Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


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Showing posts with label petraeus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label petraeus. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Carnage Continues in Afghanistan

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe



A quiet city in the north of Afghanistan ignited today after yet another NATO night raid reportedly tore another family apart. Thousands of people took to the streets, again chanting, "Death to America!" as they pelted Karzai's billboards with mud and stones. They attacked police. They attacked the local NATO outpost. At least a dozen people were killed in the clash, which showed local rage directed at every level of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency strategy, from the local security forces, to our corrupt and feckless local "partners" in the Karzai government, to the U.S. itself.





Worse, this isn't the only civilian killing by NATO forces even just this week. On May 16, Reuters reported:



"Foreign troops killed an Afghan child and wounded four others when responding to insurgent fire in volatile eastern Kunar province, the provincial Governor said on Monday, the third accidental killing of young civilians in less than a week."


These deaths were senseless enough before Bin Laden was killed and al Qaeda driven from the country. Now, they're downright obscene. With the last rational-sounding excuse for continuing the war, bringing Bin Laden to "justice," gone, continuing this counterinsurgency campaign makes no sense, and it's making Americans and Afghans less safe while wasting precious national resources. If you agree, please join Rethink Afghanistan in calling for an end to the war in the wake of Bin Laden's death.



The uprising in Taloqan triggered by NATO's killing of civilians is a microcosm of a larger dynamic playing out across the country. When one honestly looks at the data, the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan has been, at best, a miserable failure in its stated goal of "protecting the population," or worse, a key driver in an ever-increasing cycle of violence and instability that puts civilians at risk.



Rising Violence in the Shadow of Escalation

Despite an escalation launched under the pretext of "reversing Taliban momentum" and "protecting the population," attacks launched by insurgents and civilian casualties continue to rise. U.S. military leaders expect those numbers to continue to worsen over this summer. This is a strategy, remember, that Admiral Mike Mullen said, "must -- and will -- improve security for the Afghan people and limit both future civilian and military casualties."



Both civilian and military casualties have increased sharply following the escalation, by the way.



A new report published by the Minority Rights Group International shows the price paid by Afghans for the U.S. catastrophic pursuit of escalated military action as a solution to the Afghanistan crisis. MRG says that Afghanistan's population has seen a bigger spike in risk for mass killings than any other country on the planet this year. The military-first strategy for resolving the Afghanistan conflict hasn't made Afghans safer, at best. At worst, it raised the temperature of the conflict to a boil.



We sold the Afghans a bill of goods--that a huge influx of military forces was what was needed to protect them. As Rethink Afghanistan warned at the time, there was no way an escalation was ever going to mean more safety for people caught in the crossfire. Combine that false promise with the U.S.'s continued backing of deeply corrupt thugs in Kabul, and it's easy to understand why the Afghans are angry. The longer this dynamic persists, the less safe Americans become.



Meanwhile, special forces night raids continue all over the country, generating rage, humiliation, and needless death, at the cost of more than $2 billion a week and senseless military and civilian casualties.



The uprising in Taloqan wasn't the first, and unless the U.S. begins a serious drawdown of forces and ends these night raids, it won't be the last.



Thursday, March 17, 2011

Petraeus "Understands the Frustration" With Spending "Enormous Amounts of Money," But He'll Keep Spending It If You Let Him

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe





When testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General David Petraeus told senators that he understood the frustration with the Afghanistan War, conceding that "we have spent an enormous amount of money." The general has a gift for understatement.



We are spending $2 billion a week on this futile, brutal war that's not making us safer, and even that "enormous" amount of money (to say nothing of the lives lost or broken) hasn't hammered the square peg of a military solution into the round hold of the crisis in Afghanistan. News flash: if you can't turn the war effort around with 30,000 more troops at a cost of $1 million per troop, per year, maybe the military solutions aren't solutions after all.



To say the American people are "frustrated" is putting it very, very mildly. Despite the mainstream media's best efforts to pretend there's no war on (last year, Afghanistan coverage comprised about 4 percent of all news coverage), a large majority of Americans say they follow Afghanistan news closely. The vast majority of Americans now tell pollsters they want Congress to act to speed up troop withdrawals, and most likely voters want all troops out within a year. A record 64 percent now say that the war hasn't been worth fighting, a 20-percent jump in opposition since President Obama announced his latest troop increase.



