"Bring Them Home"

Les AuCoin

My new podcast expresses my deep sense of foreboding about the fate of our men and women in Afghanistan (and the fate of my country). 

Images, and a theme from Les Miserables

Comments

  • Kelly Olive (unverified)
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    Its very nice post,but Afghanistan is very denger country.i never go there in life.

    Force Factor

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)
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    Maybe close with "credits", showing all those quotes from a year ago that go something like, "I know that if Obama is elected that my child will be home at this time next year", or, "we don't know what an Obama foreign policy would look like...except it won't be like the failed Bush policy", etc.

    Hey, anoraks, anyone note, one year ago, what the break-down in responses was to "one year after the election there will be no change in US foreign policy"- and that means still doing renditions, and not one person out of Gitmo? It was less than 5% of registered Dems, no?

    So, what's it take for you to realize you've been had? What happened to anti-war protest sentiment? Anyone? Anywhere? Yeah, it was about justice. What a bunch of complacent sheep. Only fit for the slaughter.

  • BOHICA (unverified)
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    I'd like to listen but the page wants me to download Quicktime 7 or higher. Strange since I have QT 7.6.4 already installed.

  • BluecollarLibertarian (unverified)
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    We need to bring the troops home from Afghanistan for sure but we also need to bring them home from the 120 or so countries around the world where they are deployed. And every damn person in congress is ignoring that.

    With something in the neighborhood of 750-800 military bases around the world you'd think that someone would realize that this costs a ton of money, that we are subsidizing the defense of those the American worker is competing against in a world market.

    Hell it would be nice to know what this costs annually but ya think they are going to tell us? Hell no! But maybe the Normans are going to invade Merry Old England which is why we need to keep some ten thousand troops over there or Hannibal is coming across the Alps into Italy where we have some 11,000.

    Thanks Congress ya screwed the American worker.

  • Inertia R Us (unverified)
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    The stagnation is incredible. Can you believe the following is SEVEN YEARS OLD?!? Could have been this morning. Since then the Congress has authorized the President to carry out military operations in Western Europe to "rescue" any personnel tried for crimes committed in the conduct of war. Find out who's in charge and give 'im a Nobel Peace Prize!

    by Professor Michael Foley, contributor

    What mother, faced with her child’s defense, “I didn’t mean to do it,” hasn’t said, “Maybe not, but it’s still your fault. You should have known better.” What court, presented with evidence of reckless driving in a fatal accident, would not hand down a judgment of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter? Yet in war all such elementary notions of personal responsibility are apparently called off.

    Recently, US bombs have destroyed civilian areas in Afghanistan, including the warehouses and offices of the International Red Cross in Kabul, where there had been thousands of tons of food and clothing destined for the civilian population. US warplanes struck that target twice. The Pentagon declared both hits mistakes, but admitted that military planners had detailed knowledge of the location of the complex, thanks to consultations with Red Cross officials designed to avert just such a tragedy.

    It was a mistake. Will it be punished? That is, will those who knew and should have communicated their knowledge to the pilots be sanctioned? Unfortunately not, if past experience is any guide, unless, that is, the US public expresses its outrage at the mounting toll of such mistakes. The trouble is, we have become used to mistakes of this kind, because, by and large, the US military has come to enjoy impunity in the conduct of its mission.

    Take the School of the Americas. In 1996 the Pentagon revealed that training manuals in Spanish and English widely used at the Army’s School of the Americas advocated blackmail and intimidation of civilians involved in unions, political parties and other opposition organizations, torture of suspects, and assassination of civilians as part of a broadly conceived counter-insurgency strategy. The School of the Americas, established in 1946, has trained thousands of Latin American officers and troops. The Pentagon said the manuals had been withdrawn, but there was no indication that anyone had been disciplined for their use and dissemination, despite compelling evidence that hundreds of Latin American soldiers and officers who went through School of the Americas training had gone on to commit gross human rights violations in their own countries.

