Thursday, December 31, 2009

For New Year's 2010: Resolve, Resolve, Resolve


Washington's Wars

And Occupations

By Max Elbaum

War Times

It's not a very happy new year for the antiwar movement. The headline on Tom Engelhardt's latest Nation column says it all: "Why War Will Take No Holidays in 2010." The full piece - go to - presents the reasons why we are unlikely to see much progress toward peace in the next twelve months.

Yet between the lines there is another point: the work we do this year lays the crucial groundwork for breakthroughs in 2011 and beyond. That idea can and should spur heightened resolve to work hard, work smart, and come out of the upcoming difficult year in better shape than we are today. 


This perspective applies first to the Afghanistan war, where President Obama's escalation is now underway. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll indicates that this so-called "surge" is supported by 58% of the U.S. public. But for a large portion of that 58% such support is extremely thin, dependent on the hope that escalation will "show good results."

But it won't. Figures as highly placed as Thomas Johnson, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School and Thomas Mason, a retired Foreign Service officer previously assigned to a high post in Afghanistan, cut to the chase. "There isn't the slightest possibility that the course laid out by Barack Obama in his December 1 speech will halt or even slow the downward spiral toward defeat in Afghanistan," they write in Foreign Policy magazine.

For the full article, go to:

In other words, Afghans will keep dying, U.S. troops will keep dying, huge amounts of money will continue to be spent, reports of Afghan government corruption will continue to surface, and the to-be-expected reports of "progress" from one general after another will ring more hollow with each passing month. In this context, an antiwar movement that consistently gets its message out there that this war is hopeless, wrong, costly, and heightens rather than reduces the threat of terrorism can make a difference. Step-by-step public opinion can be turned. And if creative ways are found to show how this resource-devouring war prevents addressing the economic hardships that are the front-burner issue for the country's majority (and the environmental crisis that is spurring so many youth to action), changed public sentiment can become a powerful political force. 

(The same message needs to be sent regarding Iraq.. The end of 2011 is officially the deadline for the U.S. to totally withdraw, but that is far from a done deal. Witness the New York Times report on recent remarks by Robert Gates: "The defense secretary… expects that some U.S. forces might remain in an advisory capacity in Iraq after 2011. 'I wouldn't be surprised to see agreements between ourselves and the Iraqis that continue a train-equip-and-advise role beyond the end of 2011,' Mr. Gates said.")



It is likely even more uphill to change U.S. policy in ways that would open the door to a just settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict. On the ground Israel is ramping up land seizures and repression: its military shot and killed six Palestinians Dec. 27 and the next day its government announced the construction of nearly 700 new Jewish-only housing units in occupied East Jerusalem. And on the anniversary of its Gaza War - in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed - Israeli officials made no bones about what lies ahead. The New York Times reported Dec. 25 that "officials and experts familiar with the country’s military doctrine say that… Israel will likely find itself fighting another, similar kind of war. Only next time, some here suggest, Israel will apply more force. 'The next round will be different, but not in the way people think,' said Giora Eiland, a retired major general and former chief of Israel’s National Security Council. 'The only way to be successful is to take much harsher action.'

Washington nominally opposes expansion of Israeli settlements and discourages such militaristic threats. But there is no muscle behind periodic statements of disapproval. The cracks that have opened up recently in the 40-year-long "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel so far are strictly at the level of words.

Turning those cracks into a material shift in policy requires building up sufficient grassroots political muscle to take on both longstanding Washington patterns and the Israel Lobby. This is tough to do in a country where pro-Israel messages pervade the media and other institutions which shape popular opinion. The latest Pew poll shows that, when asked who they sympathize with in the Israel-Palestine conflict, 51% of the public says Israel, 12% the Palestinians, and 4% both equally.

Daunting as that political balance is, there are countervailing trends that give advocates of human rights and Palestinian self-determination levers to work with. The level of Israeli brutality in its recent wars has given rise to international condemnation, in particular the Goldstone report detailing Israel's war crimes in last year's Gaza war. Among growing if (in the U.S.) still limited sectors the myth of Israel as a peace-loving democracy is being stripped away. Divisions within the Zionist camp that up until recently were almost solely intellectual have begun to translate into operative politics via such initiatives as J-Street, self-described as the "political arm of the pro-Israel pro-peace movement." The global campaign answering the call of Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is gaining momentum providing peace and solidarity activists with a tool for broad outreach, education and action.

