Report: Growing mental health problems in military

Mental problems send more men in the U.S. military to the hospital than any other cause, according to a new Pentagon report.

And they are the second highest reason for hospitalization of women military personnel, behind conditions related to pregnancy.

The Defense Department’s Medical Surveillance report from November examines “a large, widespread, and growing mental health problem among U.S. military members.”

The 31-page report says mental disorders are a problem for the entire U.S. population, but that sharp increases for active duty military reflect the psychological toll of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Religion as a Tool of Repression

Freedom of speech and dissent are always curtailed in times of war. Whenever soldiers occupy foreign nations, rational thinking is proscribed in favor of nationalistic hubris. Minority opinions, although grounded in ethics and reason, are repressed, often brutally. The majority becomes intolerant of dissenting views. Thoughtful dialog is suspended and irrational ideology gains ascendancy. Civil discourse breaks down, and the social order disintegrates into anti-intellectual emotionalism and chaos.

During World War I and World War II, it was dangerous for anyone to oppose war or to speak truth to power. When Eugene Victor Debs delivered his Canton anti-war speech in 1918, he went to prison. In An Enemy of the People, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen demonstrated that the majority of the people are easily deceived, their emotions manipulated by profiteers and special interests. It requires serious conviction to take a principled stand in the midst of nationalistic fervor in which men and women so easily turn upon one another. During war, nationalism and repression are conducted with the fervor of a religious crusade.

In this era of permanent war we see bumper stickers that attempt to meld religion with nationalism. They carry jingoistic slogans like “God bless America” or “God bless our troops.” Significantly, God even appears on our currency. But why would a just God, if God exists at all, bless a nation that kills with impunity? Why would God bless a nation with a history of repression and genocide?  Why would God bless a nation that institutionalized chattel slavery and the repression of its working class?

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US contacts allies about WikiLeaks move

The United States has briefed its key allies, including Britain, France, Germany and Saudi Arabia ahead of the mass release of classified documents by WikiLeaks.

Whistleblower website WikiLeaks plans to release around three million leaked documents, including cables sent to Washington from American embassies throughout the world.

The website had previously posted online secret details of US military operations in war-ravaged Iraq and Afghanistan.

United States Department of State Spokesman Philip Crowley says the United States is “gearing up for the worst-case scenario.”

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Gun Running, Drugs and Flamenco: US Army Human Terrain System Has It All

See also:  Nature: Shut Down Army’s Human Terrain Program

A member of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command management team in Afghanistan, according to sources, is a “gun runner.” That individual is allegedly listed in an “Federal Bureau of Investigation database” and has “ties to Ahmad Wali Khan Karzai and the drug business.”

Another Human Terrain System leader has apparently been accused by “local nationals…of being a pedophile—touching young Afghan children while out in the field and making disturbing comments about them.” Members of a US Army Stryker group in Afghanistan have made the same comments.

These comments appear outrageous but, then again, this is the US Army Human Terrain System. It’s a head-shaker that the US Army (TRADOC) and Lieutenant General William James Lennox Jr. heap praise upon it even as the US Congress, House Armed Services Committee, has said the program needs a good scrub, as reported by the authorities on HTS at Wired the Washington Independent.

HASC is to be applauded for this action. And it could not come at a better time.

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Red Cross confirms ‘secret jail’ in Bagram, Afghanistan

The US airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan contains a facility for detainees that is distinct from its main prison, the Red Cross has confirmed to the BBC.

Nine former prisoners have told the BBC that they were held in a separate building, and subjected to abuse.

The US military says the main prison, now called the Detention Facility in Parwan, is the only detention facility on the base.

However it has said it will look into the abuse allegations made to the BBC.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that since August 2009 US authorities have been notifying it of names of detained people in a separate facility at Bagram.

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Canada not to extend Afghan mission

Canada has rejected US calls for extending the presence of its troops in Afghanistan, standing opposed to Washington’s strategy in the war-torn country.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated that Canada would not keep the troops deployed in the country.

During a Tuesday meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Ottawa, Harper stated clearly that “Canada will remain engaged, but this is going to be a civilian-based mission.”

Canada is scheduled to withdraw its 2,800 troops form Afghanistan next year.

The government was under mounting public pressure to return the soldiers home. At least 140 Canadian troops have been killed so far in Afghanistan.
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War on drugs goes literal: biowarfare on poppies

US and British forces in Afghanistan have been accused of waging biological warfare on poppy fields to stymie opium crop production.

Last week, the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported:

Poppy plants have been suffering from a mysterious disease which leaves them yellow and withered and slashes the yield of opium resin which is sold on and processed into heroin.

According to the Telegraph, yields have dropped by up to 90 per cent in some fields. Some Afghan farmers are blaming British and American soldiers for spraying the crops with the disease. Officials have denied involvement.

Jean-Luc Lemahieu, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan (UNODC), said that plant samples were currently being tested to confirm whether the origins of the disease are natural or human-induced.