    More recently, the shielding of military personnel from prosecution has been taken up by Senator Jesse Helms. Last year he, along with representatives of the Pentagon, quashed US support for the International Court of Criminal Justice, designed to be a permanent follow-up to the Hague Tribunals judging war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda. Though the US was one of the prime movers in the creation of the Hague Tribunals, Helms and the Pentagon feared that a permanent body of the same sort would someday want to call US forces to account for actions carried out in wartime. Despite US objections (and those of China, Israel and Iraq), 120 countries voted to adopt the treaty creating the court.

    Those who want to protect our military forces from accountability argue that sanctions or the fear of sanctions would undermine our ability to conduct war. But that is precisely the point. Warfare is the most destructive enterprise available to us. Nations should be extraordinarily careful when and how they unleash it, and those who fight should be restrained to the extent possible to avoid exacerbating the immense harm that war inevitably causes. That is especially true for the greatest military power in the world, whose annual military budget exceeds that of the next ten powers put together. The US should be especially circumspect in the use of force, lest we be considered a global bully who fights without regard for human life, a view that increasing numbers of people in the Muslim world have come to share as the war in Afghanistan slogs on.

    The bombing of International Red Cross facilities was not a mistake attributable to the “heat of action” or the “fog of war.” The bombing campaign has been carried out in a carefully calibrated fashion, with each target individually chosen. Pentagon planners knew where the Red Cross facilities were. Somewhere, someone failed to let the pilots know. Such “mistakes” should not go unpunished. Those responsible should be disciplined. That is the least we can do to convince the watching world that this is not a war against the Afghani people.

    Americans know how to take responsibility for their actions. It is time we required the same of the Pentagon.

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    Somewhat like BOHICA, I'd like to listen to the podcast but can't get it to run on my computer.

    I generally think US efforts in Afghanistan need to be scaled back. The other option, IMHO, is to scale way up, bring in more allied troops (especially the Chinese) so that the effort is not American-centric but of sufficient size to provide population security. Developing modern political institutions and civil government in Afghanistan will be difficult and take time.

    We have a role to play in Oregon. The geographic region from India to Morocco will continue to be of strategic importance because of oil, Israel, nuclear weapons, and population size. Both our current military and development efforts in Afghanistan suffer from a lack of personnel fluent in Afghan languages. Oregon needs to create more opportunities for its students to learn the languages of the region. We could make online courses for many of the regional languages (and I hope the currently meeting Online Learning Task Force created by SB 767 will provide for this) available all across Oregon. And we could send Oregon high school students, at no additional cost to local school districts or the state, to study abroad in the countries of the region. If our state political leaders genuinely cared about our national efforts in this region, they would create these programs immediately.

    I blog regularly on Afghanistan. My latest is "Women Marines in Afghanistan: “How to do it right.” See here.

  • Patrick Story (unverified)
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    Dave Porter--Do you think many Oregon parents will be signing up to send their sons and daughters in high school to Afghanistan for language study?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "With something in the neighborhood of 750-800 military bases around the world you'd think that someone would realize that this costs a ton of money, that we are subsidizing the defense of those the American worker is competing against in a world market."

    Our military is not over there to defend other nations but to make places overseas secure for American corporations; that is, the American empire. Who are threatening the U.K., Germany, Italy and Japan that we need thousands of troops in those countries to protect them?

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    @ Patrick, no, not Afghanistan, it's not safe. Possibly parts of Pakistan, but I do not know of an existing study abroad program that is there now (but I haven’t searched either). Existing programs do go to countries in the region. For examples, AFS this year had programs in Egypt ($8,900 for an academic year), Turkey ($8,900) and India ($9,900). It appears they are adding Tunisia for next year. ASSE has a program in Turkey ($6,805). For comparison, Oregon’s per pupil expenditure for K-12 in FY 2006 was $8,645, and may now be closer to $10,000 per pupil.

    As for online courses, and as an example, consider that Rosetta Stone (here) offers software or online courses in Pashto, Arabic, Farsi (Persian), Hindi, and Turkish. All would help our military and development efforts in the Middle East and Central Asia.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    Don't blame me: I voted for Cynthia McKinney.

    And so now we are presented with the prospect of anti-war protesting the current Nobel Peace Laureate!

