Two important new reports and a New York Times story written about a Pakistani town called Miram Shah have shed new light on civilian deaths from American drones in Pakistan and Yemen.
The first report, from Amnesty International, is called “Will I Be Next?” (The full report, seventy-four pages long, can be read here.) Investigators with Amnesty International spent nearly a year on the report, conducting sixty interviews with victims and survivors, eyewitnesses and others affected in North Waziristan and other parts of Pakistan. Though not comprehensive, the Amnesty International report is based on “detailed field research into nine of the 45 reported strikes that occurred in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency between January 2012 and August 2013.”
Despite enormous difficulties, including only limited cooperation from Pakistani authorities, Amnesty was able to document specific instances in which Pakistani civilians were killed and injured in drone attacks, including one in which eighteen male laborers, including a young boy, died in a “macabre scene of body parts and blood, panic and terror.” Citing US assurances that few civilians have been killed, Amnesty added:
Critics claim that drone strikes are much less discriminating, have resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths, some of which may amount to extrajudicial executions or war crimes, and foster animosity that increases recruitment into the very groups the USA seeks to eliminate.
And it said:
According to NGO and Pakistan government sources the USA has launched some 330 to 374 drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and September 2013. Amnesty International is not in a position to endorse these figures, but according to these sources, between 400 and 900 civilians have been killed in these attacks and at least 600 people seriously injured.
The Human Rights Watch report is called “Between A Drone and Al Qaeda: The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen.” (You can read the full ninety-seven-page report here and a summary here.) The report “examines six US targeted killings in Yemen, one from 2009 and the rest from 2012-2013.” It says:
During six weeks in Yemen in 2012-2013, Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed more than 90 people about the strikes including witnesses, relatives of those killed, lawyers, human rights defenders, and government officials. Human Rights Watch reviewed evidence including ordnance and videos from attack sites. Security concerns prevented visits to four of the attack areas.
Among its conclusions:
The six strikes investigated by Human Rights Watch killed 82 people, at least 57 of them civilians. They include a US drone-assisted attack in September 2012 in Sarar, central Yemen, that unlawfully struck a passenger van, killing 12 civilians.
Like Amnesty International, which released its report jointly with HRW, the report provides some broad data on the scope of the targeted killing program since 9/11:
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US government has carried out hundreds of targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. In Yemen, the US is estimated to have conducted 81 targeted killing operations, one in 2002 and the rest since 2009. Research groups report that at least 473 people have been killed in these strikes, the majority of them combatants but many of them civilians.
The New York Times, too, reporting from Miram Shah, describes the terror and panic that often grips residents of the targeted areas:
But viewed from Miram Shah, the frontier Pakistani town that has become a virtual test laboratory for drone warfare, the campaign has not been the antiseptic salve portrayed in Washington. In interviews over the past year, residents paint a portrait of extended terror and strain within a tribal society caught between vicious militants and the American drones hunting them.
“Sales of sleeping tablets, antidepressants and medicine to treat anxiety have soared,” reports the Times, adding:
Unusually for the overall American drone campaign, the strikes in the area mostly occur in densely populated neighborhoods. The drones have hit a bakery, a disused girls’ school and a money changers’ market, residents say. One strike occurred in Matches Colony, a neighborhood named after an abandoned match factory that is now frequented by Uzbek militants.
In recent years, a number of organizations and research groups have grappled with the difficulty of estimating the collateral damage caused by the American drone policy of targeted killings. One compilation is provided by the Center for Civilians in Conflict. Its director, Sarah Holewinski, told a Senate committee last May:
Despite recent attempts by the Obama Administration to be more transparent about these drone operations, significant questions remain, including: What civilian protection protocols are in place? How are drone operators trained on distinction? How is a civilian defined? How is civilian harm assessed post-strike? So far, the answer to all of these questions has been “just trust us.” This is not an appropriate policy for a nation that prides itself on transparency and the just use of force.
Other resources on drone attacks can be found at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has tried to compile statistics on civilians killed.