Considering that spraying has been forbidden by the president of Afghanistan, “we start with the belief that this is a natural phenomenon,” says Lemanhieu. It could be due to insects such as aphids, or fungi, he says.

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US puts child soldier on trial

A new US law on military trials will be put to the test this week when a long-running case of the Canadian-born terrorist suspect Omar Ahmed Khadr, who was arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 aged just 15, resumes in Guantanamo.

Khadr is accused of killing an American soldier during a gun battle, but his lawyers claim that he only confessed to the killing after being tortured.

Under a new US law, evidence obtained through cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment cannot be used in trials. Other legislation rules out the prosecution of child combatants under 18.

“Back in 2002, the US signed and ratified the optional protocol which is a protocol to the Convention on the Rights of a Child. In that protocol, we determined as a nation that we were not going to prosecute children – child soldiers,” Eric Montalvo, who specializes in military law, pointed out.

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US confronts its reputation abroad

Memo to America: Stop murdering my people

Almost every day, the NATO occupation of our country continues to kill innocent people. Each time, it seems, military officials try to claim that only insurgents are killed, or they completely deny and cover up their crimes. The work of a few courageous journalists is the only thing that brings some of these atrocities to light.

For instance, it was only after the reporting of Jerome Starkey of the Times of London that officials admitted to the brutal Feb. 12 murder of two pregnant women, a teenage girl, and several young men in a night raid at a home where a family was celebrating the birth of a child.

Night raids, air raid “mistakes,” firing on civilian buses and cars at checkpoints — the occupation finds many ways of killing the people of Afghanistan. The excuses and lies for these deaths are like salt in our wounds, and it is no wonder that protests against the U.S. military are growing. The Afghan people have had enough.

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Pentagon investigating alleged spy operation

WASHINGTON — A Department of Defense official is under investigation for allegedly hiring private contractors to gather intelligence on suspected insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a U.S. official said Monday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the case, told The Associated Press that Michael D. Furlong directed a defense contract to gather information about the region that could be shared with military units. After military officials suspected that he was using Defense Department money for an off-the-books spy operation, defense officials shut down that part of the contract, the official said.

The story was first reported by The New York Times in Monday’s editions, quoting unidentified military and business sources as saying that Furlong, now a senior civilian employee at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, hired subcontractors who had former U.S. intelligence and special forces operatives on their payrolls. The newspaper said some of the information collected by the contractors was used to track down and attack militants.

“The story makes some serious allegations and raises numerous unanswered questions that warrant further review by the department,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday.

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Let Dr. Aafia go home, Mr. President

Reading all those legal thrillers by John Grisham and watching Hollywood blockbusters that portray innocent individuals framed and ensnared by a powerful system, one always thought: Of course, these things do not happen in real life.

I am not so sure anymore though. The abduction, persecution and now conviction of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-educated neuroscientist, by the U.S. authorities reads like a regulation Grisham thriller written for Hollywood.

Aafia disappeared with her three children on her way to Jinnah International Airport airport for Islamabad way back in 2003. Five years later, she was presented in a New York court in March 2008 as “a top al-Qaeda terrorist” and the “most dangerous woman on earth,” as United States Attorney General John Ashcroft put it.

The U.S. authorities claimed then that Aafia was captured near Ghazni governor’s office in Afghanistan with a bag that carried instructions on making explosives and a list of U.S. landmarks.

But more damningly, the U.S. authorities claimed that the frail mother of three attacked a team of eight U.S. soldiers, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Afghan officials in Ghazni with a highly sophisticated, heavy M-4 gun in Ghazni when they went to question her. Surprisingly though, it’s Aafia who ended up with two gunshot wounds, inflicted point blank. None of the officials she allegedly attacked sustained any injuries or wounds.

Last week, after months of courtroom drama and charade of a trial, Aafia was convicted of attempted murder and attacking U.S. soldiers and FBI officials with a deadly weapon.

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Efforts to silence Aafia Siddiqui continue

Efforts to silence Pakistani citizen Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who is charged with attempted murder of US military and Federal Bureau of Investigation personnel, are continuing during her trial.

In a letter to the New York Federal judge presiding over her trial, Siddiqui’s defense team said that she is not mentally fit to testify.

In the letter, the lawyers said that they believe she suffers from “diminished capacity,” the NY Daily News reported on Tuesday.

“We feel it is our duty under relevant ethical rules to take protective action to safeguard her interests,” the letter read.

Siddiqui’s trial started on January 19, 2010.

See also:

Case against Aafia Siddiqui begins to unravel

My children were tortured, this trial is a sham: Aafia

‘US torturing females in Afghan prisons’

Rights groups seek Siddiqui extradition

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UN removes Taliban officials from blacklist

The United Nations has removed five former Taliban officials from its blacklist as part of reconciliation efforts in war-weary Afghanistan.

The de-listing, which came on Wednesday, was approved by a special Security Council committee.

The UN said in a statement that the five Afghan nationals would no longer be subject to a freeze on their assets and a travel ban.

