Monday, December 28, 2009

Obama & Afghanistan: One year later, it's Obama's war...

The Great Disappointment of Obama’s First Year
Scott Camil

Last year on the pages of, I wrote about the optimism due to the election of President Barack Obama.
After a year, that optimism has turned to disappointment as President Obama continues many of Bush’s policies. We strongly disagree with President Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan and his expansion of war into Pakistan and Yemen.
The war in Afghanistan is unlawful under international law and still makes no sense.
The US is a signatory of the UN Charter. The US Senate ratified that signature. This makes those obligations we have signed on to lawful and Constitutional. Under the UN Charter, a nation can only go to war, use armed force against another nation, under two conditions. Those conditions are (1) if a nation is attacked it may use force to defend itself and (2) if the UN votes the right to use force against a nation. These are the only two legal reasons to go to war, period.
The UN has not authorized us to use force against Iraq or Afghanistan and neither of those nations attacked us. This clearly makes these wars illegal.  Obama’s escalation actually started in February when he sent 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
This escalation shows that Obama is not the leader of Hope and Change, he is just another tool in the pocket of the “Military- Industrial-Congressional Complex.”
This war is now Obama’s War. It is his legacy. Last year when Obama was elected we had 32,000 troops in Afghanistan. We now have 68,000 troops there with another 30,000 on the way. Last year when Obama was elected we had 150,000 troops in Iraq. We now have 120,000 troops in Iraq: our build-up in Afghanistan is moving along much more quickly than our drawdown in Iraq. 30% of all U.S. casualties in the eight-year war in Afghanistan have occurred during the 11 months of his presidency.
The Congressional Research Service reports the number of contractors in Afghanistan will likely jump by 16,000 to 56,000, adding up to a total of 120,000-160,000 contractors in Afghanistan.
According to the Department of Defense there are only about 100 Al Qaeda fighters in the entire country of Afghanistan. On September 23rd, it was reported that in General Stanley McChrystal’s classified assessment of the war in Afghanistan, his conclusion was that a successful counterinsurgency strategy would require 500,000 troops over five years. If this is true, what good will only 100,000 troops after the new escalation do? 
These numbers  don’t add up.
We are told that Gen. McChrystal needs these troops to accomplish his mission in Afghanistan. The question here is, can we trust Gen. McChrystal’s judgment?
On April 22nd, 2004 Army Corporal Pat Tillman, a former NFL star, was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. In an effort to hype the war, the friendly fire incident was covered up and Corporal Tillman was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the United States Armed Forces. 
Within 24 hours of  Corporal Tillman’s death, Gen. McChrystal was recommending a Silver Star for him and lying  about the circumstances to the nation and to Corporal Tillman’s parents.  Can we trust this guy?
Obama has expanded the war in Pakistan and into Yemen. We would not call this very Nobel.
Obama has rejected comparisons between Afghanistan and Vietnam. We ask how could he possibly not see the analogy to Vietnam, which led to the collapse of Johnson’s Great Society programs, and the threat of his own domestic agenda collapsing under the pressure of funding the escalation in his war.
Just as the Viet Cong were Vietnamese citizens opposed to the foreign occupation of their country, the Taliban are Afghan citizens opposed to the foreign occupation of their country.
Just as the Viet Cong weren’t going to pack up and leave, the Taliban are not going to pack up and leave.
Soon after taking office, President Richard Nixon introduced his policy of “vietnamization.” The plan was to encourage the South Vietnamese to take more responsibility for fighting the war. It was hoped that this policy would eventually enable the United States to withdraw gradually all their soldiers from Vietnam.
From President Obama’s West Point speech: “After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.”
This is the same plan – and if you remember, right after we left, those Vietnamese forces that we trained folded.
Nationalism trumps politics when dealing with a foreign occupation.  The Obama claim of a draw-down in July of 2011, is his “light at the end of the tunnel” propaganda. No one, including Obama, really believes that in July of 2011 we will actually start ending the war.
When you look at Robert McNamara’s book, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, it is not hard to see the parallels.
  • We misjudged...the… intentions of our adversaries... and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.
  • We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience… we totally misjudged the political forces within the country.
  • We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people... we continue to do so today…
  • Our misjudgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of history, culture, and politics of the people… and the personalities and habits of their leaders...
  • We failed then — as we have since — to recognize the limitations of modern high technology, military equipment, forces, and doctrine in confronting unconventional, highly motivated people’s movements. We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.
  • We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient...We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our own image or as we choose.                 
Afghanistan is known as The Burial Ground of Empires...a place where empires go to die.
We are taught in the military that it is our Duty and Obligation to disobey an unlawful order.
We are not taught how to distinguish between a lawful order and an unlawful order.  We are not taught a process for disobeying an unlawful order.
Years ago I wrote the Pentagon to find out the definition of an unlawful order. Their response blew me away:  “All orders are considered lawful.”
So this duty and obligation to disobey an unlawful order is used only to protect the asses of those up the chain of command, not to keep the troops from using unlawful behavior.
Logically speaking, any order to deploy to an unlawful war has to be an unlawful order.
It is the Duty and Obligation of those in the military to disobey unlawful orders.
Other Obama disappointments
  • His refusal to prosecute those responsible for torture and his protection of them.
  • His refusal to join the international ban on land mines.
  • Universal Single Payer Health Insurance is the only real solution to the monopoly that the insurance industry has on our health care system. From the beginning Obama refused to allow single payer to be part of the health care reform debate. This stance runs counter to Obama's statement that he believes health care is a right.
  • The continuation of renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that use torture
  • His acceptance of the military coup in Honduras
  •  The Wall Street bailout and placing those responsible for our economic collapse in charge of our economy.
  • Obama has broadened the government’s legal argument for immunizing his administration, government agencies, & telephone companies from lawsuits surrounding the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping.
  • Although Obama has condemned the continued expansion of Israeli settlements, Israel continues the theft of Palestinian land and the expansion of settlements with no worry of loss of US aid.                                                                      
After 8 years of a president who was not very articulate, many liberals have been fooled President Obama’s articulate speeches; they have lost sight of the Orwellian nature of his  speeches - he does not walk the walk.  This should shatter the illusion that just by electing Democrats we will have meaningful change.
All of this suggests to us that the corporate takeover of our government is about complete and that the two major political parties are there to serve corporate interests, not the public interest.
What we have learned from the election of Obama and a Democratic majority in Congress is that we need to commit ourselves to stepping outside of these two parties if we want real change.
As we said last year, “Putting a new person in the White House will not dampen our commitment or activities”.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Afghanistan: Are the Impacts of Vietnam Fading, is it Possible?

