Afghan forces will soon replace NATO-led troops in charge of security at six sites across Afghanistan — the first step in a transition that Afghan President Hamid Karzai hopes will leave his troops in control across the nation by the end of 2014, The Associated Press has learned. The provincial capitals of Lashkar Gah in volatile southern Afghanistan, Herat in the west and Mazar-i-Sharif in the north are slated for the first phase of transition from NATO-led forces to Afghan soldiers and police, a Western official told AP on Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Karzai plans to formally announce the sites March 21. All of Bamiyan and Panshir provinces, which have seen little to no fighting, are on the transition list, which many Western diplomats and military officials have. Also slated for transition is Kabul province except for the restive Surobi district, the official said. Afghan security forces earlier took charge of security in the capital, Kabul.I didn’t realize there were only 25,000 Taliban in the country. I guess that’s why it’s called asymmetrical warfare.
This clip of Joe Biden joking to the daughters of a bunch of senators about how they shouldn’t date until they’re 30 is making the rounds. It’s sort of corny, but it reminds me of why I’m such a fan of Biden. I like the guy quite a bit for a number of reasons. He’s not the slickest pol in the world, and he probably doesn’t have the highest IQ in the government I’m sure, but in addition to having actually accomplished some very important things as a senator (Violence Against Women Act, defeating Bork, thank you!), he has some very unpolitician-y traits. For one thing, he learns. He voted for the Iraq War–clearly a point against him–but he went the other way on the Administration’s internal deliberations on Afghanistan and seems more prescient every day. He comes off extremely well in Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward, though in his books that might just mean he volunteered a lot of information. You never can tell. Still, it’s one thing to “learn the lessons” of Iraq, as the media all claim they have. It’s another thing to actually change your perspective from a conventional hawk to a skeptic of force. After all, to quote The Wire, the bigger the lie, the more they believe. But to change perspectives–in fact, to go up against practically the entire national security brass on something this big–it impresses me, to say the least.
Biden is often the person whose reactions to events actually seem like what a normal person might feel under the circumstances. Sometimes these are perhaps not politically ideal: he told an interviewer, famously, that he wouldn’t let his family board a plane during the swine flu outbreak. Not necessarily what you want a high-ranking government official to say at such a time, but it’s hard to fault that reaction, and it’s honest. One of the most enduring images of Election Night 2008 to me was Biden walking toward the stage after Obama gave his speech: you could just tell from looking at him how beyond fucking thrilled he was. The man’s lack of a filter can cause some problems, but in my opinion it also indicates a greater level of candor and honesty than you usually see from politicians. And who can forget calling the Affordable Care Act a BFD? He gets visibly excited at the points people in his situation would get excited about, and the same goes for fear. There’s much less of a mask there than with most politicians, and I like that.
My view of the typical politician is basically the one painted by Gore Vidal in Washington D.C. Since soon-to-be President Michele Bachmann isn’t here to summarize, the character Clay Overbury is depicted as a politician who starts out as a fun-loving, normal, idealistic guy, rises through ambition, discards anything and anyone who inconveniences his rise, betrays his benefactor/father figure and in the process is transformed into a mere creature of appetites. He’s a haunted man who has that Kennedyesque charm but with nothing behind it. Biden is many things, but he’s nothing like that: he tries to restrain himself, but he just can’t hide that he’s a decent human being who seems to have kept his soul more or less intact over a long career in Washington. That’s a miracle, really, and it’s why I like him and why I’m very happy he’s in a position of power. Actually, I think he’s an ideal vice president for Obama in a way that Hillary Clinton never could be. With Clinton as VP, the press corps would have always been sniffing around for discord between herself and Obama, and that she has her own following independent of Obama would have made the power dynamics unpredictable and complicated. Biden, though, doesn’t have that sort of following. He’s yoked to Obama–they rise and fall together. He has no incentive but to be loyal. As it turned out, Obama had the luxury of picking someone like Biden who brought certain skills to the table but wasn’t a rival. And while his personality might rub some the wrong way, it’s very authentic. He might be corny, but he’s not playing corny. There is an irony that his 1988 campaign was (wrongly) busted for plagiarism: Biden might be the thing closest to the opposite of a phony there is in public life today. And that deserves some appreciation, I think.