The move comes after Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for the lifting of the 2001 UN sanctions against some Taliban leaders.

Karzai had said he would propose the idea at the international conference on Afghanistan which is scheduled to be held in London on Thursday.

The Afghan president says the United States and Britain will show their support for his plan at the conference.
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United Nations report blasts US over human rights abuses

A United Nations report says the US has been violating basic human rights by kidnapping and holding terrorism suspects in secret detention centers during the past nine years.

The US is among dozens of countries that have kidnapped suspects, four independent UN rights investigators said in a year-long study based on flight data and interviews with 30 former detainees.

“On a global scale, secret detention in connection with counter-terrorist policies remains a serious problem,” they wrote in the 226-page report which is expected to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March.

“Secret detention as such may constitute torture or ill-treatment for the direct victims as well as their families,” the report said.

Victims and their families deserve compensation and those responsible should be prosecuted, said the four independent investigators.

The UN report explained that the purpose of the secret detentions was to cover up torture and inhuman treatment of the detainees in an effort to obtain information or silent the subjects.

The rights investigators said running facilities such as those used by the Nazis, the Soviet gulag system and Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and ’80s, was banned under the internationally recognized laws laid out in the Geneva Conventions.

They also said establishment of secret detention could not be justified under any circumstances, including during states of emergency or armed conflict.
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‘Bomb detector’ maker Jim McCormick arrested

The director of a company which sold a bomb-detecting device to 20 countries, including Iraq, has been arrested.

ATSC‘s Jim McCormick, 53, was detained on Friday on suspicion of fraud by misrepresentation, Avon and Somerset police said. He has since been bailed.

It comes after a BBC investigation alleged the ADE-651 did not work.

Earlier, the British government announced a ban on the export of the device to Iraq and Afghanistan, where British forces are serving.

Anti-theft tag

Mr McCormick has said the device, sold from offices in rural Somerset, used special electronic cards slotted into it to detect explosives.

But a BBC Newsnight investigation reported that a computer laboratory said the card it examined contained only a tag used by shops to prevent theft.

There are concerns the detectors have failed to stop bomb attacks which have killed hundreds of people.

The device consists of a swiveling aerial mounted to a hinge on a hand-grip. It does not operate by battery, instead promotional material says it is powered only by the user’s static electricity.

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Psychiatric disorders spiral among US troops

A new study indicates US troops who were withdrawn from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for medical reasons were increasingly evacuated for psychiatric reasons.

Psychiatric disorders rose from 2004 to 2007, despite an increased focus on treating mental health problems, the research study revealed on Friday.

Only 14 percent of troops taken out of combat operations on medical grounds during the four-year period were because of a combat injury, AFP reported.

The biggest single cause for a pullout was ‘musculo-skeletal’ and joint problems, which accounted for 24 percent of medical evacuations.

In contrast, psychiatric grounds accounted for five percent of evacuations in Iraq and six percent in Afghanistan in 2004; these figures rose to 14 and 11 percent respectively in 2007.

Researchers also said that repeat missions and declining public support for the Iraq war may partly account for the rise.

The study drew on data from more than 34,000 US personnel who had been evacuated to the main US military receiving hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.  [ Probably the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. ]

Steven P. Cohen of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore led the research team.

4 years in prison for ex-captain in theft case

HONOLULU — A former Army captain was sentenced Tuesday to four years and two months in federal prison for stealing $400,000 from the U.S. government while stationed at Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor also ordered David Gilliam to pay about $450,000 in restitution to the government.

Gilliam, 39, previously pleaded guilty to theft, money laundering and filing a false tax return.

Gilliam was accused of stealing the money between April 2004 and April 2005. At the time he worked as a disbursing officer for the Army’s Alpha Detachment, 125th Finance Battalion, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Prosecutors say he smuggled the funds from Afghanistan to Hawaii, where he spent some of the money before relocating to South Carolina.

Are America’s Mercenary Armies Really Drug Cartels?

News out of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India reports massive corruption at the highest levels of government, corruption that could only be financed with drug money. In Afghanistan, the president’s brother is known to be one of the biggest drug runners in the world.

In Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari is found with 60 million in a Swiss Bank and his Interior Minister is suspected of ties to American groups involved in paramilitary operations, totally illegal that could involve nothing but drugs, there is no other possibility.

Testimony in the US that our government has used “rendition” flights to transport massive amounts of narcotics to Western Europe and the United States has been taken in sworn deposition.

American mercenaries in Pakistan are hundreds of miles away from areas believed to be hiding terrorists, involved in “operations” that can’t have anything whatsoever to do with any Central Intelligence Agency contract. These mercenaries aren’t in Quetta, Waziristan or Federally Administered Tribal Areas supporting our troops, they are in Karachi and Islamabad playing with police and government officials and living the life of the fatted calf.

The accusations made are that Americans in partnership with corrupt officials, perhaps in all 3 countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, are involved in assassinations, “unknown” criminal activities and are functioning like criminal gangs.