Looking forward into the past:  Vietnam & Afghanistan
Chuck Palazzo
Agent Orange Editor

Da Nang, Vietnam - How can the U.S. decry human rights violations as it fails to be responsible for a war that should never have been waged in the first place?  As a VVAW member and correspondant living in Vietnam I receive a great amount of feedback as a result of my efforts to help people affected by the chemical Agent Orange, a defoiliant manufactured by Monsanto.  This contribution is an interchange of dialog on some key points of the Vietnam War. The following comment which began this dialog is from a source that we are choosing not to name:  
"Let it go, Brother. Your attention to figures can scramble your brain. And don't think 58,000 Americans died in vain in Viet Nam. There were lessons to learn and a need for this for the U.S. to realize the limits of its power. Viet Nam didn't matter in the scheme of things and it wouldn't have made any difference to the vast majority of us, regardless of the outcome."
But I responded and told him I would publicize our dialog. He was writing to me in response to my asking for stats re: how many of us are left, how many disabled, etc. This was my reply:
"I appreciate what you have said, and I agree with you to an extent. But to never let anyone believe our brothers and sisters have died in vain? I for one, cannot ever let it go. Yes, I have let many things go - including the fact that I was an 18 year old kid thrust into a war that I had no idea was about - except I came from an era and was told, by my dad, friends, and of course the US Government that we had to fight the spread of communism. What crap, I am sure you would agree.
You see, in my opinion, Vietnam does matter in the scheme of things, especially when it comes to facts and figures - and more important, what continues to occur in Iraq and the current escalation in Afghanistan. You cannot fix what you cannot measure. 