    What needs to happen in both Pak and Afghanistan is continuance of the sort of arrangement that's officially existed in Pak since '47 and unofficially in Afghanistan forever: semi-autonomy for the Pashtun. Both official, corrupt governments (which the U.S. supports) have made overtures of treaties with the Pashtun. Let's at least get something for our money and allow them to seek these.

    I don't see how the idea that a safe haven for al-Qaeda is compelling as it is said that al-Qaeda cells are in many countries.

    Make it part of the treaties that the autonomy is dependent upon a ban on organizing for actions against the West. That in itself would as effective as anything else we're doing. The Pashtun/Taliban had agreed to hand bin Laden over to a third country, remember? That says their desire for autonomy is greater than any alliance with al-Qaeda.

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    @ Stephen, I agree with you. Afghanistan-Pakistan is not unique in providing a safe haven for Al-Qaeda. If we drive them out of there, they will just move on to some other place - like Somolia or some other currently failed state. To the extent that we can clearly identify targets, we will still have over-the-horizon air, naval and rapidly deployable ground force capacities to take out Al-Qaeda training camps and leaders. And, even if the Taliban takes over Afghanistan, I doubt that they will want to permit Al-Qaeda training camps or its significant presence. I think they will remember why they are not now still governing.

  • Friends of the Aggadors (unverified)
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    Our military is not over there to defend other nations but to make places overseas secure for American corporations; that is, the American empire. Who are threatening the U.K., Germany, Italy and Japan that we need thousands of troops in those countries to protect them?

    Definitely. And to keep them militarily dependent. Japan has a moon mapping mission in progress now- read: heavy lift rocket boosters. With their tech. + that, they could easily build a small ICBM fleet, but we don't want that.

    BTW, kudos to the new Senator Franken for his ammendment attached to the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill in the Senate that prevents US contractors from using mandatory arbitration clauses to keep victims of criminal violence from accessing the courts. While we're talking about the nasty Taliban and what they do to women all the time, KBR employees have gang raped scores of female coworkers, that were shocked to find that they had no standing in the criminal courts.

    Of course, in the military/industrial/congressional complex, that amendment merely says that they won't be eligible for defense contracts, if they do that. High standards we have here.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Gsreth Porter has an interesting article - Going 'deep', not 'big', in Afghanistan - on an alternative to Gen. Stanley (Westmoreland) McChrystal's escalation in Afghanistnam.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Here is another good article on Afghanistan - With al-Qaida Diminished, There’s No Sense in Expanding Afghan War

  • JJ F e r g u s o n (screw yer filter) (unverified)
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    The whole engagement is stupid. Correct me if I misspeak, but...

    1). If rogue CIA meet in the southern Sonoran Desert, planning an operation against the Chinese, and crash an airliner into various forbidden city locations, would the world suborn China's bombing the US? Al-Quaeda elements that attacked the US were residents of the Gulf States, hanging out in rural Af.

    2). To be fair, we made a feeble attempt to realize #1, and demanded that the Taliban hand them over. When they didn't we invaded their country. To continue the metaphor, if the CIA escaped to the US, using their connections to blend in, would the world allow China to continue the war anyway, because "that's what you expect from Capitalists...and we don't like them anyway. They're a threat to the world. Look at how they pollute". True enough, but it's the pot calling the kettle black.

    3). What would public reaction be if native Americans in OK were rounded up willy-nilly and shipped off to a Hong Kong prison? Lots of American military support in OK. Can't be sure. Round 'em all up. How is that different than the Urdu cabbie rotting in Gitmo?

    But, when the US does it, a coalition of the world deploys their best and brightest to the slaughter. We are as big a force for evil in the world as the Taliban.

    None of this matters. What matters was Cheney's speech to petrol execs, during the Clinton years, telling them that Afgan./Iraq/Iran were critical to continued 1st world profitability, due to their strategic position and that "future events will be centered here, have no doubt". Barack Obama cannot want this. He is doing this. Those of us that told you to deal with it with massive civil protest, to shut down business as usual, FIVE YEARS AGO were your only hope. Hope/Change from a Chicago pol only shows American laziness/stupidity. Take direct action, or be proud of your country. It's one or the other. Makes no sense to adopt one position, then go about hang-dog. You're hang-dog because your response hasn't been on a par with the magnitude of the issue.

