Tag: Afghanistan

MSF Kunduz: An Apology Is Not Enough

President Barack Obama called the president of MSF, Dr. Joanne Liu offering his apology and condolences for the attack on MSF’s hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan than took the lives of 22 people. He assured her that their would be a transparent investigation. At this point apologies are not enough nor are internal investigations.

We already know that this was not a mistake. The Afghan government has clearly stated that the hospital was targeted because they knew there were Taliban inside. Letting the US investigate itself is tantamount to letting the murderers investigate the crime scene. A independent international  investigation under the Geneva Conventions

Why Is the U.S. Refusing an Independent Investigation If Its Hospital Airstrike Was an “Accident”?

Glenn Greenwald, watch The Intercept

In Geneva this morning, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) demanded a formal, independent investigation into the U.S. airstrike on its hospital in Kunduz. The group’s international president, Dr. Joanne Liu, specified that the inquiry should be convened pursuant to war crime-investigating procedures established by the Geneva Conventions and conducted by The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding [..]

An independent, impartial investigation into what happened here should be something everyone can immediately agree is necessary. But at its daily press briefing on Monday, the U.S. State Department, through its spokesperson Mark Toner, insisted that no such independent investigation was needed on the ground that the U.S. government is already investigating itself and everyone knows how trustworthy and reliable this process is: [..]

So predictably, American journalists have announced without even waiting for any investigation that this was all a terrible accident, nothing intentional about it. Those U.S.-defending journalists should be the angriest about their government’s refusal to allow an independent, impartial investigation since that would be the most effective path for exonerating them and proving their innocent, noble intentions.

Many Americans, and especially a large percentage of the nation’s journalists, need no investigation to know that this was nothing more than a terrible, tragic mistake. They believe that Americans, and especially their military, are so inherently good and noble and well-intentioned that none would ever knowingly damage a hospital. John McCain expressed this common American view and the primary excuse now accompanying it – stuff happens – on NPR this morning [..]

They’re certain of this despite how consistent MSF has been that this was a “war crime.” They’re certain of it despite how many times, and how recently, MSF notified the U.S. military of the exact GPS coordinates of this hospital. They’re certain of it even though bombing continued for 30 minutes after MSF pleaded with them to stop. They’re certain of it despite the substantial evidence that their Afghan allies long viewed this exact hospital with hostility because – true to its name and purpose – the group treated all wounded human beings, including Taliban. They’re certain of it even though Afghan officials have explicitly defended the airstrike against the hospital on the ground that Taliban were inside. They’re certain of it despite how many times the U.S. has radically changed its story about what happened as facts emerged that proved its latest claims false. They’re certain of it despite how many times the U.S. has attacked and destroyed civilian targets under extremely suspicious circumstances.

But they are not apparently so certain that they desire an independent, impartial investigation into what actually happened here. The facially ludicrous announcement by the State Department that the Pentagon will investigate itself produced almost no domestic outrage. A religious-like belief in American exceptionalism and tribal superiority is potent indeed, and easily overrides evidence or facts. It blissfully renders the need for investigations obsolete. In their minds, knowing that it was Americans who did this suffices to know what happened, at least on the level of motive: It could not possibly be the case that there was any intentionality here at all. As McCain said, it’s only the Bad People – not Americans – who do such things deliberately.

The US has been undeniably caught in the act and needs to answer for thia atrocious attack.

MSF Kunduz: US Finally Admits Bombing The Hospital

The story has now changed four times in four days.. This is from the comprehensive reporting by Spenser Ackerman at http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=prezzo-vardenafil-pagamento-online The Guardian:

US special operations forces – not their Afghan allies – called in the deadly airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, the US commander has conceded. [..].

Shifting the US account of the Saturday morning airstrike for the fourth time in as many days, Campbell reiterated that Afghan forces had requested US air cover after being engaged in a “tenacious fight” to retake the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban. But, modifying the account he gave at a press conference on Monday, Campbell said those Afghan forces had not directly communicated with the US pilots of an AC-130 gunship overhead. [..]

Campbell did not explain whether the procedures to launch the airstrike took into account the GPS coordinates of the MSF field hospital, which its president, Joanne Liu, said were “regularly shared” with US, coalition and Afghan military officers and civilian officials, “as recently as Tuesday 29 September”.  [..]

