Politics

President Trump hasn’t decided whether to sign off on his generals’ request for more troops for Afghanistan. Ironically, this would be one instance in which Trump — and the country — would benefit from repudiating President Barack Obama’s example. Instead of yet another troop surge in America’s longest war, now heading toward its 16thbirthday, Trump should adopt the advice that then-Sen. George Aiken (R-Vt.) offered about Vietnam in 1966: “Declare victory and get out.”

General John W. Nicholson testified that he wants an additional 5,000 soldiers to break the “stalemate” in Afghanistan. In the first months of his presidency, Obama signed off on a surge that ended with 100,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. His generals also promised to break the stalemate. Today, the Taliban controls more of the country than it has since 2001. A surge of 5,000 or even 10,000 troops won’t defeat the Taliban. It is simply a recipe for more war without end and without victory.

Why are we still there? We went into Afghanistan after 9/11 to get Osama bin Laden and to punish the Taliban for harboring al-Qaeda. Now bin Laden is dead; al-Qaeda is dispersed; the Taliban has been battered. Afghan civilians have been killed, wounded or displaced in increasing numbers. The United Nations reports that there were more than 11,000 war-related civilian casualties last year, and 660,000 Afghans were displaced, adding to the country’s massive refugee crisis.

The war has now cost us over $1 trillion, making it the second-costliest U.S. war, after World War II. In fiscal year 2017, the war will cost about $50 billion, nearly a billion every week. We’ve lost over 2,350 soldiers, with 20,000 more suffering injuries. And as Trevor Timm of the Guardian noted, in a couple of years, there will be soldiers fighting in Afghanistan that weren’t even born at the time of 9/11.

We’re no longer fighting to defeat an enemy; we’re engaged in “nation-building.” Good luck with that. Afghanistan is a landlocked country, with a brutal combination of severe mountains and harsh deserts. It remains one of the poorest nations in the world, despite more than $117 billion in U.S. development appropriations since 2002. Its leading industry is illegal opium production, producing an estimate 70 to 80 percent of the world’s supply. Despite the aid and the opium profits, Afghanistan is still near the bottom of multiple categories in the United Nations’ Human Development Index, ranging from infant mortality to life expectancy, per capita income and more.

The United States is pouring money into a corrupt sewer. The World Justice Project’s 2016 Rule of Law Index ranked Afghanistan 111 of 113 countries assessed. Despite U.S. arms, aid and training, its divided and demoralized security forces can’t stand up to the Taliban.

We are asking our military to build a nation on the other side of the world, dispatching soldiers who don’t know the language, the culture, the religion, the ethnic and sectarian divisions or the history. The one thing that may unify Afghanistan’s tribes is their pride in their independence. Afghanistan is known as the “graveyard of empires.” Its people routed the British forces repeatedly from 1839 to 1919 when Britain ruled the world. Its mujahideen defeated the Soviet Union’s invasion in the 1980s. The United States, with the most powerful military in the world, may avoid defeat for as long as it wants to waste lives and resources, but it will not win.

The military has no strategy for victory, merely a plan to avoid defeat. After 15 years, no president wants to accept defeat. Yet a feature of Trump’s campaign was his scorn for the United States wasting $6 trillion in Middle Eastern wars we “don’t win.” He ought to read his 2013 tweet: “We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives. If we have to go back in, we go in hard & quick. Rebuild the US first.”

Obama let the generals — and his arrogant national security advisers — convince him that a surge of troops could deliver victory in what he considered the “good war.” After eight years, he was more sober and far wiser: “Afghanistan was one of the poorest countries in the world with the lowest literacy rates in the world before we got there,” he said last year, “It continues to be.” The country “was riven with all kinds of ethnic and tribal divisions before we got there. It’s still there.”

When the military dropped the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan last month, Trump boasted , “We have the greatest military in the world,” and said, “We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing.” But there is no reason to accept the military’s advice on Afghanistan, given its record in the Middle East. As Andrew Bacevich has detailed, its invasion of Iraq has been the greatest debacle since Vietnam, leading to a continued quagmire and eventually to creation of the Islamic State. Its “humanitarian intervention” in Libya produced a failed state, scarred by violence, that provides a new breeding ground for the Islamic State. The intervention in Syria has succeeded only in contributing to the humanitarian catastrophe there.