    Sad that I told a friend in 2002 to check out "Khyber Rifles" and/or "The Man That Would Be King" and/or the films on the Soviet occupation before advising on US strategy. It speaks volumes that I can still say that 7 years later.

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)
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    1). If rogue CIA meet in the southern Sonoran Desert, planning an operation against the Chinese, and crash an airliner into various forbidden city locations, would the world suborn China's bombing the US? Al-Quaeda elements that attacked the US were residents of the Gulf States, hanging out in rural Af.

    I think that's supposed to be "bombing Mexico", but point taken.

  • Emmit Goldman (unverified)
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    JJ F e r g u s o n (screw yer filter): I made the same argument here in response to those who believe that we can't leave Iraq because it would be "irresponsible":

    "The OCCUPATION of Iraq (not a war) is immoral and illegal under U.S. and international law. Ask yourself how you would respond if Russia had invaded and occupied the U.S., turned the country over to a "government" that it thought would do as it was instructed, destroyed all institutional structures, and then announced that it could not leave because it would be wrong to do so in an "irresponsible" way. That's the "liberal" point of view on foreign policy.

    "The Iraqis overwhelmingly want us out and on a time line, and to ignore what they want shows a profound contempt for democracy.

    "We have NO moral authority, and this lack is a bipartisan phenomenon."

    Of course, the elites who command DP policy and marginalize the rabble never respond to moral arguments. In fact, they have contempt for moral arguments.

  • Charles Eggen (unverified)
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    The difference between the economic problems of the 1930's and now is that we did not have hundreds of thousands of troops in other countries and we had a sick but intact industrial base. We have had troops in Korea, Japan, Germany and Italy for over 60 years, to name only a few. Why should be believe that we will not be adding Iraq and Afghanistan to that list and still be there 50 years from now? This is killing us economically and morally. President Obama, get us out NOW.

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    JJF

    "Those of us that told you to deal with it with massive civil protest, to shut down business as usual, FIVE YEARS AGO were your only hope."

    What kind of organizing did you do? Who is the "you" you "told"? When you were telling whomever you were telling, were you leading by example? On what par was your response. Lecturing people on blogs is low par IMO.

    Maybe you did or do more. If so, do tell.

    There is an intermediate level of mistake that much of the anti-war movement made, myself included, which was to accept an argument roughly like this: "We know that what Obama is saying is not that different from Bush on most war related issues, but if we attack him too early we will alienate all the people who are supporting him out of his call for 'hope.' So we have to try to persuade those people to be more anti-war and use that to pressure Obama."

    Something like that was the line pushed by Progressives for Obama, which included people like Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher, Medea Benjamin, Carl Davidson, Barbara Ehrenreich and a good many others who are not your run-of-the-mill Reid/Pelosi/Hoyer Democrats. And the argument I'm saying was the problem was never that Obama could be relied on to do the right thing. Rather it was a mistaken response to the fact that Obama was promising to do the wrong thing, and is now keeping his promises.

    Now we are confronted with a situation in which the anti-war movement is disorganized by the recession, demoralized by ineffectiveness, has many former activists putting energy into politics related to health care or the economy, and is confronted by the shifting of U.S. imperial emphases away from Iraq in ways the movement has not adapted to (in part reflecting an earlier failure to engage in sufficient struggle over Afghanistan).

    The message from Obama is prepare for decades of occupation wars. We need to connect the costs of empire to the limited response to the economic crisis at home.

  • JJ Ferguson (unverified)
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    I agree, Chris, and would normally have just said, "agreed, I did some organizing (not locally), but found the middle class unresponsive on action"...except that you then make the point that blogging for peace has value too. You nailed what progressives did with Obama. Maybe all that telling them they were being naive at the time led to at least a few not making that mistake, and, much more importantly, their realizing quicker now, that it was a mistake.

    For anyone listening to his dinner speech exactly a week ago, he basically admitted as much and promised he would get there in the end. Of course, as rw might remind us, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". I guess I would add, "and you'll never get there if you come back home every night".