The Obama administration, to its credit, has reduced the number of drone attacks each year since 2010, but the deadly attacks continue in secrecy, without legal justification and without moral authority in the eyes of much of the world. The Washington Post, in its report on the Amnesty International and HRW studies, quoted a White House spokesperson to the effect that President Obama has sought to avoid civilian casualties when ordering strikes. But, said the Post, citing the two groups:
In virtually all cases, the groups said, it was impossible to know whether the targets had met Obama’s threshold of posing an imminent threat to the United States, because U.S. officials have kept that information a secret.
Greg Mitchell looks into government claims that NSA spying prevented dozens of attacks.
Before their second debate tonight, both New York City mayoral candidates are trying to adjust their tone—in their ads, in handling the press and in talking about a riot in the city from twenty years ago.
Republican Joe Lhota has been facing criticism from the right that he wimped out in the first debate last Tuesday. Nicole Gelinas complained in the New York Post that “on critical topics, Lhota punted.”
On policing, the moderator lobbed him a softball: “Is New York City going to be less safe with [Bill de Blasio]?”
Lhota should’ve said yes. Instead, he paused before settling on: “It might be less safe with him.”
Lhota’s been trying to make up for such errors ever since. “I will have a different tone” in tonight’s debate, he promised yesterday.
And he overcompensated for any perceived mildness with a highly inaccurate, much disputed ad insisting that Democrat Bill de Blasio will hurl the city back to the bloody, crime-ridden days of the ’70s and ’80s.
And in an interview with Juan Manual Benitez of the Spanish-language NY1 Noticias, Lhota also came out sounding annoyed. From The Politicker:
Mr. Lhota grew infuriated when Mr. Benitez cited anonymous former subordinates who claimed they would never work for Mr. Lhota again. (In his defense, when Politicker profiled Mr. Lhota earlier this year, his former employees had nothing but praise for him.)
“You are just reading a script from Bill de Blasio,” he declared while pointing his finger at Mr. Benitez. “You’re nothing but a tool of Bill de Blasio if you believe that…”
But Lhota has been throwing around his own unsubstantiated claims, saying that when de Blasio was an aide in Mayor Dinkins’s administration he didn’t relay information that more police were urgently needed to control the racially charged Crown Heights riot.
“It’s so emblematic of Bill de Blasio’s complete and total experience to be the mayor,” Lhota said yesterday. “He doesn’t understand what you need to do…as a mayor. He worked as a mayoral staffer, he didn’t provide information up to his boss. That’s just purely [mis]understanding the chain of command.”
De Blasio tried to explain: “I was in City Hall working on the staff. I did receive calls from concerned community leaders around the city and that’s all.… I was not on the site. I came away with very strong views, but I did not participate directly.” He added, “There should have been a very, very strong show of force from the very beginning.”
Like that ’70s ad, the twenty-year-old riot seems to be putting de Blasio on the defensive. Yesterday when a Daily News reporter asked him about it, he seemed more testy than usual. The subject is sure to come up tonight.
But de Blasio is still ahead by about forty to fifty points, and in his latest ad, he’s nothing but the good-neighbor candidate.
Leslie Savan writes about one of Lhota’s incredibly misleading political ads.
Everyone’s looking for “moderates” in Syria, in advance of efforts to schedule a peace conference in Geneva in November. Moderates may not be too hard to find outside the country, at the posh hotels and conference centers that house the Syrian opposition groups backed by the United States and its allies, but inside Syria moderates are increasingly difficult to locate. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al Nusra Front and other extremist and pro–Al Qaeda types are increasingly dominant among the rebels against President Bashar al-Assad’s government, and that’s a major obstacle in front of Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to bring Syrian oppositionists to the bargaining table in Geneva.
The Free Syrian Army, which represents what purports to be the moderate opposition to the Syrian government in the civil war, is now engaged in a two-front war, battling both the government and the ISIS/Nusra bloc.