Trump should fulfill his campaign rhetoric and pull the plug. Praise the troops and bring them home. Use the money and lives saved to rebuild America. Redirect a tiny fraction of the United States’ bloated military costs fighting in Afghanistan to mitigating the refugee crisis and addressing that country’s needs. This is one policy area where deciding not to follow in Obama’s footsteps would actually help Trump’s flagging popularity.

Katrina vanden Heuvel is an American editor and publisher. She is the editor, publisher, and part-owner of the magazine The Nation. She has been the magazine’s editor since 1995. © 2017 Washington Post

Call Seen as Retaliation for US Seizing Iranian Assets

Iran’s parliament today voted on a bill requiring the government to request compensation from the United States for damages caused by the CIA’s 1953 imposition of a coup d’etat against Iran’s democratically elected government.

In August 1953, Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh sought to Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) and change the terms of the existing oil monopoly of the British company in Iran. The British government “invited” the CIA to force Mosaddegh from office, and they did so, restoring the monarchy which ruled Iran until the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Though at the time it was a “covert” action, albeit a poorly kept secret, US officials have publicly conceded that the coup was carried out, and the CIA has released some of the documents related to it, though they insist most were destroyed.

The move is unlikely to seriously secure money for Iran, but is rather a retaliatory talking point after the US Supreme Court approved seizing some $2 billion in Iranian central bank assets to pay for the 1983 Beirut bombing, an act which Iran insists they didn’t do.
The Iranian parliament also passed a bill calling for a complaint to be filed with the International Court of Justice over the US seizing those assets, arguing it violates international norms on sovereign immunity.

by Jason Ditz

Several months ago, I produced a documentary about Charles and David Koch for Global News, Canada’s largest private television chain. The film focused on the Koch’s vast holdings in Alberta’s controversial tar sands, their campaign to deny climate change, and the political power wielded by Koch Industries. The Koch brothers are some of the richest people in the world, yet the mainstream media rarely covers their efforts to flood big money into elections to further their corporate interests.

My documentary shed light on the controversial practices of the Koch brothers and the media blackout that abets them. But days before the video was set to air, executives at Global News pulled it from their broadcast schedule and I was fired. With no outlet for my story and no access to my video footage, I was forced to start from scratch and search elsewhere for a sponsor. That’s where The Real News Network stepped in.

I am teaming up with TRNN, to expose the Koch brothers’ war on the environment and their plan to influence the 2016 presidential election – and we need your help.

We need to raise $50,000 to produce and distribute How the Kochs and the Rich Buy Elections – a documentary exploring how big money corrupts the democratic process. The film will include interviews with insiders, experts, and activists who are both familiar with the Koch brothers and how they spend their cash and with the detrimental impact of money in elections.

You can watch my documentary promo below:

As a nonprofit, TRNN relies on the generosity of viewers like you to produce news and documentaries that explore the most critical issues of our time. We can’t do it without you! Too much is at stake to sit back and do nothing. Consider this:

The Kochs control one to two million acres of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, worth tens of billions of dollars. But climate scientists say up to 240 billion tons of carbon would be released into the atmosphere if the oil sands are developed. Meanwhile, the Kochs’ are waging well-financed campaigns to deny climate change and using their wealth to get conservatives elected to office to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and further their corporate interests. 

Your dedication to the truth is the most powerful force we have to expose Koch Industries and all those who seek to exploit our planet’s resources for profit. Please make a donation today and help us take a stand against the Koch brothers.

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American officials are worried that 50,000 Russian troops being massed near the Ukraine border and within Crimea, the pro-Russian peninsula recently annexed by President Vladimir Putin, aren’t there for just a training exercise

Despite Russian reassurances that Moscow’s troop buildup along Ukraine’s eastern frontier is for a military exercise, its growing scale is making U.S. officials nervous about its ultimate aim.

President Barack Obama on Friday urged Russia to stop “intimidating” Ukraine and to pull its troops back to “de-escalate the situation.” He told CBS that the troop buildup may “be an effort to intimidate Ukraine, or it may be that [Russia has] additional plans.”