    Unfortunately, bottom line, I think that there is a divide in the peace movement, between those that think he can change foreign policy and those that think forces behind the scenes have his hands tied. Another divide among the crowd that think he's powerless as to what the next steps, given that are. Some say, "Poor guy". Others say "exterminate all the brutes"...meaning our pols. Many say that the current weakness in the system makes direct action treasonable.

    What I'm saying is, that now is the time to paralyze the system with non-cooperation. It is more vulnerable and one can cause real pain. Under those circumstances real change could happen. What remains a bridge to far, is getting those that are hanging on to their jobs to put country ahead of family and help shut down business as usual. You're right, that isn't going to happen, and I'm sure I part company with most on that, but, I repeat, this is more important than you job and mortgage. And that, is the most un-American thing you can say, left, right or center. You've got a problem in a peace movement when the only ones putting family and personal convenience aside are the ones hired to do the killing.

    Guess the web link was triggering the filter. What's with that? Forbidden sites?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "The message from Obama is prepare for decades of occupation wars. We need to connect the costs of empire to the limited response to the economic crisis at home."

    There certainly appears to be dissension in DC with Biden and Kerry expressing doubts about digging a deeper hole in Afghanistnam. The fact that the Lt. Colonel referred to in Gareth Porter's article (link above) was given permission to publish an article that essentially contradicted Gen. Westmoreland-McChrystal is significant.

    Chris: You are probably right that blogging has limited effect, but it remains essential when we read the input from trolls. We can't let them get away with it. Blogging can be away of getting essential facts out there. Here in Central Oregon anti-war activities went on life-support a long time ago and blogging remains one of very few options for those of us opposed to more war and militarism.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "There certainly appears to be dissension in DC...

    Add to that, of all people, Jane Harman, the hawk from California - Leading Democratic Hawk Jane Harman Opposes Troop Increase In Afghanistan

  • rw (unverified)
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    Bill, I tend to agree with you that it is important to have active honest voices on the web. Recently received a statement from Arvol Looking Horse, current holder of a pipe purported to be THE White Buffalo Calf pipe, Lakota sacred item. The tone was really good, teaching, talk of history, guidance.

    I learned that there is a site or two out there purporting to be the "home" of many missives from Looking Horse, but, in fact, may not be bonafide! And some of those missives are downright racial.

    I confess to be terribly, naively shocked: if these are not truth, how in the world do they keep these up year after year? AND: our world is REALLY tiny. How in the world could anyone put up a site like that, if not true, and not be shunned by all?

    I find it difficult to understand how lies and calumnies can exist year after year as Word. There is, indeed, a naive shred left in my bitter old soul!

  • Wrench Monkey (unverified)
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    The so-called "peace movement" is part of the problem, and not the solution.

    Meaningful change rather than personal purity should be the goal.

    I'm not any more "anti-war" than Obama is. Unlike the Dear Leader, I'm opposed to wars of empire.

    Take a minute and think of the mess the peace movement has created. First, the very name reflects the movement’s shallowness. What good is a hypocritical, utterly out-of-touch and ineffective ‘peace movement,’ when beyond question ordinary people on this earth want justice before they want peace? ...

    Peace above all is for those who support the status quo, but if you’re in that category you’re in a small minority. So let’s banish the peace movement and get a global justice movement going. Peace may be all right long-term, but if you’re one of the angry billions on this earth constantly surrounded by a stench of injustice that smothers all hope, chances are that, in your mind, peace should follow justice, not precede it. Chances are, in fact, that you have no favorable thoughts of any type about U.S. peaceniks. (from: http://www.counterpunch.org/christison08272007.html)

    Justice before peace.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    I generally find Chris Lowe pretty well informed and convincing, but the claim that "the message from Obama is prepare for decades of occupation wars" strikes me a dubious. Isn't he trying to disentangle us from Iraq?

    I agree that Afghan policy is a stinking morass, however, and the whole counter-insurgency effort is stupid, ineffective, and criminal (shoot up another wedding party, shall we?).