It is also unclear where the US special operations forces were relative to the fighting, but Campbell has said that US units were “not directly engaged in the fighting”.

Campbell instead said the hospital was “mistakenly struck” by US forces.

“We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility,” Campbell told US lawmakers, declaring that he wanted an investigation by his command to “take its course” instead of providing further detail.

But Jason Cone, Doctors Without Borders’ US executive director, said Campbell’s shifting story underscored the need for an independent inquiry.

“Today’s statement from General Campbell is just the latest in a long list of confusing accounts from the US military about what happened in Kunduz on Saturday,” Cone said.

viagra generico miglior prezzo pagamento online a Roma They are now back to talking about a ‘mistake’. A mistake that lasted for more than an hour, despite the fact that the location of the hospital was well known to them and that they were informed during the airstrike that it was a hospital being hit. All this confusion just underlines once again the crucial need for an independent investigation into how a major hospital, full of patients and MSF staff, could be repeatedly bombed.” [..]

Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at the University of Notre Dame, said that according to international humanitarian law, http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=how-to-buy-propecia the critical question for determining if US forces committed a war crime was whether they had notified the hospital ahead of the strike if they understood the Taliban to be firing from the hospital.

http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=farmacia-online-viagra-generico-50-mg-a-Genova Any serious violation of the law of armed conflict, such as attacking a hospital that is immune from intentional attack, is a war crime. Hospitals are immune from attack during an armed conflict unless being used by one party to harm the other and then only after a warning that it will be attacked,” O’Connell said.

vardenafil generico Puglia emphasis mine

Ths is today’s statement from MSF’s International President, Dr Joanne Liu on this blatant breach of international law

For four years, the MSF trauma center in Kunduz was the only facility of its kind in northeastern Afghanistan, offering essential medical and surgical care. On Saturday, October 3, this came to an end when the hospital was deliberately bombed. Twelve MSF staff and 10 patients, including three children, were killed, and 37 people were injured, including 19 members of the MSF team. The attack was unacceptable.

The whole MSF Movement is in shock, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those affected. Nothing can excuse violence against patients, medical workers and health facilities. Under International Humanitarian Law hospitals in conflict zones are protected spaces. Until proven otherwise, the events of last Saturday amount to an inexcusable violation of this law. We are working on the presumption of a war crime.

In the last week, as fighting swept through the city, 400 patients were treated at the hospital. Since its opening in 2011, tens of thousands of wounded civilians and combatants from all sides of the conflict have been triaged and treated by MSF. On the night of the bombing, MSF staff working in the hospital heard what was later confirmed to be a US army plane circle around multiple times, releasing its bombs on the same building within the hospital compound at each pass. The building targeted was the one housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms and physiotherapy ward. Surrounding buildings in the compound were left largely untouched.

Despite MSF alerting both the Afghan and Coalition military leadership, the airstrike continued for at least another 30 minutes. The hospital was well-known and the GPS coordinates had been regularly shared with Coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials, as recently as Tuesday, September 29.

find discount real viagra This attack cannot be brushed aside as a mere mistake or an inevitable consequence of war. Statements from the Afghanistan government have claimed that Taliban forces were using the hospital to fire on Coalition forces. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital, which amounts to an admission of a war crime.

This attack does not just touch MSF, but it affects humanitarian work everywhere, and fundamentally undermines the core principles of humanitarian action. We need answers, not just for us but for all medical and humanitarian staff assisting victims of conflict, anywhere in the world. The preserve of health facilities as neutral, protected spaces depends on the outcome of a transparent, independent investigation.

how to get some viagra emphasis mine

The “mistake” is that the US knowingly committed a war crime by  targeting and bombing a hospital, killing 22 people, wounding 37 and depriving Kunduz of its only hospital.

Of course the US, and the Afghan government don’t want an independent investigation, what criminal would?

You can warch Gen. Campbell’s full testimony before the Senate Aemed Services Committee below the fold.