There is no oil. There is nothing to draw people into the area other than one product, one that nobody is talking about. Drugs.

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Failure Admitted in Afghan Drug War

The US administration has admitted that Washington has failed to curb narcotics production and trafficking in Afghanistan.

The US Department of State on Wednesday criticized Washington’s 2-billion-dollar plan to combat the drug trade in Afghanistan for poor oversight and lack of strategy.

According to a report by the State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the US counternarcotics efforts do not have clear objectives.

The report also criticized a shift of focus from eradicating poppy fields to interdiction of drug organizations and alternative crop projects, despite a consensus among US agencies.

The report also added that US embassies in Afghanistan and Pakistan do not coordinate well on the issue.

It also criticizes poorly-written contracts for counternarcotics works.

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Afghanistan another Vietnam, says captive US soldier

An American trooper in Taliban captivity says that the United States has lost its grip on the Afghan war, urging the American people to help stop the ‘nonsense.’

“I’m afraid to tell you that this war has slipped from our fingers and it’s just going to be our next Vietnam unless the American people stand up and stop all this nonsense,” said US soldier Bowe Robert Bergdahl in a video released by the militants on Friday, the AFP news agency reported. American media outlets, however, say the GI shown in the video is yet to be identified as Bowe.

The private first class went missing from his base in an eastern Afghanistan Taliban stronghold of Paktia near the volatile Pakistani border in June. The 23-year-old is the first US soldier to be captured by the Taliban over more than eight years of US-led counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan.

The US defense officials established the soldier’s identity in a similar video in July in which he likewise called for the troops “withdrawal” and addressed the American people, saying that “you have the power to make our government bring them home.”
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Troops admit to abusing prescription drugs

About one in four soldiers admit to abusing prescription drugs, most of them pain relievers, in a one-year period, according to a Pentagon health survey released Wednesday.

The study, which surveyed more than 28,500 U.S. troops last year, showed that about 20 percent of Marines had also abused prescription drugs, mostly painkillers, in that same period.

The findings show the continued toll on the military from fighting wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Those wars have required troops to serve multiple combat deployments.

“We are aware that more prescription drugs are being used today for pain management and behavioral health issues,” Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force, said Wednesday. “These areas of substance abuse along with increased use of alcohol concern us.”

The survey showed that pain relievers were the most abused drug in the military, used illicitly at a rate triple that of marijuana or amphetamines, the next most widely abused drugs.

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Germany backs dialogue with ‘moderate Taliban’

Germany‘s defense minister says he supports talks with ‘moderate’ Taliban in war-torn Afghanistan, days after a committee was formed to probe a deadly German-ordered airstrike which resulted in heavy civilian casualties.

In an interview with the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said on Sunday that he favored keeping open channels of communications with moderate Afghan tribes and communities but cautioned against potential risks.

“Not every insurgent is a direct threat to Western society…There is a difference between groups who have the goal of fighting our culture out of a radical rejection of the West and those for example who see culture as connected to the place where you live,” he was quoted as saying.

While rejecting a hasty commitment to US President Barack Obama’s call for extra soldiers, Guttenberg attacked opposition Social Democrats for rejecting any boost.

He also noted that the scheduled conference on Afghanistan in London would offer a chance for establishing strategies “that reflects our own experience,” instead of blindly following in the footsteps of the US policies.

Marine sergeant charged with sexual battery of a minor and indecent liberties with a child (3 yrs.) with the knowledge that the child was mentally disabled

A North Carolina-based noncommissioned officer faces charges for allegedly sexually abusing a 3-year-old.

Sgt. Duane F. Bachesta, 26, of St. Clair, Illinois,, with 2nd Intelligence Battalion out of Camp Lejeune, was charged Monday with sexual battery of a minor and indecent liberties with a child with the knowledge that the child was mentally disabled, according to warrants.

Bachesta, an imagery analyst, was placed in Onslow County jail on a $20,000 bond, according to a II Marine Expeditionary Force release.

He joined the Corps in March 2002 and served an eight-month tour in Afghanistan last year.

This incident remains under investigation.

US silent on Taliban’s al-Qaeda offer

WASHINGTON – The Barack Obama administration is refusing to acknowledge an offer by the leadership of the Taliban in early December to give “legal guarantees” that they will not allow Afghanistan to be used for attacks on other countries.

The administration’s silence on the offer, despite a public statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing skepticism about any Taliban offer to separate itself from al-Qaeda, effectively leaves the door open to negotiating a deal with the Taliban based on such a proposal.

The Taliban, however, have chosen to interpret the Obama administration’s position as one of rejection of their offer.

The Taliban offer, included in a statement dated December 4 and e-mailed to news organizations the following day, said the organization had “no agenda of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and is ready to give legal guarantees if foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan”.