And even the moderates outside Syria aren’t exactly thrilled by the idea of going to Geneva. They’re being prodded, cajoled and sweet-talked by the United States, the UK and France, but so far at least they’ve not committed to attending the planned meeting. Yesterday, the main opposition group outside Syria, the Syrian National Coalition, said that would defer a decision on whether to attend. (The Syrian government says it will attend.)
The refusal of the opposition to talk to Assad’s representatives is backed by Saudi Arabia, as reported by Reuters:
Plans for talks to end the fighting in Syria were in jeopardy on Tuesday after the opposition refused to attend unless President Bashar al-Assad is forced from power and a furious Saudi Arabia made clear it would no longer co-operate with the United States over the civil war.
Saudi Arabia, which is fostering the war in Syria as part of what it sees as a regional Sunni vs. Shiite conflict, is in a major snit. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister canceled his address to the United Nations General Assembly in September, shocking UN members. Then, adding insult to injury, Saudi Arabia turned down a prestigious seat on the UN Security Council—a post the country had long campaigned for—because the Saudi rulers are upset with the UNSC and the United States over what Riyadh considers their insufficient enthusiasm for the kingdom’s Syria policy. Now, according to The Wall Street Journal and other sources, Saudi Arabia is on the verge of a fundamental break with the United States. Prince Bandar, the Saudi Arabian intelligence chief, lambasted the United States, according to the Journal:
Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief told European diplomats this weekend that he plans to scale back cooperating with the U.S. to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest of Washington’s policy in the region, participants in the meeting said. …
Diplomats here said Prince Bandar, who is leading the kingdom’s efforts to fund, train and arm rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, invited a Western diplomat to the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah over the weekend to voice Riyadh’s frustration with the Obama administration and its regional policies, including the decision not to bomb Syria in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons in August.
The Saudis wanted the United States not only to bomb Syria but to do such serious damage that the strike might topple the Assad government. But Obama, who found himself with few international allies and no domestic support for war with Syria, backed down in humiliating fashion and agreed to a Russian plan to disarm Syria.
The program to locate, dismantle and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, jointly agreed to by the United States and Russia and overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is going well enough, though the OPCW is hampered by the fact that at least some of the chemical stockpiles are located on bases surrounded by rebels, making it hard for inspectors to get there. But even if the OPCW efforts proceed through 2014, that doesn’t guarantee that diplomatic efforts to resolve the broader conflict peacefully will gain traction. Indeed, because OPCW relies on the assistance of the Assad government to get to and destroy stockpiles of the weapons, many rebels are sullenly uncooperative with the disarmament plan.
Meeting in Paris with ten other nations involved in supporting the Syrian rebels, the United States has admitted that the ISIS faction has made the problem much more difficult, reports The New York Times:
Even as planning intensifies for a Geneva peace conference on the war in Syria, the emergence of a group affiliated with Al Qaeda has undermined the chances of negotiating an end to the conflict, a senior State Department official said on Monday.
Meanwhile, the ISIS/Nusra bloc in Syria is carrying out what can only be called terrorist bombings, massacres and Islamic extremist repression in areas in controls. Its forces carried out a suicide bombing this week that killed dozens of people in Hama, and thousands of foreign fighters with Al Qaeda sympathies are flocking to Syria through Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Literally dozens of rebel groups in Syria have broken ties with the “moderate” bloc, reports AP:
Several dozen rebel groups in southern Syria have broken with the main political opposition group in exile, a local commander said in a video posted Wednesday, dealing a potential new setback to Western efforts to unify moderates battling President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
And Human Rights Watch has documented the involvement of the ISIS-allied rebels in massacres, according to The New York Times:
In a coordinated attack, numerous rebel groups fought off a small garrison of government troops and swept into the villages, killing 190 people, according to a Human Rights Watch report to be released on Friday. At least 67 of the dead appeared to have been shot or stabbed while unarmed or fleeing, including 48 women and 11 children, the report said. More than 200 civilians are still being held hostage.
Max Blumenthal documents Israel’s new racism.