Millions of Americans are still burning in an economic hell while our leaders waste precious resources on Hellfire missiles. Just one statistic drives it home: the poverty rate for children in the U.S. may soon hit 25 percent. And while those kids are living in hotels or on the street, or wondering where their next meal will come from, Petraeus will keep right on "understanding" your frustration while he spends almost $10 billion a month that could be used right here at home, getting those kids and their families back on their feet. We can't let that happen.



Brave New Foundation's Rethink Afghanistan is fighting to get the truth out about this war while the mainstream media sleeps on it. If you're fed up with this war that's not making us safer and that's not worth the cost, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter, and join a local Rethink Afghanistan Meetup. Together we can make sure Petraeus and politicians in Washington, D.C. really understand our frustration and bring our troops home.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

General Petraeus and ISAF, Blaming the Victims Again?

By Derrick Crowe



General Petraeus and his public relations team reportedly engaged in a scummy attempt to deflect blame for an alleged civilian casualty event on Sunday, suggesting that Afghan parents caught in the crossfire of a coalition raid burned their own children to incriminate international forces. International forces led by the U.S. are accused of killing as many as 60 civilians during a several-day operation in Ghaziabad district in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the U.S.-led coalition has a long history of blaming the victims when they get caught in potentially explosive civilian casualty incidents, making this vile accusation particularly hard to believe.



To the shock of President Hamid Karzai's aides, Gen. David H. Petraeus suggested Sunday at the presidential palace that Afghans caught up in a coalition attack in northeastern Afghanistan might have burned their own children to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties, according to two participants at the meeting.



[Unnamed sources in the room for the conversation] said Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, dismissed allegations by Karzai's office and the provincial governor that civilians were killed and said residents had invented stories, or even injured their children, to pin the blame on U.S. forces and force an end to the operation.



Has Petraeus lost his mind? One better have some pretty solid evidence before accusing people who may have lost children or seen them badly injured of lying of hurting their own kids. From what I can tell, there's no evidence of parental abuse being responsible for the reported injuries of children. Petraeus and his spin shop are trying to get ahead of the story, throwing multiple possible accounts of what happened into the mix to blunt the outrage that will surely result when a story about an awful set of civilian killings hits the news. But lacking hard evidence, Petraeus' hypothetical seems ugly and vicious, relying on pervasive notions of Afghans as backward and barbaric to escape accountability.



A Pattern of Blaming the Victim



International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) press flak Rear Adm. Greg Smith claimed to have watched video of the attacks and said everything was just peachy:



During the next five hours, Smith said, surveillance drones tracked the fighters while the Apaches fired 30 mm Gatling guns, rockets and Hellfire missiles. "I have reviewed the footage and found no evidence women and children were among the fighters," he said. "Again, no civilian structures were anywhere near where these engagements took place. It was at night and in very rugged terrain."



And yet...



On Saturday, Wahidi, the provincial governor, sent a three-person fact-finding team up the valley to the village of Helgal. They returned with seven injured people, including a woman and a man, both 22 years old, and five boys and girls 16 or younger. Smith said they had burns and shrapnel wounds, none of them life-threatening.



Now, wait a second. Smith says there's no evidence women and children were among the fighters, yet also says that civilians had shrapnel wounds? Then Smith does what he tends to do when there's a potentially attention-getting civilian casualty incident: He blames the Afghan families:



The U.S. military "did have initial reports that the feet and hands of the children appeared to have been burned," Smith said. "We have observed increased reporting of children being disciplined by having their hands and feet dipped into boiling water. No one is claiming this is the case in this instance, but it may well be."



Recall that Smith did the same thing when U.S. special forces killed several Afghan civilians, including pregnant women, in Gardez, whom he said had been discovered "tied up, gagged and killed," presumably by the families of the women.