    Apropos Afghanistan, I do not get WTF Stephen Amy is talking about with his Pashtun-autonomy schtick. Geez Louise, the Pashtuns are somewhere between 40% and 50% of the Afghan population, so what would "Pashtun autonomy" even mean? Pashtunistan is like Kurdistan: a relatively compact territory inhabited dominantly by one ethnic group, but split amongst different states thanks to borders drawn by other, more powerful nations.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    Alright, Joel Dan Walls, I'll tell you WTF I mean: the Pashtun area of Pak is the federally-administered tribal area. What this means is that the Pashtun have run the place, on their own, with very little, if any, interference or oversight from the Islamabad government. I believe a short distance from major roadways in the area is where the tribal authority takes over.

    The borders of the states were drawn up by British colonialists. The Pashtun do not recognize these.

    So I'm saying the thing to do is have both Afghan & Pak governments reinstitute the previous arrangement.

    As for Kurdistan, they don't salute the Iraqi flag, do they?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Andrew Bacevich, one of the more knowledgeable and thoughtful commentators on military activities has an interesting article on our involvement in Afghanistan in the latest issue of Harper's. It is also available here on the Commonweal web site - The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan & the Limits of American Power

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "So I'm saying the thing to do is have both Afghan & Pak governments reinstitute the previous arrangement."

    A reasonable point to make but in conflict with the nationalism of both Afghanistan and Pakistan who will both reject it.

  • rw (unverified)
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    joel, what do you know about the Kurdish ppl and OUR close and often secretive work with them for their autonomy?

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    Bill Bodden: in 2006 Pakistan signed a treaty with the Taliban, and this year Karzai has made overtures to "friendly" Taliban.

    I'm trying to remember the name of the famous athlete who was interviewed on Democracy Now! and is now in the Pak parliament- he said the "Taliban" are an amorphous thing- many groups fall under the heading "Taliban". It would be more accurate to just call them Pashtun.

    I don't think there's a strong nationalism in Afghanistan (witness resentment against Tajiks patrolling the Pashtun area) and, if 2006 is any indication, the Pakistanis would just as soon go back to the semi-autonomy for the Pashtun (which they formerly had).

    The 2006 treaty had a ban on harboring foreign militants and on cross-border attacks. This is exactly what the situation calls for!

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    I meant to say I don't think there's a strong "nationalism" in Afghanistan in the sense of identification as being "Afghani". I think the tribal and ethnic ties are much more important.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    I'm not sure the U.S. is really fighting terrorism and/or Sunni militancy in the region. Witness today's suicide bombing along the Iran/Pak border, carried out by Abdolmalik Rigi's Jundullah group:

    http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=108982&sectionid=351020101

    ABC News & the London Sunday Telegraph have reported that the Jundallah is funded by the U.S. (or, at least WAS funded- I wonder if the Obama Admin. is continuing with this?).

    Rigi had told the U.S. that he's no longer associated with al-Qaeda. Okay, maybe so. Maybe his reasoning in attacking Iran is perceived mistreatment of Sunni and/or Balochis by the Shia/Persians.

    This also dovetails with the Pepe Escobar article, "Balochistan is the Ultimate Prize", in which U.S. opposition to a proposed Iran-Pakistan pipeline is described.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "I'm trying to remember the name of the famous athlete who was interviewed on Democracy Now! and is now in the Pak parliament- he said the "Taliban" are an amorphous thing- many groups fall under the heading "Taliban". It would be more accurate to just call them Pashtun."

    If I recall correctly and am thinking about the same person you have in mind, he was a cricketer by the name of Imran Khan. Search for that name and "cricket politics Pakistan" and you will get several related responses.

    As for "nationalism" I meant that in the sense that both governments - Afghanistan and Pakistan - want to keep their territories intact and would be opposed to surrendering large chunks to a Pashtunistan or whatever.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Consortium News has a related interesting article: Pakistan's Double Game.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    CommonDreams dot org and JuanCole dot com have very interesting articles Pakistan and Afghanistan on today's (Oct. 18) editions.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    Bill Bodden: thanks for the name Imram Khan and for other info.

    <h2>As for the autonomy issue, again, what I'm advocating is merely a return to the previous status: the official, political borders of Pak and Afghanistan remain intact, but within that, the Pashtun are granted meaningful autonomy. This is the way it's been forever, until the recent military incursions into the area.</h2>

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