MSF Kunduz: The Truth Begins to Leak

The official story from the Afghan government and US military about the attack on the Kunduz hospital run by the international medical aid agency, Doctors Without Borders. At a press conference in Washington, DC early today General John Campbell, the American commander of international forces in Afghanistan, changed the original story about US forces requesting the air strike and “may have resulted in collateral damage.” He is now states that US forces were not under fire and that it was the Afghan forces who requested the air strike.

Campbell said that Afghan troops were under direct fire and “called in for fire to support them.” He acknowledged that initial statements from the coalition indicated that U.S. Special Forces were under direct fire, but that was not the case and he is “correcting that statement here.”

He said that U.S. Special Forces were in the area, just not under direct fire.

Campbell declined to answer whether the rules of engagement allow for the Afghans to call in American airstrikes and what kind of fall back or fail-safe system is in place.

Military officials told NBC News over the weekend that Afghans cannot call in airstrikes – that they do not have the training. However, they can report to the U.S. and coalition that they are under fire from a location and the U.S. or coalition partners there can call it in. Officials said the U.S. would not strike without target verification first.

It isn’t clear how the Afghans asked for air support, but Campbell seemed to suggest both of those policies were violated.

As Glenn Greenwald notes, this story is radically changing:

This obfuscation tactic is the standard one the U.S. and Israel both use whenever they blow up civilian structures and slaughter large numbers of innocent people with airstrikes. Citizens of both countries are well-trained – like some tough, war-weary, cigar-chomping general – to reflexively spout the phrase “collateral damage,” which lets them forget about the whole thing and sleep soundly, telling themselves that these sorts of innocent little mistakes are inevitable even among the noblest and most well-intentioned war-fighters, such as their own governments. The phrase itself is beautifully technocratic: it requires no awareness of how many lives get extinguished, let alone acceptance of culpability. Just invoke that phrase and throw enough doubt on what happened in the first 48 hours and the media will quickly lose interest.

But there’s something significantly different about this incident that has caused this “mistake” claim to fail. Usually, the only voices protesting or challenging the claims of the U.S. military are the foreign, non-western victims who live in the cities and villages where the bombs fall. Those are easily ignored, or dismissed as either ignorant or dishonest. Those voices barely find their way into U.S. news stories, and when they do, they are stream-rolled by the official and/or anonymous claims of the U.S. military, which are typically treated by U.S. media outlets as unassailable authority.

In this case, though, the U.S. military bombed the hospital of an organization – Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)) – run by western-based physicians and other medical care professionals. They are not so easily ignored. Doctors who travel to dangerous war zones to treat injured human beings are regarded as noble and trustworthy. They’re difficult to marginalize and demonize. They give compelling, articulate interviews in English to U.S. media outlets. They are heard, and listened to.

MSF has used this platform, unapologetically and aggressively. They are clearly infuriated at the attack on their hospital and the deaths of their colleagues and patients. From the start, they have signaled an unwillingness to be shunted away with the usual “collateral damage” banalities and, more important, have refused to let the U.S. military and its allies get away with spouting obvious falsehoods. They want real answers. As the free cialis jelly Guardian‘s Spencer Ackerman put it last night: “MSF’s been going incredibly hard, challenging every US/Afgh claim made about hospital bombing.”

In particular, MSF quickly publicized numerous facts that cast serious doubt on the original U.S. claim that the strike on the hospital was just an accident. To begin with, the organization had repeatedly advised the U.S. military of the exact GPS coordinates of the hospital. They did so most recently on September 29, just five days before the strike. Beyond that, MSF personnel at the facility “frantically” called U.S. military officials during the strike to advise them that the hospital was being hit and to plead with them to stop, but the strikes continued in a “sustained” manner for 30 more minutes. [..]

All of these facts make it extremely difficult – even for U.S. media outlets – to sell the “accident” story. At least as likely is that the hospital was deliberately targeted, chosen either by Afghan military officials who fed the coordinates to their U.S. military allies and/or by the U.S. military itself.

Even cynical critics of the U.S. have a hard time believing that the U.S. military would deliberately target a hospital with an airstrike (despite how many times the U.S. has destroyed hospitals with airstrikes). But in this case, there is long-standing tension between the Afghan military and this specific MSF hospital, grounded in the fact that the MSF – true to its name – treats all wounded human beings without first determining on which side they fight. That they provide medical treatment to wounded civilians and Taliban fighters alike has made them a target before.