"[Smith] added, however, "I don't know that there are any forensics that show bullet penetrations of the women or blood from the women." He said they showed signs of puncture and slashing wounds from a knife, and appeared to have died several hours before the arrival of the assault force. In respect for Afghan customs, autopsies are not carried out on civilian victims, he said.



In the Gardez case, Smith was either inventing or conveying bald-faced lies. The women did not die "several hours before the arrival of the assault force." They died after special forces team members shot them, and one of them died while special forces troops dug bullets out of her to cover their tracks.



Video Evidence?



ISAF flaks have a bad habit of claiming to have incontrovertible video evidence that U.S. forces did nothing wrong which often doesn't pan out. Remember the Farah massacre? Dozens of civilians died, and Col. Greg Julian swore that our forces weren't responsible.



The footage shows insurgents streaming into homes that were later bombed, said Col. Greg Julian, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan. He said ground troops observed some 300 villagers flee in advance of the fighting, indicating that not many could have been inside the bombed compounds... Investigators later reviewed hours of cockpit video from the fighter jets as well as audio recordings of the air crew's conversation with the ground commander. Julian said the military would release the footage and other evidence in the coming days.




Despite Julian swearing he watched hours of cockpit video vindicating the bombers, the U.S. military later admitted (.pdf) that the pilots did in fact kill those civilians after the pilots lost contact with their intended targets before firing.



Pardon me for not jumping to ISAF's defense, after they lied about the use of grenades at the Farah massacre, or claimed the Afghans they shot up at Gardez were "dead when they got there" with bodies stashed near food preparation areas. And pardon me also for not trusting a thing that comes out of Rear Adm. Greg Smith's mouth, the ISAF flak that tried to smear journalist Jerome Starkey for accurately reporting the facts about the Gardez killings. The job of an ISAF public affairs officer is not to tell you the truth, no matter how much that observation provokes their pique. The job of an ISAF PAO is to aid in the war effort by spinning events to the advantage of their side of the conflict. Smith is not a credible source (as proved by the Gardez/Starkey affair, if nothing else) and should be contextualized and held at arms length by any serious journalist.



Enough Spin Already



When asked about reports of his ugly attempt to blame the victims in Ghaziabad: "Petraeus, through a spokesman, declined to comment."



I bet.



ISAF seems to be talking out of several sides of their mouth. Were there no civilians in the area, or did locals in the crossfire invent a story? Did the parents burn their own children, or was there shrapnel in them? And how would shrapnel get into the kids if there were no civilians nearby? This story is still developing, but it bears many of the hallmarks of ISAF's past attempts to warp news coverage after attention-getting reports of mass civilian casualties surfaced.



Enough spin. If ISAF has video of the events in question, it should be made available to the public immediately. There should be an independent UN investigation into the killings and maimings in Ghaziabad, and, unless he has hard evidence, Petraeus should also publicly apologize for trying to deflect blame onto the families who lost loved ones or saw their children injured. Frankly, this kind of talk is tawdry and disgraceful.



Oh, and six more civilians were killed when one of ISAF's missiles hit a mud-built home in Nangarhar.



If you're fed up with this brutal, futile war that's not making us safer, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Obama's War, One Year Later: 195 Million Say No to War

By Robert Greenwald



Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of President Obama's escalated military campaign in Afghanistan. One year later, violence is still getting worse and costs are skyrocketing. After more than nine years, it's time to end this war.



Take a strong public stand against the war by posting your picture and comment on Rethink Afghanistan's new "Because It's Time" feature.



Rethink Afghanistan Because It's Time



On February 13, 2010, NATO troops launched Operation Moshtarak in the Marjah district of Helmand Province. It was the first major military action enabled by President Obama's 30,000-troop escalation, and was supposed to be proof-of-concept for Generals McChrystal's and Petraeus' counterinsurgency doctrine. The military hype said Afghan forces would be in the lead as coalition forces invaded Taliban-controlled areas. They'd deliver "government in a box, ready to roll." Over and over, military officials repeated their mantra that the new troops would enable them to "protect the population."



What followed was a fiasco that still hasn't ended.