LONDON – Wikileaks has been accused of endangering lives after destroying an Afghan village with an unmanned drone. Leading secret experts have determined that the attack by the online whistleblower was the most devastating since it killed tens of thousands of Iraqis in search of weapons of mass destruction that it secretly knew were all made up. The slaughter came just hours after the website, popular with paedophiles and smokers, published 250,000 secret documents that revealed, for only the 78 millionth time in human history, that governments are run by the sort of utter tosspots you wouldn’t have in your house. Former foreign secretary, Sir Malcom Rifkind, said: “I used to go to secret meetings with generals and ambassadors and people with codenames. Sometimes I would use a codename, but it really depended on how many other people in the meeting were using their codenames. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what my codename was because if I did I would be putting lives at risk in Norway and Burkina Faso. “Anyway, we talked about vitally important things that need not concern your decent hard-working little head. Suffice to say we are extremely clever and the things we do are so breath-takingly important that we have to keep them a secret or someone with a codename will be strangled by a man in a turban. Jafaz Al Jalali, a trainee suicide bomber from Rawalpindi, backed Sir Malcolm, adding: “I was going to blow myself up purely because of your mini-kilts and your Bacardi Breezers but now I know that Prince Andrew may have behaved inappropriately on some junket I have decided to blow myself up twice.” Julian Cook, professor of international news stories at Reading University, explained: “Everyone that America has been spying on would have already assumed that America was spying on them and if they didn’t then they are even more cretinous than these leaks confirm them to be.” He added: “Nevertheless, the point about Wikileaks undermining the safety of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan would have some validity, if only it wasn’t such a humongous vat of liquidised monkey-shit from start to finish. “Because – and you might want to write this down and keep it somewhere safe – the key thing that has undermined the safety of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is firing their big fucking guns at Iraqis and Afghans. Sources at the Ministry of Defence confirmed that Professor Cook’s comments had already put lives at risk in Belgium and Ecuador, and informed us that he’s also a rapist.
I guess we just swept it all up under the rug. The past is in the past, right?
I guess not:
A grim picture of the US and Britain’s legacy in Iraq has been revealed in a massive leak of American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.It should be pointed out that the paper that had the balls to call what happened to detainees “torture” is the Guardian in the UK. The NY Times? You guessed it: “detainee abuse“.
Almost 400,000 secret US army field reports have been passed to the Guardian and a number of other international media organisations via the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. [...]
The new logs detail how:
The numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee’s apparent death.
- US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.
- A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.
- More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.
(a) the “underlying sources of threats to America’s national security” are grounded in “negative attitudes” towards the U.S. in the Muslim world and “the conditions that create them”;
(b) what most exacerbates anti-American sentiment, and therefore the threat of Terrorism, is “American direct intervention in the Muslim world” — through our “one sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan”; and
(c) “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.”
Joel Brinkley writes in the SF Chronicle:
Western forces fighting in southern Afghanistan had a problem. Too often, soldiers on patrol passed an older man walking hand-in-hand with a pretty young boy. Their behavior suggested he was not the boy’s father. Then, British soldiers found that young Afghan men were actually trying to “touch and fondle them,” military investigator Anna Maria Cardinalli told me. “The soldiers didn’t understand.”
All of this was so disconcerting that the Defense Department hired Cardinalli, a social scientist, to examine this mystery. Her report, “Pashtun Sexuality,” startled not even one Afghan. But Western forces were shocked – and repulsed.
For centuries, Afghan men have taken boys, roughly 9 to 15 years old, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Pashtun tribal members in Kandahar and other southern towns are bacha baz, the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means “boy player.” The men like to boast about it.
“Having a boy has become a custom for us,” Enayatullah, a 42-year-old in Baghlan province, told a Reuters reporter. “Whoever wants to show off should have a boy.”