Finally, the felt need among at least a large portion of the foreign policy establishment to recoup U.S. influence in the Middle East after the disasters of the Bush years is leading to some interesting things. Truths long obvious to most of the world have finally begun to sink in to at least a few high-level figures: specifically, the fact that blank-check U.S. backing for Israel is right at the pivot of the anger toward Washington that pervades the Arab and Muslim worlds. It is perhaps not accidental that in the Pew poll noted above members of the Council on Foreign Relations were markedly less pro-Israel than the U.S. population as whole. Only 26% of CFR members said they were more sympathetic to Israel (compared to 51%) and - though just 16% sided with the Palestinians (compared to the public's 12%) - the large figure of 41% said they sympathized with "both sides equally" (compared to only 4% of the general public).

Nothing in the fight for Palestinian rights ever comes easy. But even small steps forward here in the country that is Israel's main international backer reverberate in Palestine and across the globe.


Blood is flowing in Honduras. And much of it is on Washington's hands. U.S. recognition of the illegal Nov. 29 "elections" served as the green light for the coup-makers who ousted President Manuel Zelaya in August to crack down hard on the popular movements demanding restoration of Honduran democracy.  Five anti-coup organizers were gunned down death-squad style December 7. The decapitated body of a member of the Resistance Front against the Coup was discovered December 11 six days after he had been detained by five people wearing uniforms of Honduras' National Criminal Investigation Division. Two members of the Unified Peasant Movement were kidnapped December 14 and official arrest warrants were then issued for many more. There have been a number of gruesome killings of Honduran LGBT activists and members of the LGBT community. Human rights groups warn that this kind of repression is intensifying as the coup-makers attempt to solidify their grip on power. Honduras' popular movement, which mobilized courageously and expanded its base between the July coup and the November "election" farce, is readjusting to new conditions, preparing to operate in what are likely to be all but martial law conditions.

The coup, the repression and the U.S. have regional significance. Washington's support for an illegal seizure of power and look-the-other-way stance toward repressive acts that elsewhere (in Iran, say) would bring howls of official outrage were messages to an entire continent. Latin America has been moving leftward: across the region left of center forces have been gaining ground, winning governmental power, moving in ways that go around Washington toward regional cooperation and expanded economic relationships with other countries in the global South. The combination of the vigor of Latin American grassroots movements and the U.S, being preoccupied with war and defeat in the Middle East has driven this leftward motion a lot farther than most of the U.S. elite are willing to tolerate. So the signal is sent in Honduran blood: this far and no further. It's an attempt to intimidate the popular movements and the left who have been on the rise, embolden the right-wing oligarchs and their military allies who have been on the defensive.

But too much has changed for Washington to get its way without a much bigger fight. Most Latin American governments have stayed firm and refused to recognize the Honduran coup regime. Popular movements - first and foremost in Honduras itself - are stepping up rather than stepping back, if anything pushed toward greater determination and radicalism by Washington's reversion to old-style Yankee imperial behavior. A sector of the elite in Washington is anxious about joining the battle on defense-of-coup terms, not at all certain that an overextended U.S. behemoth can prevail with that kind of approach in the region of the world where progressive popular movements have the greatest strength. So here too the battle within the U.S., the fight for public opinion and the fight over policy, is a key terrain for peace and solidarity activists.

To follow events in Honduras and get up-to-date bulletins and action alerts, go to An excellent eyewitness report on what really took place during the coup-organized election in November - and its implications - is by Lisa Sullivan. You can find it at:


Last month's column noted that the antiwar movement is in a period of building/rebuilding capacity for the long haul tasks ahead. It stressed that accomplishing this required "nurturing, expanding and eventually galvanizing-into-action the currently passive but widespread antiwar sentiment in communities most impacted by war and militarism." Month in Review will close out 2009 by flagging a few noteworthy efforts underway that contribute to that task which might have slipped under your radar screen.