In July – just 3 months ago – Reuters reported that Afghan special forces “raided” this exact MSF hospital in Kunduz, claiming an Al Qaeda member was a patient. [..]

News accounts of this weekend’s U.S. airstrike http://buy-generic-clomid.com on that same hospital hinted cryptically at the hostility from the Afghan military. The first NYT story on the strike – while obscuring who carried out the strike – noted deep into the article that “the hospital treated the wounded from all sides of the conflict, a policy that has long irked Afghan security forces.” Al Jazeera similarly alluded to this tension, noting that “a caretaker at the hospital, who was severely injured in the air strike, told Al Jazeera that clinic’s medical staff did not favour any side of the conflict. ‘We are here to help and treat civilians,’ Abdul Manar said.”

As a result of all of this, there is now a radical shift in the story being told about this strike. No longer is it being depicted as some terrible accident of a wayward bomb. Instead, the predominant narrative from U.S. sources and their Afghan allies is that this attack was justified because the Taliban were using it as a “base.” [..]

The New York Times today – in a story ostensibly about the impact on area residents from the hospital’s destruction – printed paragraphs from anonymous officials justifying this strike: “there was heavy gunfire in the area around the hospital at the time of the airstrike, and that initial reports indicated that the Americans and Afghans on the ground near the hospital could not safely pull back without being dangerously exposed. American forces on the ground then called for air support, senior officials said.” It also claimed that “many residents of Kunduz, as well as people in Kabul, seemed willing to believe the accusations of some Afghan officials that there were Taliban fighters in the hospital shooting at American troops.” And this:

   Still, some Afghan officials continued to suggest that the attack was justified. “I know that there were civilian casualties in the hospital, but a lot of senior Taliban were also killed,” said Abdul Wadud Paiman, a member of Parliament from Kunduz.

So now we’re into full-on justification mode: yes, we did it; yes, we did it on purpose; and we’re not sorry because we were right to do so since we think some Taliban fighters were at the hospital, perhaps even shooting at us. In response to the emergence of this justification claim, MSF expressed the exact level of revulsion appropriate (emphasis added):

   “MSF is disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities justifying the attack on its hospital in Kunduz. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present.

   “This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimize the attack as ‘collateral damage.’

   “There can be no justification for this abhorrent attack on our hospital that resulted in the deaths of MSF staff as they worked and patients as they lay in their beds. MSF reiterates its demand for a full transparent and independent international investigation.”

Christopher Stokes, the Director General of MSF, issued this statement in response to these latest developments:

October 05, 2015

“Today the US government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff. Their description of the attack keeps changing-from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government. The reality is the US dropped those bombs. The US hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The US military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition. There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the US and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical.”

Dr. Gino Strada, co-founder of Emergency, an Italian NGO that provides free medical care to victims of war, spoke to Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman.



Transcript can be read here.

As Glenn said, “the U.S. seems to have picked the wrong group this time to attack from the air.”

No apology is acceptable. Only punishing the individuals responsible for this war crime is.

War On-With Parades

So we’ve recently passed another milestone in our perpetual War. Sunday December 28th 2014 marked the end of our combat mission in Afghanistan.

And we recently passed another set of new year’s parades Rose Bowl and Mummers etc. I’d ask the question “Who doesn’t love a parade?” but I get that there are plenty of people who have an aversion to parades in the same way some people are freaked out by clowns.

Anyhow, I thought it was as good a time as any to reflect on the time line of the country’s aversion to a ticker tape parade celebrating the end of longest running “combat operations” in our history.

Obviously, a ticker tape victory parade makes some people feel a little awkward. And it should. It highlights the fact that combat is NOT over. Military action should never have be used as a substitute for law enforcement action. Not to mention all the rest of the hypocrisy: the false pretenses, the unprosecuted torture war crimes, the illegal spying on and execution of American citizens. There’s plenty for the country to be outraged about. At the very least embarrassed.