[..] In Kandahar, population about 500,000, and other towns, dance parties are a popular, often weekly, pastime. Young boys dress up as girls, wearing makeup and bells on their feet, and dance for a dozen or more leering middle-aged men who throw money at them and then take them home. A recent State Department report called “dancing boys” a “widespread, culturally sanctioned form of male rape.”
So, why are American and NATO forces fighting and dying to defend tens of thousands of proud pedophiles, certainly more per capita than any other place on Earth? And how did Afghanistan become the pedophilia capital of Asia?
Sociologists and anthropologists say the problem results from perverse interpretation of Islamic law. Women are simply unapproachable. Afghan men cannot talk to an unrelated woman until after proposing marriage. Before then, they can’t even look at a woman, except perhaps her feet. Otherwise she is covered, head to ankle.
“How can you fall in love if you can’t see her face,” 29-year-old Mohammed Daud told reporters. “We can see the boys, so we can tell which are beautiful.”
Even after marriage, many men keep their boys, suggesting a loveless life at home. A favored Afghan expression goes: “Women are for children, boys are for pleasure.” Fundamentalist imams, exaggerating a biblical passage on menstruation, teach that women are “unclean” and therefore distasteful. One married man even asked Cardinalli’s team “how his wife could become pregnant,” her report said. When that was explained, he “reacted with disgust” and asked, “How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean?”
That helps explain why women are hidden away – and stoned to death if they are perceived to have misbehaved. Islamic law also forbids homosexuality. But the pedophiles explain that away. It’s not homosexuality, they aver, because they aren’t in love with their boys.
Who penned the below frustration-laden screed against the war in Afghanistan? Paul Krugman? Jeremiah Wright? Vladimir Lenin?
A record 60 Americans were killed in Afghanistan in June – the most ever in the nearly decade-long war that is not winding down, but rather intensifying under the leadership of Barack Obama, the “peace candidate” in 2008.
Worse yet, U.S. soldiers, no doubt demoralized by seemingly interminable wars on two fronts, neither of which has any clear definition of victory, are taking their own lives in record numbers – 32 just last month and 145 since Jan. 1.
My question: Where are the anti-war protests? What happened to them? Do those protesters from earlier this decade think the wars are over? Or did they really not care about these conflicts in the first place? Were they only truly interested in protesting the old leadership in the White House?
For the life of me, I cannot begin to understand our objectives in either Iraq or Afghanistan any more.
Because I appreciate the sacrifice our men and women are making over there, it is with a heavy heart that I make this proclamation. But enough is enough. We have spent over $1 trillion on these two wars and spilled far too much American blood. We are obviously unwilling as a country to do what is necessary to kill the bad guys in either place, so what is the point? Isn’t it time to declare victory and get out? What is the point? Can someone, anyone, tell me?
Coming on the heels of the following volte face from fire-breathing demon-spawn Ann Coulter, I am questioning whether I’m actually awake right now:
Ann Coulter is suddenly relevant again.
In a recent column, the right-wing polemicist expressed doubts about the Afghan War that immediately transformed how conservatives debate the subject. [...]
Hawkish Republicans have been able to enforce foreign policy orthodoxy since 2001, especially among intellectuals and politicians intent on remaining movement conservatives in good standing. Cross them and they’ll question your ideological loyalty, your patriotism, and your fitness for a job inside the movement.
With a few deft phrases, Ann Coulter may have ended their whole game. “Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney have demanded that Steele resign…” she wrote. “Didn’t liberals warn us that neoconservatives want permanent war? I thought the irreducible requirements of Republicanism were being for life, small government and a strong national defense, but I guess permanent war is on the platter now, too.”
She added, “if Kristol is writing the rules for being a Republican, we’re all going to have to get on board for amnesty and a ‘National Greatness Project,’ too—other Kristol ideas for the Republican Party. Also, John McCain. Kristol was an early backer of McCain for president—and look how great that turned out!”
In other words, Ms. Coulter is questioning the patriotism of Afghanistan hawks, the Kristol/Cheney coalition’s ideological loyalty and their fitness for jobs inside the movement.
The inquisitors stand accused of heresy.
As Conor Friedersdorf put it:
When even Ann Coulter is calling you a warmonger, it tends to frighten people.
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