Project YANO, the San Diego-based Project on Youth and Non-Military Alternatives, sends veterans to youth groups and local schools to speak about the realities of military life and war. With a focus on youth in low-income communities and communities of color and a comprehensive anti-militarist approach, Project YANO combines making an immediate difference in people's lives with building an antiwar, anti-militarist base for the long haul. You can find out more about Project YANO at and read an interview with key Project members Rick Jahnkow and Jorge Mariscal at:

Since its founding in November 2002, Military Families Speak Out has played a crucial role in bringing antiwar perspectives to a sector of society directly impacted by the horrors of war but not easily reached by many other peace organizations. MFSO has also been a stalwart in amplifying the voices of military families in the larger antiwar movement and making that movement more effective (and aware) in the process. Today MFSO faces extreme financial strain due to the combination of recession and the new challenge facing co-founders Charley Richardson and Nancy Lessin. Charley is battling an advanced, aggressive cancer and he and Nancy have had to pull back from MFSO activity to take on this difficult personal struggle. War Times joins friends across the country in paying tribute to Charley and urging readers to make what donation you can to the Charley Richardson Legacy Fund established to put MFSO on a firm foundation. You can find full information and donate at

Finally, an innovative new project, Dialogues Against Militarism, has been launched to build links between - and share the stores of - military resisters from the U.S., individuals who have refused to serve in the Israeli military, and Palestinians struggling for peace and self-determination. DAM's first delegation to Israel/Palestine, consisting of U.S. military veterans, conscientious objectors and war resisters as well as other social justice activists has just returned and begun to share their stories and experiences. You can read some of these and find out more about DAM's work at

You can sign-on to War Times/Tiempo de Guerras e-mail Announcement List (2-4 messages per month, including our 'Month in Review' column), at War Times/Tiempo de Guerras is a fiscally sponsored project of the Center for Third World Organizing. Donations are tax-deductible; you can donate on-line at or send a check to War Times/Tiempo de Guerras, c/o P.O. Box 22748, Oakland CA 94609.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

War as Politics by Violent Means

No Chance Obama's War

in Afghanistan Will Succeed


By Sherwood Ross
L.A. Progressive

Dec. 26, 2009 - "There isn't the slightest possibility that the course laid out by Barack Obama in his December 1 speech (at West Point) will halt or even slow the downward spiral toward defeat in Afghanistan," writes Thomas Johnson in the current Foreign Policy magazine. And for emphasis, he adds the word "None."

"The U.S. president and his advisors labored for three months and brought forth old wine in bigger bottles,"
Johnson goes on to write, noting, "The speech contained not one single new idea or approach, nor offered any hint of new thinking about a conflict that everyone now agrees the United States is losing."

Author Johnson is no armchair admiral. He is a professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, a man who has conducted his own on-site investigation in Afghanistan.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Carbon Bill - Doomed Without Bribes for the Banks?

Cap & Dividend:

A Clear Winner


By Sarah van Gelder 

Dec 11, 2009 - A new bi-partisan climate bill offers a much smarter way to cut emissions—auction off pollution permits and distribute the proceeds to everyone.

December 11, 2009. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced a bill today that is a much better approach to reducing climate change than the cap and trade bill circulating in the Senate. Her bill, which she co-sponsored with Senator  Susan Collins (R-ME), uses cap and dividend to reduce climate emissions and avoids the pitfalls and boom-and-bust cycles inherent in carbon trading. (Peter Barnes proposed this idea in YES! Magazine in 2001).

Why is this a better idea?

First, polluters would pay for the right to pollute; they would buy carbon emissions permits at an auction, instead of getting the majority of them for free. This sends the right market signal—emit carbon, and you'll have to pay.

Carbon permits would be required at the point where fossil fuel energy enters the economy. The number of greenhouse gas emissions allowances is reduced regularly by amounts that businesses can plan for. There are no offsets—these would be real reductions in climate changing emissions.

Second, American families strained by the poor economy would benefit. Each person would get an equal share of the proceeds from the auction. It works like the oil trust funds in Alaska, where each resident gets about $1,300 per year for their share of the state's oil royalties. As long as our economy remains dependent on fossil fuels, prices for energy and energy-intensive products will rise. But the rebate will offset those price increases—Cantwell says it will mean most families are in about the same place financially. Those who buy carbon-free energy, drive energy efficient cars, or buy products produced locally with little fossil fuels will come out ahead, though, while those who drive gas guzzlers will pay more through the higher price of fuel. So it sends the right signal to consumers, too.

