United States has an institutional commitment to the occupation of
Afghanistan. It can't be argued out of it".[7]

"When, by the way, was the last time your hosts engaged in armed
resistance? I know that I make it a general rule not to break out the
Stinger missiles at a dinner party nor to strap dynamite to my boyfriend
and send him into the dining room when the guests have stayed past their
espresso. Such would be . . . .counterproductive.]"

Exactly right.

Paul Street (paulstreet99 [at] speak on his new book The
Empire.s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power
the restaurant and bookstore Busboys and Poets - 5th and K 1025 5th St.
NW, WDC 20001 on Monday, August 16th, 2010 6:30 to 8 PM. Street will speak
at the Wooden Shoe Bookstore at 704 South Street in Philadelphia, PA on
Tuesday, August 17th at 7PM and at Bluestockings Bookstore, 172 Allen
Street NYC, NY (in the Lower East Side of Manhattan) on Wednesday, August
18 at 7 PM For future dates in Springfield, New Jersey and Boston and for
information on how to help support.s Paul.s book tour, see


1. Quoted in Ewen MacAskill, .Barack Obama Enlists Afghan War Leaks in
Support of Policy Switch,. The Guardian (UK), July 27, 2010.

2. Quoted in Norman Solomon, .State of Denial: After the Big Leak,
Spinning for War,. Truthout (July 28, 2010) at

3. Solomon, .State of Denial..

4. Marian Wang, .Pentagon Papers Reporter: What the WikiLeaks .War Logs.
Tell Us,. Pro Publica: Journalism in the Public Interest (July 26, 2010)

5. For sources and elaboration, see Paul Street, .Obama.s West Point War
Speech: A Quick Response,. ZNet (December 3, 2009) at;
Street, The Empire.s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power
(Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, August 2010), chapter two.

6. Katrina Vanden Huevel, .Could WikiLeaks Offer a War Out of War?.
Washington Post (July 27, 2010)

7. IOZ, .If Only He Knew,. Who is IOZ? (July 28, 2010) at
Comment On This ZNet Article  See All Comments (3)


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