Private prison companies like the GEO Group pull in millions of dollars a year locking up immigrants in federal custody. If Congress passes draconian new immigration legislation, they stand to profit enormously.
This summer, the House Judiciary Committee passed the SAFE Act (HR 2278), a toxic measure that would transform millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals overnight. No longer a civil violation, not having papers would become a felony punishable by months or years in a US prison. The legislation would also dramatically expand the civil immigration detention system. Companies like GEO Group would reap huge profits off the changes—nearly half of all people in immigration detention are locked in private jails and prisons.
There’s still time to stop this destructive legislation. Tell Speaker John Boehner not to bring the SAFE Act to the House floor.
In our latest Prison Profiteers video, produced in partnership with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, criminal justice advocates and former inmates detail the appalling conditions at GEO Group facilities around the country.
The Nation’s Liliana Segura gives an overview of the massive scope of the crisis of companies profiting off of mass incarceration: “With 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States,” she writes, “prisons are big business.”
Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
It’s been one year since Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the eastern coast of the United States, affecting twenty-four states and devastating parts of New Jersey and New York. Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. Millions were left without power. As many as 100 people died; most of whom drowned as the storm surged in Staten Island and Queens. At $65 billion, Sandy was the second costliest storm in US history.
Today, communities that were reduced to rubble are steadily recovering. And yet, one year later, policymakers have yet to address climate change, which undoubtedly contributed to the strength, magnitude and danger of Sandy. There is little discussion of rebuilding in a way that better prepares us for the ravages of future storms. And after Washington’s most recent shameful display of deadlock and dysfunction, it would be wishful thinking to presume that Congress will act on this issue anytime soon.
That’s why last week’s Roosevelt Institute Four Freedoms awards ceremony was all the more significant for honoring someone who has devoted his life to the stewardship of our planet—legendary humanist, poet, essayist, novelist, fifth-generation Kentucky farmer and activist Wendell Berry.
Over the course of his life, Berry has written and spoken about a number of issues, including war, corporate corruption and the death penalty. But it is his work as an environmental activist and advocate of small-scale sustainable agriculture that has, perhaps, had the greatest impact on our national conversation.
Berry picked up where Thoreau left off, providing, as Michael Pollan has written, “a sturdy bridge over the deep American divide between nature and culture.” And in teaching us to cultivate our own gardens, and reap the wild in our own backyards, Berry “marked out a path that led us back into nature, no longer as spectators but as full-fledged participants.”
Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Dick Cheney’s cynicism knows no end.
Yet, it still has the power to amaze—especially when Cheney’s political machinations go to extremes.
Consider his current embrace of the Tea Party movement.
At a point when the Republican Party’s favorability ratings have collapsed to the lowest point in the history of Gallup polling, just about everyone who has an interest in the future of the Grand Old Party is fretting about the damage done by a movement so politically tone deaf that it thought the American people would embrace a politics of government shutdown and debt-ceiling brinksmanship in order to advance the impossible dream of “defunding Obamacare.”
But here’s Dick Cheney—taking time out from pitching his new book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey—to rally to the defense of the movement.
Hailing the Tea Party as a “positive influence” on the Grand Old Party, he announced on NBC’s Today show that “it’s an uprising, in part, and the good thing is it’s taken place within the Republican Party.”
Despite the chaos it has unleashed within and around the party for which the 72-year-old former vice president serves as a grouchy grand old man, Cheney declared: “I don’t see it as a negative. I think it’s much better to have that kind of ferment and turmoil and change in the Republican Party than it would be to have it outside.”
“These are Americans,” he says of the Tea Partisans. “They’re loyal, they’re patriotic and taxpayers, and they’re fed up with what they see happening in Washington. I think it’s a normal, healthy reaction and the fact that the party is having to adjust to it is positive.”
That’s rich coming from Cheney.
No matter what anyone thinks about the Tea Party movement in its current managed and manipulated form, many of its most sincere adherents joined what they thought was a grassroots challenge to the Republican establishment.
