There is one aspect of this Washington Post article that I fear will be appreciated by very few people. Before I get to that, let's set out the basic facts:
The U.S. military is sending a contingent of heavily armored battle tanks to Afghanistan for the first time in the nine-year war, defense officials said, a shift that signals a further escalation in the aggressive tactics that have been employed by American forces this fall to attack the Taliban.I give Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the writer of this article, tremendous credit for a masterful job of reporting. That is not intended to be in the least sarcastic; I genuinely mean it. You can already see how skillfully he conveys the monstrousness of the U.S. government's actions simply by reporting the facts and, of critical importance, describing them accurately.
The deployment of a company of M1 Abrams tanks, which will be fielded by the Marines in the country's southwest, will allow ground forces to target insurgents from a greater distance - and with more of a lethal punch - than is possible from any other U.S. military vehicle. The 68-ton tanks are propelled by a jet engine and equipped with a 120mm main gun that can destroy a house more than a mile away.
Despite an overall counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes the use of troops to protect Afghan civilians from insurgents, statistics released by the NATO military command in Kabul and interviews with several senior commanders indicate that U.S. troop operations over the past two months have been more intense and have had a harder edge than at any point since the initial 2001 drive to oust the Taliban government.
[This "success"], in turn, appears to have put U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top coalition commander, in a much stronger position heading into a Friday meeting of NATO heads of state in Lisbon, where Afghanistan will be a key topic of discussion. It also will help the general make his case that the military's strategy is working when President Obama and his advisers conduct a review of the war next month.On the importance of the Afghanistan developments to NATO and the Lisbon meeting, you should read Diana Johnstone's recent article: "NATO's True Role in U.S. Grand Strategy." Johnstone's piece cries out for lengthier consideration, but this excerpt will have to suffice for the moment:
NATO as such has no strategy, and cannot have its own strategy. NATO is in reality an instrument of United States strategy. Its only operative Strategic Concept is the one put into practice by the United States. But even that is an elusive phantom. American leaders seem to prefer striking postures, ?showing resolve?, to defining strategies.Now the U.S. will claim that its strategy in Afghanistan is a great success, and it will be that much easier for the U.S. to make NATO do exactly what it wants.
One who does presume to define strategy is Zbigniew Brzezinski, godfather of the Afghan Mujahidin back when they could be used to destroy the Soviet Union. Brzezinski was not shy about bluntly stating the strategic objective of U.S. policy in his 1993 book The Grand Chessboard: ?American primacy?. As for NATO, he described it as one of the institutions serving to perpetuate American hegemony, ?making the United States a key participant even in intra-European affairs.? In its ?global web of specialized institutions?, which of course includes NATO, the United States exercises power through ?continuous bargaining, dialogue, diffusion, and quest for formal consensus, even though that power originates ultimately from a single source, namely, Washington, D.C.?
The description perfectly fits the Lisbon ?Strategic Concept? conference.
Although Petraeus is widely regarded as the father of the military's modern counterinsurgency doctrine, which emphasizes the role of governance, development and other forms of soft power in stabilization missions, he also believes in the use of intense force, at times, to wipe out opponents and create conditions for population-centric operations. A less-recognized aspect of the troop surge he commanded in Iraq in 2007 involved a significant increase in raids and airstrikes.The reader who actively thinks as he reads this article (as he should actively think when he reads anything at all) will realize that he is not likely to come across a better description of the operation of evil in a news article. Keep that in mind: this isn't an opinion piece. But Chandrasekaran provides all the facts you need to reach certain conclusions.
"Petraeus believes counterinsurgency does not mean just handing out sacks of wheat seed," said a senior officer in Afghanistan. Counterinsurgency "doesn't mean you don't blow up stuff or kill people who need to be killed."
Since his arrival in Kabul, Petraeus has permitted - and in some cases encouraged - the use of tougher measures than his predecessors, the officials said. Soon after taking charge, he revised a tactical directive issued by the commander he replaced, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, to prohibit subordinate officers from placing additional restrictions on the use of air and artillery strikes.
"There is more top-cover support for appropriate aggression," said a civilian adviser to the NATO command in Kabul.
"Because Petraeus is the author of the COIN [counterinsurgency] manual, he can do whatever he wants. He can manage the optics better than McChrystal could," the adviser said. "If he wants to turn it up to 11, he feels he has the moral authority to do it."