Pentagon officials say they believe there could be close to 50,000 Russian troops bordering the former Soviet republic and inside Crimea, recently seized and annexed by Moscow. That estimate is double earlier assessments, and means Russian President Vladimir Putin could order a lighting strike into Ukrainian territory with the forces already in place. The higher troop count was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“We continue to see the Russian military reinforce units on their side of the border with Ukraine to the south and to the east of Ukraine,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday. “They continue to reinforce and it continues to be unclear exactly what the intent there is.”

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf played down the notion that there are as many as 100,000 Russian troops now bordering Ukraine, as Olexander Motsyk, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., said Thursday on Capitol Hill. “I hadn’t actually seen the hundred-thousand number,” Harf said. “There are huge numbers of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. … We are concerned about Russia taking further escalatory steps with whatever number of tens of thousands of troops they have there, and have called on them not to do so.”

Washington got those assurances that the Russian troop buildup was only an exercise from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu a week ago. But no one in the U.S. government knows if Putin agrees — or if the Russian leader has changed his mind as the West has debated what level of economic and political sanctions might be imposed if Moscow takes an additional chunk of Ukraine beyond Crimea. “They made it clear that their intent was to do exercises and not to cross the border,” Kirby said. “Our expectation is they’re going to live up to that word.”

There is no plan to involve the U.S. military in what is happening in Ukraine, even if Russia takes more territory. Ukraine borders Russia, and Ukraine does not belong to NATO, where an attack on one member is deemed to be an attack on all.

“Should the Russians continue to move aggressively in that region and in the Ukraine, what does that mean—and NATO would have to respond, for example—what would that mean for the United States Army?” Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, asked the Army’s top officer Thursday.

“My responsibility is to make sure that the U.S. Army is prepared to respond as part of a joint force, as part of NATO,” General Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, responded. “So what I’m focused on is improving our readiness in combat, combat service support and combat aviation capabilities to make sure we’re ready to respond whether it’s from a humanitarian assistance aspect or any other aspect.”

American officials are worried that 50,000 Russian troops being massed near the Ukraine border and within Crimea, the pro-Russian peninsula recently annexed by President Vladimir Putin, aren’t there for just a training exercise

Despite Russian reassurances that Moscow’s troop buildup along Ukraine’s eastern frontier is for a military exercise, its growing scale is making U.S. officials nervous about its ultimate aim.

President Barack Obama on Friday urged Russia to stop “intimidating” Ukraine and to pull its troops back to “de-escalate the situation.” He told CBS that the troop buildup may “be an effort to intimidate Ukraine, or it may be that [Russia has] additional plans.”

Pentagon officials say they believe there could be close to 50,000 Russian troops bordering the former Soviet republic and inside Crimea, recently seized and annexed by Moscow. That estimate is double earlier assessments, and means Russian President Vladimir Putin could order a lighting strike into Ukrainian territory with the forces already in place. The higher troop count was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“We continue to see the Russian military reinforce units on their side of the border with Ukraine to the south and to the east of Ukraine,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday. “They continue to reinforce and it continues to be unclear exactly what the intent there is.”

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf played down the notion that there are as many as 100,000 Russian troops now bordering Ukraine, as Olexander Motsyk, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., said Thursday on Capitol Hill. “I hadn’t actually seen the hundred-thousand number,” Harf said. “There are huge numbers of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. … We are concerned about Russia taking further escalatory steps with whatever number of tens of thousands of troops they have there, and have called on them not to do so.”

Washington got those assurances that the Russian troop buildup was only an exercise from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu a week ago. But no one in the U.S. government knows if Putin agrees — or if the Russian leader has changed his mind as the West has debated what level of economic and political sanctions might be imposed if Moscow takes an additional chunk of Ukraine beyond Crimea. “They made it clear that their intent was to do exercises and not to cross the border,” Kirby said. “Our expectation is they’re going to live up to that word.”

There is no plan to involve the U.S. military in what is happening in Ukraine, even if Russia takes more territory. Ukraine borders Russia, and Ukraine does not belong to NATO, where an attack on one member is deemed to be an attack on all.

“Should the Russians continue to move aggressively in that region and in the Ukraine, what does that mean—and NATO would have to respond, for example—what would that mean for the United States Army?” Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, asked the Army’s top officer Thursday.

Three people have died in clashes in the Ukrainian capital on Wednesday, according to medics on the site, in a development that will likely escalate Ukraine’s two-month political crisis.
Inna Goodman
Senior Writer

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