In Marjah, "government in a box" turned out to be "government with a rap sheet," as it turned out the U.S.-backed district governor was a convicted felon. (He did, however, fit in just fine in the corrupt Karzai regime.) A misfired munition from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) killed a house full of civilians in the first few days of the offensive. Afghan troops trained by the Americans proved often unreliable and inept. All throughout 2010, Marjah remained a danger zone for U.S. troops as the Taliban forces who seemed to flee revealed themselves to be competent guerrillas, melting away before superior firepower only to slowly filter back in to plant roadside bombs and take potshots at troops. Eventually, military officials had to admit that they'd over-promised and under-delivered.



The pattern of hype and embarrassment repeated itself across Afghanistan all throughout 2010, as U.S. military officials repeatedly asserted that an influx of troops would bring security and protect the population, only to see those areas remain violent hot-spots where civilians were rarely safe. NATO similarly invaded Kandahar in force later in the year, and that area remains hotly contested and violent. In fact, violence in Kandahar and Helmand account for more than half of insurgent-initiated attacks for all of Afghanistan. Worse, areas that were previously relatively secure suddenly saw a spike in the number of insurgent attacks at the Taliban continued their relentless expansion across the country.



So. President Obama has had a full year now to prove that his new strategy is worth the costs. What are the results?




While we were wasting $100 billion on this war per year, Americans fought to stay above water in a horrible economy. Unemployment has now topped 9 percent for 20 months straight. Groups like the Salvation Army are reporting an alarming shortfall in resources to help the hungry. And state budgets all across the country are considering huge draconian cuts to their public structures and social safety nets that millions of people rely upon. Not only do most Americans oppose the war, but they rightly worry that it's making it harder for us to fix these problems here at home.



After a year of escalated fighting across the country--after more than nine years of this war!--it's absolutely clear that military solutions won't work in Afghanistan, and they're certainly not worth the cost. More than 195 million Americans want this war to end, yet their faces don't seem to be reflected among elected officials to timid to take the morally courageous action of forcing this war to a close. So we're giving people a chance to put their face and their opposition to the war in full public view.



Today, we're launching "Because It's Time" on Rethink Afghanistan to help Americans who oppose this war to make their voices heard. On this page, you can post your photo and a reason why it's time to bring troops home.



Starting next Wednesday, you'll have the chance to vote on your favorite comments. Those who get the most votes will get to star in an upcoming Rethink Afghanistan video.



As the one-year anniversary of "Obama's War" approaches, please take a moment to call for our troops to come home--because it's time.



Follow Robert Greenwald on Twitter: http://twitter.com/robertgreenwald



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Failure, Not Progress, in Afghanistan

By Derrick Crowe and Robert Greenwald



On Thursday, December 16, 2010, the White House will use its December review to try to spin the disastrous Afghanistan War plan by citing "progress" in the military campaign, but the available facts paint a picture of a war that's not making us safer and that's not worth the cost.



Let's take a look at just the very broad strokes of the information. After more than nine years and a full year of a massive escalation policy:





And yet, we are told we can expect a report touting security gains and "progress," and that there's virtually zero chance of any significant policy change from this review. It sort of begs the question: just what level of catastrophe in Afghanistan would signal that we need a change in direction?





Insurgency Growing and Getting Stronger



This cat is already out of the bag, no matter how hard the Pentagon tries to reel it back in. In the ironically named "Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan," published several weeks ago, the Pentagon told Congress that the insurgency's organizational and geographic reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding. This growth is reflected in other statistics. According to USA TODAY, U.S. troops were hit with 7,000 more attacks this year compared to last year. About 3,800 troops were killed and injured by IEDs, about 1,000 more than last year. These statistics depict an insurgency with unbroken momentum, despite administration and military claims to the contrary.



As the signers of the Afghanistan Call to Reason put it last week,



"Despite these huge costs, the situation on the ground is much worse than a year ago because the Taliban insurgency has made progress across the country. It is now very difficult to work outside the cities or even move around Afghanistan by road. The insurgents have built momentum, exploiting the shortcomings of the Afghan government and the mistakes of the coalition. The Taliban today are now a national movement with a serious presence in the north and the west of the country. Foreign bases are completely isolated from their local environment and unable to protect the population."


