Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Bunny Calls on Congress to Rethink Afghanistan

As the White House conducts its traditional Easter egg roll, Brave New Foundation's Rethink Afghanistan campaign will have several Easter Bunnies distributing and hiding more than 6,000 Easter eggs in New York City and Washington DC. The eggs will be stuffed with toy soldiers serving as a reminder of the troops currently stationed in Afghanistan along with a series of poignant questions that have yet to be raised about the war on Afghanistan.

Thousands of soldiers serving in Afghanistan will be away from their families this Easter. These soldiers will soon be joined by an additional 21,000 troops. Congress has yet to call substantial oversight hearings on whether the troop escalation makes sense.

"Easter is a time for renewal. As American Christian families celebrate this holiday, we must renew our commitment to one of Jesus Christ's most important commitments: peace. We must to re-engage our country in a national debate and ask the questions that have yet to be raised about the Afghanistan war."

In a recent trip to Kabul, Hollywood director and activist Robert Greenwald interviewed local Afghans who consistently expressed a desire for the US to end its seven-year occupation in Afghanistan. Many of them cited the American occupation as fueling pro-Taliban sentiment in Afghanistan.

"Congress needs to assert its role in critical oversight as we continue to add troops and money to a war that has already cost billions of dollars. The American people deserves answers to important questions such as: are we really helping in Afghanistan if human rights are getting worse."

View the 'Rethink Afghanistan' documentary here.

Count me in opposition to another of President Obama's recent policies: escalation in Ahghanistan.

On October 2, 2002, Barack Obama -- then an Illinois state senator -- gave a speech opposing going to war in Iraq. That speech, at that time, would prove crucial to his election, first as a US Senator two years later, and then as President, four years after that. Democrats who equivocated were a dime a dozen. Obama stood out, because he stood up when others did not, and said, “This is wrong.”

He did not oppose all wars. He cited the Civil War and World War II as specific examples of necessary ones. But, he said, “I’m opposed to dumb wars.” Yet on January 23, his third full day as President, Obama ordered two separate air strikes in Pakistan, killing 14 civilians, along with four suspected terrorists. One strike killed six civilians along with four suspected terrorists staying in their home, the other simply hit the wrong target, the home of a pro-government tribal elder, Malik Deen Faraz in the Gangikhel area of South Waziristan, killing him, his three sons and a grandson, along with three others.

Now President Obama has made it official: in addition to another 17,000 troops promised early, he made an additional pledge of 4,000 more on Friday, March 27. It was reportedly a ‘carefully calibrated’ decision, these would be trainers not combat troops, we were told. But Ray McGovern, a 27-year CIA veteran, whose career included long stretches preparing security briefs for Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr., was not impressed with such fine distinctions.

“I was wrong,” McGovern wrote about his belief that Obama’s campaign rhetoric regarding escalation in Afghanistan would not be followed through. “I kept thinking to myself that when he got briefed on the history of Afghanistan and the oft-proven ability of Afghan ‘militants’ to drive out foreign invaders - from Alexander the Great, to the Persians, the Mongolians, Indians, British, Russians - he would be sure to understand why they call mountainous Afghanistan the ‘graveyard of empires.’”

Perhaps Obama got that briefing, perhaps he didn’t. But one thing is certain, McGovern went on to explain: he did not get the kind of intelligence briefing that used to be standard before the Bush regime consigned them to irrelevancy. Traditionally, the national intelligence estimate (NIE) had been the core intelligence product used to summarize the collective advice of the intelligence community, but as USA Today reported on September 11, 2002 (”Iraq Course Set From Tight White House Circle”), no NIE had been prepared on the topic of invading Iraq.

“An intelligence official says that’s because the White House doesn’t want to detail the uncertainties that persist about Iraq’s arsenal and Saddam’s intentions. A senior administration official says such an assessment simply wasn’t seen as helpful,” USA Today reported, adding, “Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, calls that ’stunning.’

‘If we are about to make a decision that could risk American lives, we need full and accurate information on which to base that decision,’ he says in a letter sent Tuesday to leaders of the committee and CIA Director George Tenet.”

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