The statement did not mention al-Qaeda by name or elaborate on what was meant by “legal guarantees” against such “meddling”, but it was an obvious response to past US insistence that the US war in Afghanistan is necessary to prevent al-Qaeda from having a safe haven in Afghanistan once again.
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Capturing Osama Bin Laden Is the Last Thing That Americans Want

Where is bad guy Osama bin Laden? This question still takes the minds of US political and military elite. US National Security Advisor James L. Jones believes that the prime suspect of 9/11 attacks is hiding in Pakistan. Defense Secretary Robert Michael Gates later said that the Pentagon did not have the information to confirm the statement, for terrorist No. 1 would have been caught otherwise.

A special report from the US Senate said that the US military had a chance to capture Bin Laden alive, but they missed him during the first months of the Afghan campaign in 2001. Former Defense Secretary Donald Henry Rumsfeld and General Tommy Ray Franks are said to be accountable for that mistake.

According to US intelligence, Bin Laden was hiding in Tora Bora caves in the east of Afghanistan. US troops were prepared to storm the caves in December of 2001, but suddenly canceled the operation following the orders from Rumsfeld and Franks, who later said that they should concentrate their efforts in other directions.

The authors of the report believe that Bin Laden and his associates used the opportunity to escape to Pakistan, where he can probably be staying still. The officials, who prepared the report, referred to the information announced by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

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US exports ‘violence’ to Latin America, says Fidel

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro says the US has never ceased its “exceptional cynicism” towards the revolutionary nations in Latin America over the past 50 years.

In an article titled “Is there any margin for hypocrisy and deceit?” Castro investigates Washington’s approach toward the Latin American nations especially those that opt to challenge its hegemony in the region.

Fidel writes that “the empire,” as he calls it, has altered its strategies over the years, but has never changed its objectives while facing revolutionary nations in the region.

He goes on to describe “violence” as the most exported products by the United States’ capitalist society during the last half a century.

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US let bin Laden escape after 9/11: Senate report

US military leaders allowed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden) to ‘walk unmolested out of Tora Bora‘ when he was within the reach of US troops, a Senate report reveals.

Staff members for the Democratic majority of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations prepared the report at the request of the chairman, Sen. John Forbes Kerry.

The Saturday report said that the failure to kill or capture bin Laden in December 2001 has had lasting consequences, according to the Associated Press.

Kerry has argued the Bush administration missed a chance to get the al-Qaeda leader and top deputies when they were holed up in the mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan three months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The report also sharply criticized mishandling of US military for capturing Osama bin Laden.

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Afghan Villagers Take Revenge for Civilian Casualties – Soldier-Boys Cry

German army chief resigns over Afghan civilian deaths

The German army’s chief of staff has stepped down after reports of Afghan civilian deaths in a September air strike involving German troops.

Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told parliament on Thursday Wolfgang Schneiderhan had submitted his resignation.

Schneiderhan “has released himself from his duties at his own request,” zu Guttenberg said, thanking the former chief for his services.

The Afghan government has said that the September 4 operation, in which 69 militants and more than 30 civilians were killed, was the deadliest involving German troops since World War II.

Following the strike, Franz Josef Jung, who was defense minister at the time, denied there were any civilian victims.

However, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported on Thursday that videos and a secret military report had clearly pointed to civilian casualties at the time the government and the military were denying such reports.

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Let’s Eliminate Welfare for Terrorists

Of all the factors on the table in the current Afghan strategic review, the War on Drugs and its unintended consequences should be front and center. Our 95-year effort to create a Drug Free America by enforcing world-wide prohibition has twisted our foreign policy out of shape all over the globe and the nightmare in Afghanistan is just the latest manifestation.

It seems to be an open secret that President Hamid Karzai‘s brother is a player in the heroin trade, and the whole administration in Kabul is said to be riddled with corruption. Unfortunately, the replacement of Karzai, even if that proved possible, would not change the fundamental dynamic. Nearly a tenth of the population relies on the illegal opium industry for their daily bread. Corruption will be the norm as long as the American people are willing to invest limitless resources manning an arbitrary barricade between the sellers and buyers.

Unfortunately narco-corruption, like narcotics themselves, can penetrate any border and there is growing evidence that this cancer has metastasized into every nook and cranny of the known world. Consider, for example, this headline from London: “Corrupt officers exist throughout the UK police service.”

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500 Million New Terrorists!

The world is becoming less safe by the day. Before the end of November, half a billion new terrorists will be added to the list kept by the US government.

On November 30, one day before the Treaty of Lisbon is scheduled to take effect, the ministers of justice of the European Union‘s 27 member states will sign yet another security agreement with the US. It is supposed to be an essential weapon in the global “War on Terrorsim” the US claims to be fighting.

Under the new agreement, the US government will get access to all the banking data of all Europeans. This means that from December 2009, every single financial transaction done by every single European banking customer will come under the scrutiny of the US authorities. Henceforth, whenever the US government suspects a European “citizen” of supporting terrorism, it can request all his or her banking data, including all bank statements as well as any and all personal data connected with the account.

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US lawmakers call for ending Cuba travel ban

Two key American lawmakers say that Washington should allow its citizens to travel to Cuba to help promote ‘democratic reforms’ in that country.