A parade forces people to recon with what exactly we went to war for. Can you really declare victory against a tactic? What’s the difference between a War On something and a War With something? And when will we have that victory parade for the war on with drugs?
 

more War on with-

Visas for Translators: Even Kafka Wouldn’t Put His Name on This

HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver tackled an issue that has gotten little attention from the mainstream media, helping to save the Iraqis and Afghans that helped the United States in the wars it started in their countries. The audience may have laughed but much of this is heartbreaking and anger inducing, anger at the United States for being so inhumane and heartless.

Translators

Translators who have aided the U.S. Military in Afghanistan and Iraq are in great danger in their home countries, but red tape is making it impossible for many of them to leave. John Oliver interviews Mohammad, one translator who made it out.

For more info on efforts to assist U.S.-affiliated refugees in Iraq and Afghanistan see http://thelistproject.org/, and http://refugeerights.org/.

“To Be a Friend is Fatal: the Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind,”

viagra generico 200 mg pagamento online a Parma For the American public, the war in Iraq is over, receding quickly from our memory.

But for tens of thousands of Iraqis who have risked their lives in the service of America, it continues at a perilous clip.  They continue to receive death threats from militants who view them as traitors.  Some have been assassinated since our withdrawal.

Sadly, the current policy of the United States towards these is simple: submit your application and wait.  If you can survive for two years (the current amount of time an Iraqi must wait for their first interview to be scheduled), we might consider resettling you.

Even worse, the Afghans who stood beside us for the past decade are now coming up against the unmoving bureaucracy of the U.S. Government, which is only processing a small number of cases each month.

The List Project has helped nearly 2,00 U.S.-affiliated Iraqis make it to safety over the years, but our work continues. We continue to rely on small donors for operational support: please consider a small donation if you’re able.

On September 3, 2013, Scribner published “To Be a Friend is Fatal: the Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind,” Kirk W. Johnson’s memoir about the List Project’s seven-year long struggle to protect thousands of Iraqis on the list.  The book centers around the lives of four Iraqis who stepped forward to help the United States, following them as they flee from Iraq and come up against the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

An execuive order could ease the process. We need to take care of the people who put their lives at risk to help the US, that includes their families.

Afghanistan: The Forever War, Forever Forgotten

New Afghanistan pact means America’s longest war will last until at least 2024

Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

watch Bilateral security deal ensures that President Obama will pass off the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor  

The longest war in American history will last at least another decade, according to the terms of a garrisoning deal for US forces signed by the new Afghanistan government on Tuesday.

Long awaited and much desired by an anxious US military, the deal guarantees that US and Nato troops will not have to withdraw by year’s end, and permits their stay “until the end of 2024 and beyond.”

The entry into force of the deal ensures that Barack Obama, elected president in 2008 on a wave of anti-war sentiment, will pass off both the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor. In 2010, his vice-president, Joe Biden, publicly vowed the US would be “totally out” of Afghanistan “come hell or high water, by 2014.”

Obama called Tuesday “a historic day” for the US and Afghanistan, as the security pact, which puts US troops beyond the reach of Afghan law, “will help advance our shared interests and the long-term security of Afghanistan.”

Too Many Patients, Too Few Doctors

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The recent scandal about the possibility of patient deaths, long waiting lists for appointments and falsified data in the Veterans Administration run hospitals across the country has it roots in a very obvious fact: too many patients and too few doctors.

At the heart of the falsified data in Phoenix, and possibly many other veterans hospitals, is an acute shortage of doctors, particularly primary care ones, to handle a patient population swelled both by aging veterans from the Vietnam War and younger ones who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congressional officials, veterans affairs doctors and medical industry experts say. The department says it is trying to fill 400 vacancies to add to its roster of primary care doctors, which last year numbered 5,100. [..]

But the inspector general’s report also pointed to another factor that may explain why hospital officials in Phoenix and elsewhere might have falsified wait-time data: pressures to excel in the annual performance reviews used to determine raises, bonuses, promotions and other benefits. Instituted widely 20 years ago to increase accountability for weak employees as well as to provide rewards for strong ones, those reviews and their attendant benefits may have become perverse incentives for manipulating wait-time data, some lawmakers and experts say. [..]