Despite Karzai's recent criticism of the raids and the overall posture of coalition forces - he said he wants military operations reduced - there have been relatively few reports of civilian casualties associated with the recent uptick in raids, airstrikes and explosive demolitions. Military officials said that is because of better intelligence, increased precautions to minimize collateral damage and the support of local leaders who might otherwise be complaining about the tactics. In Kandahar, local commanders have sought the support of the provincial governor and district leaders for the destruction of homes and fields to remove bombs and mines.In that last paragraph, Chandrasekaran manages to surpass his own earlier description of how evil operates. (I also note that it is just possible that "making people travel to the district governor's office" might have some bearing on the purported "relatively few reports of civilian casualties." And at this date in history, it should hardly be news that almost anything any military says about civilian casualties will be a lie.) Increasingly widespread destruction, including the ongoing murder of civilians, is merely a means of "connecting the government to the people."
"The difference is that the Afghans are underwriting this," said the senior officer in Afghanistan.
But many residents near Kandahar do not share the view. They have lodged repeated complaints about the scope of the destruction with U.S. and Afghan officials. In one October operation near the city, U.S. aircraft dropped about two dozen 2,000-pound bombs.
In another recent operation in the Zhari district, U.S. soldiers fired more than a dozen mine-clearing line charges in a day. Each one creates a clear path that is 100 yards long and wide enough for a truck. Anything that is in the way - trees, crops, huts - is demolished.
"Why do you have to blow up so many of our fields and homes?" a farmer from the Arghandab district asked a top NATO general at a recent community meeting.
Although military officials are apologetic in public, they maintain privately that the tactic has a benefit beyond the elimination of insurgent bombs. By making people travel to the district governor's office to submit a claim for damaged property, "in effect, you're connecting the government to the people," the senior officer said.
The fundamental lesson is unmistakable, and unmistakably evil in intent and execution (a word made horribly appropriate in more than one sense by our government's actions): you will do exactly as we say -- or else.This is the lesson now being so hideously reenacted in Afghanistan.
It is now critical to note a further implication of this murderous method of dealing with others. Just as it is not possible for an individual to restrict what constitutes a fundamental psychological methodology to only one area of his life, so a ruling class will not employ one approach in foreign policy while dealing with matters of domestic politics in a radically different manner. In any case, the U.S. ruling class never had such a desire: in one way or another, other nations would be made to submit to the demands of the U.S. government -- and the same is true for U.S. citizens. The citizens of America will do exactly as the ruling class demands -- or else. As far as the ruling class is concerned, you have as little reason to complain as the murdered Iraqis do: the ruling class only wishes to improve your life. The ruling class acts only on your behalf, and "for your own good."I wrote that over two years ago. The dynamics I described concerning the bailout bill have been repeated a number of times since, as they are repeated again today.
You now witness these tactics of intimidation and of the most transparently, viciously manipulative fear-mongering deployed by almost every member of the ruling class in connection with the bailout bill. ...
The words speak for themselves, but the purpose of these pronouncements should be emphasized: our rulers do not want to scare you to death, although your death would hardly approach a matter of any serious concern for them. While your death is not (necessarily) required, your obedience is. You will obey them -- or else.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has become the face of GOP obstruction regarding President Obama’s push for the Senate to ratify the New START nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. Without the treaty in place, the U.S. has no legal authority to monitor Russia’s nuclear arsenal. And if New START isn’t ratified, not only will U.S.-Russian relations suffer but so will American credibility on issues such as Iran and nonproliferation. “The world?s nuclear wannabes, starting with Iran, should send a thank you note to Senator Jon Kyl,” the New York Times editorialized this week referring to Kyl’s obstruction. Today on MSNBC, Sen. Rich Lugar (R-IN) urged Republicans such as Kyl to support the treaty and called on Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to hold a vote on it in this lame-duck session of Congress:
LUGAR: Please do your duty for your country. We do not have verification of the Russian nuclear posture right now. We’re not going to have it until we sign the START treaty. We’re not going to be able to get rid of further missiles and warheads aimed at us. I state it candidly to my colleagues, one of those warheads…could demolish my city of Indianapolis — obliterate it! Now Americans may have forgotten that. I’ve not forgotten it and I think that most people who are concentrating on the START treaty want to move ahead to move down the ladder of the number of weapons aimed at us.
For more on New START, read today’s Progress Report.
MSNBC suspends Scarborough for campaign donations
MSNBC said Friday that it is suspending “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough for two days after he acknowledged giving eight previously unknown $500 contributions to friends and family members running for state and local offices during his tenure at the network, a violation of parent NBC’s ban on political contributions by employees without specific permission from the network president.
“I recognize that I have a responsibility to honor the guidelines and conditions of my employment, and I regret that I failed to do so in this matter,” Scarborough said in a statement. “I apologize to MSNBC and to anyone who has been negatively affected by my actions,” said, adding that after he was made aware of some of the contributions, he called MSNBC president Phil Griffin “and agreed with Phil's immediate demand of a two-day suspension without pay.”