Veteran Republican Senator Richard Lugar and Democratic Congressman Howard Berman insist that the Cuba travel ban has been obsolete and should be discarded as a foreign policy measure.

Lugar, the top Republican on the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Berman, who chairs the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, noted that legislation to overturn the ban has been introduced in both chambers of the US Congress.

“US law lets American citizens travel to any country on earth, friend or foe, with one exception, Cuba. It’s time for us to scrap this anachronistic ban, imposed during one of the chilliest periods of the Cold War,” said Republican Senator Richard Lugar and Democratic Congressman Howard Berman, a joint statement.

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America Owned by Its Army

Paris, November 3, 2009 – It is possible that the creation of an all-professional American army was the most dangerous decision ever taken by Congress. The nation now confronts a political crisis in which the issue has become an undeclared contest between Pentagon power and that of a newly elected president.

Barack Obama has yet to declare his decision on the war in Afghanistan, and there is every reason to think that he will follow military opinion. Yet he is under immense pressure from his Republican opponents to, in effect, renounce his presidential power, and step aside from the fundamental strategic decisions of the nation.

The officer he named to command the war in Afghanistan, Stanley A. McChrystal, demands a reinforcement of 40 thousand soldiers, raising the total U.S. commitment to over 100 thousand troops (or more, in the future). He says that he cannot succeed without them, and even then may be unable to win the war within a decade. Yet the American public is generally in doubt about this war, most of all the president’s own liberal electorate.

President Obama almost certainly will do as the the general requests, or something very close to it. He can read the wartime politics in this situation.
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Occupiers involved in drug trade: Afghan minister

The Afghan minister of counter narcotics says foreign troops are earning money from drug production in Afghanistan.

General Khodaidad Khodaidad said the majority of drugs are stockpiled in two provinces controlled by troops from the US, the UK, and Canada, Islamic Republic News Agency reported on Saturday.

He went on to say that North Atlantic Treaty Organizaton forces are taxing the production of opium in the regions under their control.

Afghanistan is the world’s biggest supplier of opium.

Drug production in the Central Asian country has increased dramatically since the US-led invasion eight years ago.

A recent report by the United Nations states that Afghan opium is having a devastating impact on the world, killing thousands in consumer countries.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Ahmed Wali Karzai, a brother of the Afghan president, is involved in the opium trade, meets with Taliban leaders, and is also a Central Intelligence Agency operative.

The opium trade is the major source of Taliban financing.

UN says US drone strikes may violate international law

US unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) strikes against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be breaking international laws against summary executions, the United Nations top investigator of such crimes said.

“The problem with the United States is that it is making an increased use of drones/Predators (which are) particularly prominently used now in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan,” UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston told a press conference.

“My concern is that drones/Predators are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” he said.

US strikes with remote-controlled aircraft against Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan have often resulted in civilian deaths and drawn bitter criticism from local populations.

“The onus is really on the United States government to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary extrajudicial executions aren’t in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons,” he added.

Alston said he presented a report on the matter to the UN General Assembly.

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Karzai’s brother ‘on CIA payroll’

US involvement in Afghanistan has come into new question with the claim that President Hamid Karzai‘s brother has for years been on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency – even though he is suspected of being a major figure in the illicit opium trade that Washington and its allies are pledged to do everything to stamp out. The allegations against Ahmed Wali Karzai, set out yesterday in The New York Times and attributed to current and former US…

Military Children in Crisis

A seven-year-old second-grader attempted suicide while his father was serving yet another tour in Iraq. Seven years old. Seven. His mother was one of half a dozen military spouses I have spoken with about soldiers’ kids who have attempted suicide during their fathers’ deployments.

When I was seven, it was 1972, and there were 69,000 US troops in Vietnam. Men were still being drafted and deployed, but not my dad. So I was spared the circumstances that led a seven-year-old to try to kill himself.

Three-plus decades ago, parents were exempt from conscription because of overwhelming concern about the harmful effects of deployment on children. Today, roughly half of the troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are parents, many of whom have served multiple tours. Repeat deployments stress soldiers and escalate the likelihood of psychological injuries that can last for a lifetime. There is a small, but rapidly growing, body of evidence suggesting that the same is true of their children.

The Associated Press reported that “After nearly eight years of war, soldiers are not the only ones experiencing mental anguish…. Last year, children of US troops sought outpatient mental health care 2 million times, double the number at the start of the Iraq war…. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, inpatient visits among military children have increased 50 percent. (“War stresses military kids,” July 12, 2009.)

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs latest research on mental health issues of troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan shows that “the prevalence of new diagnoses in early 2008 had nearly doubled from four years prior in 2004.” (“Study reveals sharp rise in diagnoses of disorders,” Stars & Stripes, July 18, 2009.)