The precise role incentives and performance reviews might have played in falsifying waiting-list data remains unclear. In Phoenix, the inspector general’s office said, investigators plan to interview scheduling supervisors and administrators to “identify management’s involvement in manipulating wait times.”

But documents suggest that using the data in annual performance reviews may be commonplace. One review for a Pennsylvania veterans medical center director showed that a significant portion of the director’s job rating was tied to “timely and appropriate access,” which would include waiting times for doctor appointments. One of those goals would be met only if nearly all patients were seen within 14 days of their desired appointment date – a requirement not found in the private hospital industry.

While greed may well be part of the problem, it all stems directly back to the influx of new patients and the lack of primary care physicians to manage their cases. According to the article, primary-care appointments have increased 50 percent over the last three years while the department’s staff of primary care doctors has increased by only 9 percent. There are only so many hours in the day.

The other issue for doctors in the VA system is the pay disparity with the private sector.

V.A. primary care doctors and internists generally earn from about $98,000 to $195,000, compared with private sector primary care physicians whose total median compensation was $221,000 in 2012, according to the Medical Group Management Association, a trade group.

Privatization is not the solution. The private sector is no better equipped to handle to large influx of patients, especially patients with special needs that stem from the wars. It is also wildly unpopular with veterans and veterans groups. The Republicans in congress have other ideas because they perceive the VA as socialized medicine which they hate.

The Republican Party Has a VA Problem, Too: Privatization Isn’t Popular

By Brian Beutler, The New Republic

In light of the GOP’s decision to fold the Veterans Affairs scandal into a broader ideological crusade, I noted on Wednesday that in seeking redress, liberals shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the GOP’s answer to every administrative blunder is to dissolve whatever program or agency screwed up. The unspoken corollary is that, by using the VA scandal as a narrative building tool, they’ll face pressure to put up a “small government” alternative to the VA that would be a better deal for actual veterans. And that carries risk, because the Republican alternative is unpopular. And yet

 

The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is calling on the Obama administration to permit veterans waiting for care at VA hospitals to seek treatment outside that system, if they want.

   Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, called on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order that would allow those veterans to act on their own and charge the government for outside care.

As Brian pointed out, when Mitt Romney suggested that veterans be given vouchers, he was vehemently criticized by veterans. Romney, being the political coward, did an immediate reversal, proposing instead spending more money as demand increased. How liberal of him.

MSMNB’s Rachel Maddow did an extensive report on the VA crisis, highlighting the problems within the military medical care system and the new details outlined in the V.A. inspector general’s interim report. She also had interviews with Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association and Senator Bernie Sanders, Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.


I don’t believe that firing Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Eric Shinseki is the solution. The solution is hire more doctors and that would require making the position more competitive with the private sector.  

The Breakfast Club :: Catch-22 Edition

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.  

(Truth be told, friends, we’re really not that disorganized; the fact that we’ve managed to put this series together and stick with it disabuses the notion that we’re disorganized, right?  Also, I wish I had a censored night once in awhile, but alas, this is something my producers made me say.)

 photo breakfastbeers.png

This Day in History

This bit was posted at Voices on the Square, The Stars Holllow Gazette, Docudharma, and Daily Kos.

The Torturer of Beverly Hills

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The legacy of torture that the United States has left in Iraq and Afghanistan is appalling. Not only has the US failed to investigate or prosecute any of its own torturers, it is now giving safe haven to Afghanistan’s torturer in chief.

In Afghanistan, his presence was enough to cause prisoners to tremble. Hundreds in his organization’s custody were beaten, shocked with electrical currents or subjected to other abuses documented in human rights reports. Some allegedly disappeared.

And then Haji Gulalai disappeared as well.

Today, Gulalai lives in a pink two-story house in Southern California, on a street of stucco homes on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

How he managed to land in the United States remains murky. Afghan officials and former Gulalai colleagues said that his U.S. connections – and mounting concern about his safety – account for his extraordinary accommodation.

But CIA officials said the agency played no role in bringing Gulalai into the country. Officials at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security would not comment on his relocation or immigration status, citing privacy restrictions. Gulalai and members of his family declined repeated inquiries from The Washington Post. [..]