POLITICO had sought comment from the network after finding evidence that Scarborough gave at least five separate previously unknown $500 contributions while serving as an MNBC host – all to Republican candidates to whom he was close who were running for state legislative seats in or near Scarborough’s hometown of Pensacola, Fla. After being contacted by POLITICO about the donations, Scarborough voluntarily disclosed three other $500 contributions to a friend running for county office in Florida.
This whole suspension business is pretty stupid -- it's not exactly a shock that Joe Scarborough is on the right and Keith Olbermann is on the left, and their suspensions for making private donations without first asking for permission doesn't do a single thing to enhance MNSBC's reputation.
In the end, MSNBC comes out of this looking like it has a corporate culture straight out of a Dilbert cartoon. It was already public knowledge that Scarborough had donated to Republicans, addressed Republican fundraisers, and even campaigned with Bush, so that's not what he's being suspended for. Instead, he's being punished for not having asked for permission to do something that he'd have been allowed to do -- and more importantly, to make it look like MSNBC is being fair and balanced in the wake of the Olbermann suspension.
The funniest thing about this is that in the wake of the idiocy of the Olbermann suspension, Griffin and Scarborough bent over backwards to explain why what Scarborough had done was different from Olbermann and why he didn't deserve a suspension. Can you say "Busted?" And now with egg on his face, Scarborough's line is that he was unaware of his own contributions until contacted by Politico. But that's impossible to believe, especially given that two of the donations were to his own brother. It seems pretty obvious Scarborough was hoping to ride this thing out, content to see Olbermann get suspended without taking his lumps too.
I guess there's a saying about throwing stones and glass houses, but that doesn't do justice to how silly this whole affair is. Sure, Scarborough looks bad -- perhaps even unethical -- for sitting silently while Olbermann got suspended for doing the same thing Scarborough did, but it's a stupid policy. Scarborough's real sin was that he defended the policy without admitting that he was in violation of it.
But in the end, as with most things Scarborough, maybe the only real question that matters is this; who gives a damn? After all, how many people would sign the petition to keep him on the air? 2? 3? Perhaps 4?
Women bring something different to the table; a perspective that is distinct from men’s. Both experiences are equally important, and both need to be incorporated in to decision-making and represented in power-circles if we hope to embrace all[...]
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Finally, some good news coming out of November's election: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will replace outgoing Sen. Blanche Lincoln on the Senate Agriculture committee as chair.[...]
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First Olbermann, now Joe Scarborough gets suspended for donations to Republicans, because, you know, nobody knows Joe is on the Right. Both pundits should have disclosed to their audiences, but a suspension without pay is preposterous. Unlike Keith,[...]
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On the heels of a censure recommendation for Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), the House ethics committee today announced that the upcoming ethics hearing for Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is postponed indefinitely.
Unspecified new evidence has cropped up in the case, according to the committee, and the matter will go back to an investigative subcommittee.
An audit of the city of Bell by California's state controller's office was released yesterday, and found that former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo steered more than $700,000 in state and federal funds "to companies and at least one City Hall insider without valid contracts, competitive bids or even getting City Council approval," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Eight Bell officials pleaded not guilty in October to using public funds to inflate their salaries for part-time elected positions. Rizzo, who was charged with 53 different counts, made nearly $800,000 a year. Others made up to $96,000 a year for their part-time jobs -- 20 times the national average for a city Bell's size.
The Times reports:
Among the companies that received state and federal tax dollars was an engineering firmed owned by the city's former planning director, Dennis Tarango. D&J Engineering was paid nearly $100,000 from an oil-recycling grant even though the planning director's company did not have a contract for the work.
The audit said the payment may be illegal and, because of Tarango's job with the city, raises questions about a conflict of interest.
On March 8, the city will vote on whether to recall Mayor Oscar Hernandez and council members Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal.
Full coverage of Bell here.
Last week, the Chairs of the National Fiscal Commission, meeting in Washington, DC, released a draft proposal that would cut Social Security, including proposals to:
Some conservative Democrats have started to cave on Social Security. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia says ?we have to? raise the retirement age (link). Peter Orzag, who is President Obama?s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, is urging progressives to support Social Security cuts (link).
With Republicans, Wall Street, and the corporate media already in favor of cutting Social Security, we have to gear up to stop any Democratic capitulation. That?s why, at Daily Kos, we're looking to deny these Democrats any grassroots support for their ?compromises,? and identify a group of activists who are willing to take further steps fight back. You can help us by signing a pledge to yourself promising you will never support cutting or privatizing Social Security.
Click here to sign the pledge now.
Campaign Director, Daily Kos
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