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Perpetual war is here — and Americans are getting used to it

Waco Siege Enforcer To Rule Over Global Police Force 121009top2

A new poll shows a substantial majority of Americans have resigned themselves to the reality of our nation’s perpetual foreign wars. They don’t like it, but they see it happening and know there is nothing they can do about it. The poll, conducted by Clarus Research Group, showed that 68 percent of us agree with idea that we won’t either win or lose the war in Afghanistan, now eight years long, but will instead just remain there. The image of flies and flypaper again swirls in my head, just as it did at the time of the invasion of Iraq. We invaded these places and now we’re stuck there, and President Barack Obama is likewise stuck, not on flypaper, but on the horns of a dilemma: Does he send tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, as his area commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has publicly demanded, or does he change strategies a la Joe Biden and rely more on special ops and drones to harass the Taliban and kill whatever members of al-Qaeda we can find?
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EU slams US-led Afghanistan bombing

European foreign ministers have criticized the ‘catastrophic’ Friday bombing of north Afghanistan, which left 90 people, including many civilians, killed.

During an unofficial meeting in Sweden on Saturday, foreign ministers from different European Union nations censured NATO‘s lethal attack on two fuel tankers, believed to have taken over by Taliban militants in Qonduz province, in which 90 people including dozens of civilians lost their lives.

Euronews, citing German media outlets, reported that Germany’s press blame their government for the attack as it ordered US fighter jets to run the operation.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called the attack ‘a serious mistake’ and told EU to “work with the Afghan people, not bomb them.”

Meanwhile, Luxemburg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn branded the recent episode as ‘an unacceptable catastrophe.’

Also in the meeting, Britain admitted the recent fatal airstrike would endanger the future of peace-keeping mission and called for new strategies to combat militancy.

NATO has pledged to ‘fully’ probe the incident.

Canada rejects NATO call on Afghanistan

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon has dismissed NATO calls for extending his country’s deployment in Afghanistan after 2011.

“Our government is abiding by the motion passed in parliament in 2008 – that is that our combat forces will leave by 2011,” he told CBC on Thursday.

Cannon’s remarks came after NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that he would like to see Canada stay beyond 2011.

The Canadian parliament in 2008 voted to withdraw the country’s forces no later than 2011.

The minister also praised Canada’s military personnel for their important role in the war-torn country.

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Majority in US oppose both wars

July 24, 2009 — (AP)   -A majority of Americans oppose both the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq, though the war in Afghanistan is a little more popular. Here are details:

OVERALL RESULTS: 34 percent favor the war in Iraq and 63 percent are opposed; 44 percent favor the war in Afghanistan and 53 percent are opposed.

PARTISAN DIFFERENCES: 64 percent of Republicans are in favor of the war in Iraq and just 10 percent of Democrats are; 66 percent of Republicans favor the war in Afghanistan, as do 26 percent of Democrats.

PRESIDENT’S RATING: 56 percent of Americans approve of President Barack Obama’s handling of the situation in Iraq, and 55 percent approve of his handling of Afghanistan. Both numbers are down just slightly since April.

THE FUTURE: 68 percent think it is likely that Obama will be able to pull most troops out of Iraq in the next four years, but that’s down from 83 percent before his inauguration.

METHODOLOGY: The AP-GfK Poll was conducted July 16-20 and involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,006 adults nationwide. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Drones Hardly Ever Kill Bad Guys

The foreign policy community’s favorite counterinsurgency adviser, or at least their favorite Australian one, David Kilcullen, told lawmakers last week that the drone strikes targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Pakistan are creating enemies at a far faster rate than its killing them. According to statistics he provided, the success rate of the drone bombing campaign is extremely low: just 2 percent of bombs dropped have hit targeted militants. The other 98 percent? Those killed noncombatant Pakistani civilians, he said.

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US says Afghan poppy eradication ‘failure’

The United States admits that its efforts in eradicating opium poppy production in Afghanistan have proven to be of no avail.

Washington’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke said on Sunday that the current measures taken against poppy growers had been “a failure”.

“The Western policies against the opium crop, the poppy crop, have been a failure. They did not result in any damage to the Taliban, but they put farmers out of work,” Holbrooke said at a G8 meeting in Italy.

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Some Reports from the Congressional Research Service

“Mexico’s Drug-Related Violence,” May 27, 2009.

“The 2009 Influenza A(H1N1) ‘Swine Flu’ Outbreak: U.S. Responses to Global Human Cases,” May 26, 2009.

“The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” updated May 15, 2009.

“USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives After 15 Years: Issues for Congress,” May 27, 2009.

“Airport Improvement Program (AIP): Reauthorization Issues for Congress,” May 29, 2009.

“Identity Theft: Trends and Issues,” May 27, 2009.

“The State Secrets Privilege and Other Limits on Litigation Involving Classified Information” (pdf), May 28, 2009.

“Major U.S. Arms Sales and Grants to Pakistan Since 2001″ (fact sheet), updated June 3, 2009.

“Political Turmoil in Thailand and U.S. Interests,” May 26, 2009.

“The 2009 Influenza A(H1N1) ‘Swine Flu’ Outbreak: An Overview,” May 20, 2009.