It might be easy for some to forget what the US did in Vietnam, the loss of the 58,000 plus, the daily deaths as a result of the collateral damage known as Agent Orange, even now, 40 years later - but unless we remind each other, and continue to educate other people as well, we as humanity are destined to make the same mistakes, commit the same war crimes, and foster the same money making schemes we did back then. Yes, perhaps we have learned some lessons, but Monsanto continues to be a multi-billion dollar company and the US refuses to admit its war crimes.  Will the US government opt for chemical defoliants as a weapon in their war on the poppy trade, in Afghanistan?  If so, who you gonna call?
Look at our sons and daughters, our friends, and our allies, who are dying daily in Iraq and Afghanistan? Who knows how many years, how many generations, how many innocents as well as warriors will be affected - and for how long? We haven’t learned a thing as a nation, brother. My opinion - and perhaps many others' as well.
I do appreciate your feedback, and thanks.
Semper Peace!
The fact that light is still being shed on this topic is extremely important. The story has to keep on being told, and while war is war - how can the U.S. government decry human rights violations as it fails to stand up and take responsibility for the lives that have been torn apart because of a war that should never have been waged in the first place - along with the chemicals used to fight it?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

CALL TO ARTISTS: Military Veteran Cremation Urn Contest - All Perspectives


CONTACT: Di Wood, Epic Urns,
Juried Urn Art Competition
Call to Artists for highly creative, artist-made cremation urns to honor America’s military veterans. All perspectives, concepts and high quality materials invited. Anything goes.
This entry-free urn art competition is now in progress and culminates in a Veterans’ Urn Art Show at Epic Urns, 2402 University Ave. W., St. Paul, MN 55114, Ground Floor Gallery, in June 1010.
Artists have until May 1st to enter new, original one-of-a-kind, veteran-centered urn creations of any size or material to honor military veterans in any branch of the service. First level judging will be photographic.

Photographs of each piece and an entry form are due by May 1st for a May 15th judging. Level 1 winners will be invited to continue on to Level 2 where the urns will be judged in person by military veteran/master urn artist James Harvieux (Stillwater); military veteran, musician and leather artist Russell Scheidler (Saint Paul); performance artist and peace activist Mina Leierwood (Minneapolis); and master urn artist Linda Crouch.
For entry forms and additional information, please email:


Friday, November 20, 2009

School Of Americas Vigil Atlanta Convoy - Saturday, November 21, 2009

For the Convenience of Members and Friends of

American Friends Service Committee ~ Atlanta Veterans Alliance ~ Code Pink
~ Courage to Resist ~ Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition ~ Georgia Veterans
Alliance ~ Grandmothers For Peace ~ International Action Center ~ Iraq
Afghanistan Veterans of America ~ Iraq Veterans Against the War ~ Peace
Network at UUCA ~ Physicians for Social Responsibility ~ Radio Free
Georgia WRFG 89.3 ~ Student Career Alternatives Program ~ Unitarian
Universalist Veterans Alliance ~ Veterans For Peace ~ Veterans For Truth
in Military Recruiting ~ Veterans Heart Georgia ~ Vietnam Veterans Against
the War ~ Vietnam Veterans of America ~ War Resisters League ~
Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) ~


Fourteenth Annual

at 0800, 0900 and 1000 from UUCA to the
gates of Fort Benning in Columbus, where through peaceful actions we will
the President of the United States to
close down SOA!

School of Assassins, Atrocities, Avarice

In Latin America, clergy, peasants, nuns, educators, women and children
are indiscriminately murdered
and disappeared by terrorists trained at SOA.  This
institution was first started by the
CIA and Special Forces in the jungles
of Panama
, but has long since
been moved to this state, where assassins, rapists and torturers are
trained for their vile mission.  SOA can only be stopped here at home
where it begins at Ft Benning, Georgia
.  More information available:

We're all invited to join AFSC, GPJC and other local sponsors at Country
Inn & Suites in Columbus for
a SOA Georgia peace advocates program. For further information about this
evening event contact
Peace Building
 Program Director Tim Franzen at

Should you miss all three UUCA caravan departures from UUCA you'll still
be able to join our delegation in
Columbus by calling 678-517-6790after
you get to the Fort Benning/Columbus area.  Saturday only!