And no one says establishment like Dick Cheney: a permanent fixture in and around Republican administrations since Richard Nixon turned the key at the White House. No one has fought harder than this guy has to maintain the crony capitalist project that has made the modern GOP a lobbying agency for Wall Street speculators, bailout-seeking bankers and defense contractors like his own Halliburton.
Cheney’s everything Tea Party activists say they are fighting against.
So what’s the former vice president up to?
The same self-serving gaming of the process in which the man who arranged his own nomination as George W. Bush’s running mate has always engaged.
Asked about Ted Cruz, Cheney declined to criticize the Texas senator who steered the party off the charts when it comes to disapproval among the great mass of voters.
That’s because Cheney doesn’t at this point have any interest in the great mass of American voters. He’s interested in the handful of Wyoming Republican primary voters who will decide the fate of daughter Liz Cheney’s challenge to Republican Senator Mike Enzi.
Enzi is a steady conservative whose only “sin” was to get in the way of Cheney-family ambition. But he is in the way, so Dick Cheney is quite willing to remake himself as the Tea Party’s ardent defender in order to aid Liz Cheney’s campaign.
Indeed, instead of ripping Cruz—as he would have done in his former days as a White House chief of staff, GOP congressional leader, secretary of defense and vice president—Cheney now compares Cruz with daughter Liz.
“I think [Cruz] represents the thinking of an awful lot of people obviously in Texas,” says Dick Cheney. “But my own daughter is running for U.S. Senate in Wyoming partly motivated by the concern that Washington is not working, the system is breaking down and it’s time for new leadership.”
Shameless? Well, yes.
But that’s how Dick Cheney rolls.
The Republican Party is just a vehicle.
The state of Wyoming is just a political playground.
What matters to Cheney is the Cheney brand. And if he has to attach a Tea Party label in order to advance it, why Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney is more than willing to oblige.
John Nichols is the author of Dick: The Man Who Is President and The Rise and Rise of Richard B. Cheney (The New Press).
Tom Tomorrow deconstructs Tea Party logic.
There may be no family in the history of the republic which has done more to promote culinary awareness, sustainability and food justice than the indefatigable Lappé clan.
Frances Moore Lappé’s seminal and best-selling 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, launched one of the first substantive critiques of the industrial food industry and was groundbreaking for arguing that world hunger is not caused by a lack of food but by an unfair system of resource allocation.
Lappé’s husband, the late toxicologist Marc Lappé, was an early, persistent and perceptive critic of the agrichemical industry and what its products do to human beings.
In 1975, Lappé and Joseph Collins launched the California-based Institute for Food and Development Policy (Food First) with a mission to end the injustices that cause hunger, poverty and environmental degradation throughout the world. Having evolved into the country’s leading food think tank, Food First currently sponsors countless projects coast to coast aimed at building local agri-food systems.
Building on the success of Food First, Lappé later founded the Small Planet Institute in 2001 with her daughter Anna Lappé to reveal how people on every continent are creating living democratic models to establish their own food security and power to remake societal rules and norms to serve widely shared values.
Then, in 2006, Anna Lappé took Small Planet a step further with her book, Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It, in which she revealed the disturbing connection between food production and climate change and outlined how we can eat food that’s better for both people and the planet.
Delving deeper into the myths that lead so many people to eat against their own interests, as it were, the younger Lappé’s latest campaign and series of short movies, Food Myths, seeks to unpack the often stealth marketing of junk food to kids and counter the billion-dollar annual investment by the fast-food industry in shaping the public conversation about our food system.
In the second and most recent movie, Lappé debunks one of the most pervasive myths propagated by the junk food industry—the myth of personal choice—and calls into question the industry’s defense of its marketing: that parental authority is the sole factor in deciding what kids eat. Citing a range of studies and reports, Lappé explaines how junk food industry marketing is designed to undermine parental authority and exploit children’s vulnerabilities.