Applicants are screened against databases for criminal convictions or terrorist ties. But experts said those records are unlikely to reveal allegations of human rights abuses, particularly when the alleged abuser was operating under government authority and was not arrested or publicly accused. Prospects of detection may have been further complicated by the fact that Gulalai used only his (Kamal) Achakzai name once in the United States.

There is at least one indication, however, that U.S. authorities were able to connect the asylum seeker to his NDS résumé.

At a hearing before an immigration judge in Los Angeles several years ago, Gulalai defended his asylum claim by presenting photos of the Kabul bombing and other evidence of the danger he faced in Afghanistan, said (Bashir) Wasifi, who accompanied his friend to help interpret.

A U.S. attorney challenging the claim asked repeatedly whether the man now calling himself Achakzai was ever known by another name. After getting only looks of bewilderment, Wasifi said, the attorney changed his question: “Then who is Gulalai?”

Gulalai chuckled and replied that it was just a nickname bestowed by his family, and apologized for the slip, Wasifi said. He emerged from the hearing with his immigration status intact. [..]

Wasifi said Gulalai secured permanent resident status in the United States last year and is moving toward citizenship. The allegations against him, Wasifi said, should not stand in his way.

“I blame the U.S. for this,” Wasifi said. “If he was doing wrong to society, it is a shame for you. You appointed him to this position. NDS (National Directorate of Security) did not exist before. You created it. If you occupy a country, you are responsible.”

He was just doing what the US paid him to do, being a good soldier.

As Marcy Wheeler says, torture for the US and retire with impunity just don’t try to expose the war crimes:

Torturing on behalf of the United States appears to be a career move that results in a comfortable lifestyle after moving on from government service. Jose Rodriguez, who both ordered up torture and then personally destroyed video evidence of it, now profits from those events through book sales. James Mitchell, who was integral to the design of the torture program, now lives quietly in Land O’Lakes, Florida and until very recently didn’t even have to bother talking with reporters, let alone crime investigators. Of course, if you choose to expose US torture, it’s prison for you, as John Kiriakou has demonstrated.

But the disgusting free status of Rogdriguez and Mitchell pales in comparison to the level of depravity in the known history of personal involvement in torture for Haji Gulalai and how it was revealed yesterday that Gulalai is now living a quiet, comfortable life just outside Los Angeles. [Just as a bit of life advice, never piss off Julie Tate, as her work in finding Gulalai is perhaps the best bit of investigative journalism in the US in decades.] [..]

Standing out especially among the disgusting aspects of Gulalai’s case is the mystery surrounding how he was able to enter the US and then be granted asylum. Rank and file interpreters who worked for the US military in Afghanistan (and Iraq) face incredible difficulty getting into the US, even when they can present evidence that they face extreme danger staying behind: [..]

But here is an even bigger outrage in the process surrounding Gulalai, again from the excellent report from Greg Miller, Julie Tate and Joshua Partlow:

   Gulalai has made several return trips to Afghanistan in recent months to sell property there, family members and associates said. If true, the visits could undermine the argument that Afghanistan had become too dangerous for him, potentially complicating his asylum claim.

And what Charles Pierce said:

(O)f course, if there is any attempt to haul this sociopath off to The Hague, there will be several earnest columns written about how unfair it is because of what “we” asked him to do, and about abandoning allies, and so on. We are all complicit accessories before and after the fact. C-Plus Augustus made us that way.

And thank you, Barack Obama.

White Elephants & Bipartisan Determination for War

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Afghan IG reopens probe into huge Leatherneck command center

By J. Taylor Rushing, Stars and Stripes

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko notified Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of the news in a Nov. 27 letter that was released by Sopko’s office Thursday. In the letter, Sopko complains that he never received an answer to questions he sent in July to Hagel, U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Commander Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., about the mammoth building, dismissed by many as a “white elephant,” never to be used. [..]

Sopko specifically complains about an investigation into the building by Maj. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of support for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan that was finished last month. Sopko said he delayed his own investigation to wait on Richardson’s report. A partial draft of the report was sent to Sopko, but he said it was sloppy, incomplete and actually suggests that taxpayer-funded construction should continue. [..]

Controversy over the building is not new – members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have been publicly critical of the construction, most recently after an initial Army investigation into the building in May determined that the building was unwanted and unnecessary, and could be converted into a gymnasium and movie theatre.