“Defense: FY2010 Authorization and Appropriations,” May 8, 2009.

“Medical Marijuana: Review and Analysis of Federal and State Policies,” March 31, 2009.

U.S. holds journalist without charges in Iraq

Reuters cameraman Ibrahim Jassam has been held since September. The U.S. military rejected a court order to release him, saying he is a ‘high security threat.’ No evidence has been presented.

Reporting from Baghdad — The soldiers came at 1:30 a.m, rousing family members who were sleeping on the roof to escape the late-summer heat.

They broke down the front door. Accompanied by dogs, American and Iraqi troops burst into the Jassam family home in the town of Mahmoudiya south of Baghdad.

“Where is the journalist Ibrahim?” one of the Iraqi soldiers barked at the grandparents, children and grandchildren as they staggered blearily down the stairs.

Ibrahim Jassam, a cameraman and photographer for the Reuters news agency, stepped forward, one of this brothers recalled. “Take me if you want me, but please leave my brothers.” The soldiers rifled through the house, confiscating his computer hard drive and cameras. And then they led him away, handcuffed and blindfolded.

That was Sept. 2.

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US suicidal veterans surpassing KIAs

At least 13 American soldiers have committed suicide in March as post traumatic syndrome is increasing suicide tendency among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

The latest figure has brought to 56 the number of US soldiers’ suicide cases in 2009, according to figures released by the US Army, a press TV correspond reported on Monday.

According to US medics, with 23 soldiers committing suicide in January, the number of those killed themselves was higher than the number of soldiers killed in combat-related incidents.

Eighteen other suicide cases were also reported in the US military in February.

See also:

Corps Sees Dramatic Spike in Suicides

Marine suicide rate up, prompting more prevention training

Army recruiting stand-down ordered after suicides

Army Manual Promotes Christianity to Combat Epidemic of Suicides

4 Recruiter Suicides Lead to Army Probe

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US vying to ‘hand-pick’ Afghan president

Washington is using its political clout to influence the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan, a report says.

The US embassy in Kabul has urged Afghanistan’s leading presidential hopefuls to withdraw from the race in favor of Ali Ahmad Jalali — a candidate that is more preferred by Washington, reported Pakistan‘s Ummat daily.

In return, US official have promised to guarantee key positions for the three candidates — which include finance minister Ashraf Ghani, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and political activist Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi — in the next Afghan government.

The move received instant condemnation as flagrant US interference in Afghan politics and internal affairs.

Jalali — who is viewed as the main rival of President Hamed Karzai in the August presidential elections — is a US citizen and former Afghan minister of the interior.

His candidacy is seen as a direct violation of the Chapter Three, Article Sixty Two of Afghanistan’s Constitution, which states that only an Afghan citizen has the right to run for president – which means that Jalali would have to apply for Afghan citizenship first.

Zalmay Khalilzad and Ashraf Ghani, two other candidates vying for presidency, also hold US citizenship.

US military admits killing mother, children

A US soldier, stands guard in the Inzeri
village of Tagab Valley, Afghanistan.

The US military in Afghanistan has admitted that four of its troops killed non-combatants in a raid that included a mother and her children.

Afghan officials and witnesses had earlier accused US forces of killing civilians in an overnight raid in the eastern province of Khost. However, the US military had initially claimed that those who had been killed were ‘four combatants’.

“Further inquiries into the coalition and ANSF (Afghan National Security Force) operation in Khost earlier Thursday suggest that the people killed and wounded were not enemy combatants as previously reported,” the military US said.

Civilian casualties caused by western forces in Afghanistan have sparked frequent anger and resentment, leading President Hamid Karzai to accuse them of not taking enough care.

Karzai has told the foreign forces in Afghanistan to work in close consultation with Afghan authorities to avoid harming civilians.

The United Nations said in February that a record 2,118 civilians were killed in the Afghan conflict in 2008, with nearly 40 percent of the deaths caused by pro-government forces, including US-led NATO troops.

Major RAND study with 300 interviews: Intelligence Operations and Metrics in Iraq and Afghanistan, Nov 2008

This major November, 2008 RAND Corporation study on intelligence operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, conducted 300 interviews at all levels with US, UK and Dutch intelligence officers and diplomats.

The 318 page document could be described as part of the “Pentagon Papers” for Iraq and Afghanistan. It was confidentially prepared for the Pentagon’s Joint Forces Command and focuses on intelligence and counterinsurgency operations.

Marked “For Official Use Only” study was distribution restricted to a select group of Coalition war partners and Israel.

The study is a notable news and policy source, not for its arguments or conclusions, but rather for its wealth of candid and revealing interview quotes which are spread throughout the document, but especially in the 200 page appendix.

The material has been verified, and we ask readers to go through the document to extract key quotes for their communities. There is a wealth of interview quotes on almost every aspect of the wars. The authors of the quotes, ranging from the UK Ambassador and the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency to on the ground intelligence officers, can be discovered via the footnote appendix.


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