Lappé explains how children like her daughter, Ida (and my daughter, Claudia!), are inundated with marketing throughout their lives—from the Internet to the classroom to the sports field—despite the best efforts of their supposedly enlightened parents. Today, the food industry reaches our children far beyond commercials during Saturday morning cartoons. Big Food marketing pops up in the classroom and lunchroom; on sports leagues jerseys and playground equipment; on branded websites and social media platforms. This constant onslaught shapes our childrens’ habits and preferences, undermines parental guidance and helps drive the nation’s growing epidemic of diet-related disease.
“For decades, McDonald’s and its junk food cohorts have worked to convince Americans that bad parenting, not aggressive marketing, is the reason for exploding rates of diet-related disease,” said Lappé. “It’s time we stood with parents to end the tsunami of marketing that targets kids and creates an environment devoid of healthy choices.”
In conjunction with the campaign launch, Lappé cobbled together a Food MythBusters coalition and, as its first campaign, its members are calling on McDonald’s to shut down its flagship website for kids, HappyMeal.com.
Happy Meals are a staple of McDonald’s youth-targeted playbook, featuring toys from children’s movies and cartoons. To reach young people, McDonald’s has enlisted role models like Olympic Champion Gabby Douglas and cartoon characters like Shrek. As parents and health professionals become increasingly critical of such tactics, the fast-food giant has moved to digital marketing aimed at reaching kids in spaces where parents often exercise less vigilance.
James Dimon, chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co., speaks at a conference, Tuesday, October 27, 2009 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
JPMorgan Chase, the star of mega-banks, is up against the wall at the Justice Department, trying to settle its myriad crimes for $13 billion. That’s real money, even for a trillion-dollar bank. So this is progress. After years of scandalous indifference, the Obama administration appears to have found its backbone.
Better late than never, grumpy citizens can say. But that doesn’t settle the matter. Four years ago, Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware crisply described the more fundamental problem posed by the wantonly reckless behemoths of Wall Street.
“People know that if they rob a bank they will go to jail,” Kaufman said. “Bankers should know that if they rob people they will go to jail too.” Can we hear an amen on that? Not yet. But the complaint Kaufman voiced repeatedly is now on the table. “At the end of the day,” the senator warned, “This is a test of whether we have one justice system in this country or two. If we do not treat a Wall Street firm that defrauded investors of millions of dollars the same way we treat someone who stole $500 from a cash register, then how can we expect our citizens to have any faith in the rule of law?” (See my piece from April 2011, “How Wall Street Crooks Get Out of Jail Free.”)
Attorney General Eric Holder was stung, his reputation severely damaged. His lieutenants in the criminal division explained repeatedly that while the megacrimes seemed obvious, it is fiendishly difficult to locate the people in a huge, complex financial organization who can be successfully prosecuted as criminals. The popular anger did not go away, however, because in JPMorgan’s case the outrages only got larger and more obvious.
So here we are four years later and leading newspapers report that Justice is on the brink of a record-setting settlement—$13 billion. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan CEO and formerly the president’s favorite banker, has personally negotiated the terms with the attorney general. The Morgan bank started with an offer of $1 billion and quickly raised it to $4 billion. Holder’s office kept saying, no, not enough. According to The New York Times, seven federal agencies are investigating the bank, plus state banking regulators and a couple of foreign governments.
The offenses include an all-star list of duped victims—of mortgage fraud against home-buyers, investor fraud against people and pension funds that purchased the rotten mortgage securities and defrauded the federal agencies (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) that bought the mortgage bonds and applied federal guarantees to them. Nevertheless, if there is no identifiable “criminal” who can be sent to jail, the case could be treated as merely another bureaucratic crime and adjudicated with lots of cash, a very familiar exercise in this era of high-flying capitalist buccaneers and bandits.
But here is the exciting and suspenseful element in this story. Eric Holder and his prosecutors have so far refused to settle on such amicable terms. Federal prosecutors in Sacramento believe they have established the personal linkage—who ordered the dirty deals, who carried them out—that could support criminal indictments of individuals or against the corporate “person” known as JPMorgan Chase. That would be truly unprecedented—a “game changer” in Wall Street/Washington parlance—and with threatening potential for the defendant bank.