10 Democratic Committee Chairs Warn Menendez’s Iran Sanction Bill Could Blow Up Negotiations

By Ryan Grim, Huffington Post

In a remarkable rebuke to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), 10 other Senate committee chairs are circulating a joint letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, urging him to reject an effort by Menendez to tighten sanctions on Iran and warning that his bill could disrupt ongoing nuclear negotiations.

The senators write in their letter that “at this time, as negotiations are ongoing, we believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail.”

Earlier Thursday, a senior White House official had accused Menendez of undermining the negotiations. [..]

Yet Menendez is not alone in his call for tougher sanctions. The proposed Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, introduced in the Senate on Thursday by Menendez and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), is co-sponsored by 12 other Democrats — including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) — and 12 other Republicans.

Senate passes $607B Defense bill

By Jeremy Herb and Ramsey Cox, The Hill

The Senate on Thursday evening passed the $607 billion Defense authorization bill that will reform the way the military handles sexual assault cases and loosen the restriction on transferring Guantánamo Bay detainees to foreign countries.

The Senate sent the bill to the president’s desk for the 52nd straight year in a 84-15 vote, after some legislative maneuvering was needed to extend the streak and quickly get a compromise bill through both chambers this month.

Nearly three-quarters of Republicans joined most Democrats in voting for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes $527 billion in base defense spending and $80 billion for the war in Afghanistan.[..]

The final bill included many new reforms to how the military prosecutes sexual assault and treats victims. The bill strips commanders’ ability to overturn guilty verdicts, changes the military’s pre-trial rules for interviewing victims, expands a special victims counsel for sexual assault survivors and makes retaliating against victims a crime.

The bill does not, however, include a controversial proposal from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to take sexual assault cases from the chain of command. Before Thanksgiving, Republicans blocked Reid’s attempt to hold votes on Gillibrand’s amendment and a competing measure from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

The stupid just burns.

The Cost of War for Soldiers

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In a three part interview that appropriately began on Veterans’ Day, journalist, author and photographer discussed her latest book They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars-The Untold Story with Jaisal Noor, the Real News Network producer.



Transcript can be read here



Transcript can be read here



Transcript can be read here

They Didn’t Know What They Were Getting Into: The Cost of War American-Style

by Ann Jones, TomDispatch

   The last time I saw American soldiers in Afghanistan, they were silent. Knocked out by gunfire and explosions that left them grievously injured, as well as drugs administered by medics in the field, they were carried from medevac helicopters into a base hospital to be plugged into machines that would measure how much life they had left to save. They were bloody.  They were missing pieces of themselves. They were quiet.

   It’s that silence I remember from the time I spent in trauma hospitals among the wounded and the dying and the dead. It was almost as if they had fled their own bodies, abandoning that bloodied flesh upon the gurneys to surgeons ready to have a go at salvation. Later, sometimes much later, they might return to inhabit whatever the doctors had managed to salvage.  They might take up those bodies or what was left of them and make them walk again, or run, or even ski.  They might dress themselves, get a job, or conceive a child. But what I remember is the first days when they were swept up and dropped into the hospital so deathly still.

   They were so unlike themselves. Or rather, unlike the American soldiers I had first seen in that country. Then, fired up by 9/11, they moved with the aggressive confidence of men high on their macho training and their own advance publicity.

Dr Sarmast’s Music School

In 2001, when the Taliban was toppled from power, Afghanistan’s musical culture was left in ruins. Music gradually came back onto the streets and into people’s lives, but by 2009 there was still no orchestra capable of playing the Afghan national anthem.

In that year, renowned musicologist Dr Ahmad Sarmast returned from exile in Australia, and the Ministry of Education charged him with establishing the first National Institute of Music (ANIM). Based in what had been Kabul’s School of Fine Arts, ANIM got off to a slow start: the building was a ruin and there were virtually no instruments.

Dr Sarmast’s Music School follows ANIM’s progress over two years as, gradually, the school is repaired and made habitable. Fine instruments – many donated by foreign sponsors – flood in, and the school’s 150 pupils gradually learn to play to professional standards.

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