Politically, it should go over much better than cap and trade. Who wouldn't like to get a check in the mail each month that represents your share of the carbon auction revenues? Three quarters of the revenues would be distributed equally to all Americans. The other quarter will go to clean energy research and development, for projects that reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, and for aid to communities and workers who need special help making the transition to a clean energy economy.

And here's the frosting on the cake. Instead of cap and trade, which would set up a massive Wall Street system of buying and selling carbon, this auction is for energy producers and importers, only—not brokers and speculators.

What's not to like? This is a far better proposal than the cap and trade proposals that has Wall Street salivating. One caveat, though. Carbon reductions proposed in the bill are probably not enough to avert dangerous climate change. But if there is flexibility to step up the reductions as the science get firmer and the public backing grows, this approach could be just right.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Antiwar To-Do List: Getting Organized, Preparing to Mobilize

Photo: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Antiwar Voice in Congress

What will Congressional

Democrats do now?

By Tom Hayden

Dec. 8, 2009 - Congressional Democrats held a closed caucus Dec. 8 to consider their stance on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and what to do about the president's 30,000 more troops, whose deployment will begin without a Congressional decision or funding. 

The majority Democrats are uncomfortable in being caught between their constituents' peace sentiments and the president's deployment of 100,000 American troops.
It's going to get more uncomfortable.

Progressives should be vociferous in opposing the slithering [as opposed to dithering] by which the official deadline for beginning withdrawal keeps being shoved back by several years, if ever, solely under political pressure.
This stretching out of Obama's withdrawal timetable eliminates the primary feature of the President's plan that is attractive to most voters, especially Democrats.

Progressives also must force discussion of the secret CIA war being authorized in Pakistan, where the center of gravity is shifting. See Jane Mayer's "The Predator War" in The New Yorker.

The CIA's secret offensive in Pakistan is likely to produce blowback on a historic scale. It's no secret to the people of Pakistan, who oppose it in recent polls by 67-19 percent. It's proven an embarrassment to American diplomacy since even Hillary Clinton is barred from acknowledging it's going on. The reason for all the secrecy is not to protect American troops, but rather to avoid embarrassing Pakistan's army and government from admitting the violation of their sovereignty - and, perhaps above all, to prevent anti-war sentiment from increasing here at home.

Progressives should nail the costs of Afghanistan should on every Congressional door, if foreheads are impossible. At the present rate of killing, American deaths under Obama will be another 1,100 by the end of 2011, bringing the overall total to nearly 2,000. At the present budgetary cost, the war started by Bush will become a trillion-dollar war under Obama.
Never doubt the ability of the government and media to hide these figures from the distracted public. Apparently the dollar costs were not realized by the president himself until October 25, when his budget office sent a memo at his request. According to the New York Times, our president "seemed in sticker shock [at the news], watching his domestic agenda vanishing in front of him. 'This is a 10-year trillion-dollar effort and does not match up with our interests'", the president said, before setting the wheels in motion anyway.

Every peace advocate should post the costs of this war from their desktop to the highest billboard. Just go to the National Priorities website.

As for the Congress, every peace advocate should say loudly and clearly that two-thirds of their Democratic and independent constituents are unhappy with these wars, and that unhappiness will become a growing danger to many incumbents in 2010 and 2012. Reject the idea of a war surtax except as a rhetorical gesture. Push for Rep. Barbara Lee's bill which will prohibit funding for the additional troops. It won't pass, but is the vehicle for serious hearings and amendments - like forcing a vote on a tougher withdrawal plan. And push for Rep. Jim McGovern's exit strategy resolution. How can anyone oppose the Pentagon reporting to Congress on an exit strategy, which is all the measure does. Just watch - the hawks will go wild at the thought of plan to exit from a stalemate rather than shedding American blood until the last Taliban surrenders.

Meanwhile, keep studying this Long War because it may be around for a while. A very intelligent analysis of what Obama is trying to do - a gradual strategic repeat from an unsustainable future - comes from a pro-war advocate, Peter Beinart, in the current Time.

Step by step, in the formula of Richard Flacks, is the way of social movements that succeed.
And by the way, order, view, and distribute the Rethink Afghanistan package from Brave New Films as a holiday gesture to your friends.

Tom Hayden
The Peace and Justice Resource Center 

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