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta (UUCA) is located along
the northbound I-85 access road between
N. Druid Hills Road andClairmont
 across from I-85 underpass 1/2 mile from NDH.


Don't forget food, water, camera and foul weather gear as SOA Watch has
not been cancelled for whatever reason since its inception in 1996.

Projected 2009 attendance 25,000.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veterans Day Musings: Something to think about as you watch the parades and fly-overs to honor Veterans......


Harvard Healthcare Study Results
Nov. 10, 2009
Mark Almberg, Physicians for a National Health Program(312) 782-6006cell:  (312)

The Study

*Over 2,200 veterans died in 2008 due to lack of health insurance*

*Harvard researchers say 1.46 million working-age vets lacked health coverage last year, increasing their death rate*

A research team at Harvard Medical School estimates 2,266 U.S. military veterans under the age of 65 died last year because they lacked health insurance and thus had reduced access to care. That figure is more than 14 times the number of deaths (155) suffered by U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2008, and more than twice as many as have died (911 as of Oct. 31) since the war began in 2001.

The researchers, who released their analysis today, pointedly say the health reform legislation pending in the House and Senate will not significantly affect this grim picture.

The Harvard group analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s March 2000 Current Population Survey, which surveyed Americans about their insurance coverage and veteran status, and found that 1,461,615 veterans between the ages of 18 and 64 were uninsured in 2008. Veterans were only classified as uninsured if they neither had health insurance nor received ongoing care at Veterans Health Administration (VA) hospitals or clinics.

Using their recently published findings in the American Journal of Public Health ( that show being uninsured raises an individual’s odds of dying by 40 percent (causing 44,798 deaths in the United States annually among those aged 17 to 64), they arrived at their estimate of 2,266 preventable deaths of non-elderly veterans in 2008.
(See table below.)

“Like other uninsured Americans, most uninsured vets are working people – too poor to afford private coverage but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or means-tested VA care,” said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who testified before Congress about uninsured veterans in 2007 ( and carried out the analysis released today. “As a result, veterans go without the care they need every day in the U.S., and thousands die each year.  It’s a disgrace.”

Dr. David Himmelstein, the co-author of the analysis and associate professor of medicine at Harvard, commented, “On this Veterans Day we should not only honor the nearly 500 soldiers who have died this year in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the more than 2,200 veterans who were killed by our broken health insurance system. That’s six preventable deaths a day.”
He continued: “These unnecessary deaths will continue under the legislation now before the House and Senate. Those bills would do virtually nothing for the uninsured until 2013, and leave at least 17 million uninsured over the long run. We need a solution that works for all veterans – and for all Americans – single-payer national health insurance.”

While many Americans believe that all veterans can get care from the VA, even combat veterans may not be able to obtain VA care, Woolhandler said. As a rule, VA facilities provide care for any veteran who is
disabled by a condition connected to his or her military service and care for specific medical conditions acquired during military service.

Woolhandler said veterans who pass a means test are eligible for care in VA facilities, but have lower priority status (Priority 5 or 7, depending upon income level). Veterans with higher incomes are classified in the lowest priority group and are not eligible for VA enrollment.


The table showing the excess deaths of veterans due to lack of insurance can be found by scrolling down to the bottom of this document:

A December 2007 paper in the American Journal of Public Health estimating the number of uninsured veterans from 1987 through 2004 can be found here:


Note:  If you are an uninsured veteran having difficulty getting health care and would like to tell your story to the media, write a short note to Mark Almberg at

Physicians for a National Health Program ( is an organization of 17,000 doctors who support single-payer national health insurance, often called an improved Medicare for All. To speak with a physician/spokesperson in your area, visit or call (312) 782-6006.

Physicians for a National Health Program
29 E. Madison St., Suite 602
Chicago IL 60602

(312) 782-6006