In the negotiations, Holder has refused to give Dimon what he seems to want most—an agreement to drop the criminal charge and settle for bigger money instead. That might weaken the storm of private lawsuits already filed by the victims of JPMorgan’s fraudulent profiteering. The star banker kept raising his bid. The AG kept saying no way. Americans should stay tuned and maybe send fan mail to the Justice Department, urging the prosecutors to hang tough.
But you can’t send a bank to jail, can you? No, but you could place it under court supervision and empower a federal judge to order and supervise internal reforms in the megabank, perhaps even downsizing. Does that sound too harsh? If the feds can do this to a corrupt labor union like the Teamsters, why not to an outlaw bank like JPMorgan?
US Marines on patrol in an Afghan school building, May 1, 2009. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
In Afghanistan, the war goes on. As The Nation documented recently, tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have died since the war began in 2001, and with the war having entered its thirteenth year, there’s no end in sight. The American combat mission is winding down, but if the Obama administration has its way there won’t be an end to the counterterrorism war in Afghanistan for years to come. And, in an editorial today, “An Exit Strategy from Afghanistan,” The New York Times admits without irony that what the United States has got for a dozen lethal years in Afghanistan is a stalemate:
As it winds down its 12-year-old military commitment in Afghanistan, the United States is still looking for a face-saving way out of a conflict that seems headed, at best, for a stalemate.
Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to Afghanistan to put pressure on President Hamid Karzai to accept American terms for a continued US military presence past 2014. Among the terms that the United States wants: immunity from any prosecution by Afghan authorities for crimes and atrocities committed by US forces and permission to engage in Special Forces raids against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups anywhere in the country, even though only a few dozen Al Qaeda members remain. Despite the positive spin that Kerry and the State Department put on his visit, however, he utterly failed to get a deal. As Reuters noted:
A draft pact known as the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) was hammered out in Kabul last weekend by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. But he left without a final deal as Afghan President Hamid Karzai said only the assembly, the Loya Jirga, had the authority to decide contentious issues.
And the Loya Jirga, a big national meeting of tribal elders, warlords, clergy and others, might not cotton to American demands to allow US troops free reign to engage in counterterrorism—especially if Karzai, who is scheduled to leave office in 2014 after elections next spring, steers them in another direction.
There’s an unofficial Halloween deadline for a pact. Otherwise, the military is hinting, the United States will have to start dismantling everything, including bases nearby that might be used to evacuate US forces and equipment, and making other plans.
In Kerry’s mind, of course, is the fact that when a similar situation faced the United States in Iraq five years ago, the Iraqis rejected American demands, and the incoming Obama administration proved unable to satisfy Iraqi concerns, so the United States pulled out completely from Iraq. The difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, though, is that while Iraq has oil revenues to keep it solvent, Afghanistan has nothing, and it’s totally dependent on the United States and other Western allies to provide aid. That aid, the Obama administration is not-so-subtly telling Karzai, depends on Kabul allowing the United States to keep troops in-country. As the Times editorial puts it:
Congress is unlikely to keep paying for the Afghan Army and police, at a cost that could range from $4 billion to $6 billion, unless Americans are deployed there.
Meanwhile, the Taliban continues to strike US and Afghan targets, including an attack on an international convoy last week, the assassination of a provincial governor, and other high-profile actions. In its editorial, the Times notes correctly that a political deal with the Taliban is essential to preserve Afghanistan’s security, or some semblance of it, after 2014, but that so far there’s no sign of any movement there, and it says that the talks with the Taliban, which seemed to get going earlier this year, won’t restart until after the April elections.
The Obama administration has to redouble its efforts here, coupling a pledge to withdraw and any all US forces from Afghanistan unconditionally with a diplomatic offensive to get Pakistan, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia and others countries on board with a plan to rebalance and reorganize the government in Kabul.
Check out The Nation’s in-depth report on the civilian death toll of the ongoing war in Afghanistan.