The insurgents' momentum is clearly shown by the number of attacks they've initiated across the country so far this year. According to the Afghan NGO Safety Office (ANSO),



"The [Taliban] counter-offensive is increasingly mature, complex & effective. Country wide attacks have grown by 59% (p.10) while sophisticated recruitment techniques have helped activate networks of fighters in the North where European NATO contributors have failed to provide an adequate deterrent (p.11). Some provinces here are experiencing double the country average growth rate (p.12) and their districts are in danger of slipping beyond any control. Clumsy attempts to stem the developments, through the formation of local militia's and intelligence-poor operations, have served to polarize communities with the IEA capitalizing on the local grievances that result. In the South, despite more robust efforts from the US NATO contingents, counterinsurgency operations in Kandahar and Marjah have similarly failed to degrade the IEA's ability to fight, reduce the number of civilian combat fatalities (p.13) or deliver boxed Government."


Here's a helpful chart from ANSO's report that shows the level of ever-escalating insurgent attacks across Afghanistan.



ANSO Chart, Afghanistan violence

The White House wants to weasel out of the implications of the data above by saying that the reason the statistics are going south is because, as Petraeus so often says, "when you take away areas important to the enemy, the enemy fights back." So, we're "on offense," as President told troops few weeks ago during his trip to Afghanistan. Well, so what? The 1976 Buccaneers went on offense, too, but that didn't mean they won games.



When the administration claims that they're seeing "progress" in pockets of southern Helmand and Kandahar (a claim open to serious dispute, by the way, and strangely contradicted by some of Petraeus' own spin), they're displaying a familiar kind of confusion between the tactical and the strategic, one that seems to always pop up when we're confronting a failed war.



"One of the iconic exchanges of Vietnam came, some years after the war, between Col. Harry Summers, a military historian, and a counterpart in the North Vietnamese Army. As Summers recalled it, he said, 'You never defeated us in the field.' To which the NVA officer replied: 'That may be true. It is also irrelevant.'"


Pakistan's Double Game



That brings us to Pakistan. According to the New York Times, two new National Intelligence Estimates "offer a more negative assessment [than the administration's upcoming review] and say there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border." But that's some serious wishful thinking, since Pakistan has long used the Taliban as a cat's paw to combat growing Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants the militants who threaten it internally suppressed, but it finds the militants who threaten the Karzai regime useful. Fixing that problem would requite U.S. policy follow the roots of their support of the Taliban all the way up to the India/Pakistan animosity, and nothing--nothing--in the U.S.'s military-first strategy comes close to doing so.



Troops Pay the Price



While U.S. politicians nibble at the edges of this real crisis, U.S. troops pay the bloody price, a price that's gotten much worse with the arrival of the new escalation policy over the course of this year. At least 874 American troops have been killed in the war so far this year, compared to 317 for all of 2009. In the NATO hospital near Kandahar, doctors performed a major amputation once very other day in September.



These statistics go hand-in-hand with the huge rise in civilian casualties, which number some 2,400 this year so far, according to the Campaign for Innocent Civilians in Conflict.



Time for the White House to Get Real



The Obama administration is kidding itself if it thinks the American people will buy this attempted whitewash of the failure of the escalation strategy in Afghanistan. We are in the grips of a desperate unemployment crisis, wrapped in a larger economic meltdown. We are not ignorant of the $2 billion dollars sent per week on the war, and we want that money, and those young people, back here at home so we put people back to work.



Following the death of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the president should take a step back and realize that we all have to travel down that road some day. He should think about what legacy he wants to leave behind him. Postponing a final end to U.S. military action in Afghanistan until 2014 puts U.S. taxpayers and American troops on the hook for an enormous investment of blood and treasure in a failing enterprise with no prospects for a turnaround.



A real, honest review would objectively conclude that the enterprise is failing and that the best alternative is to start removing U.S. troops immediately to stave off continued economic and social damage caused by this war that's not making us safer nor worth the cost.



Please watch our latest video and share it with your friends. Then, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.