I was on Democracy Now yesterday to discuss my new book Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam as well as the current Afghan War and Obama’s Vietnam veteran national security post nominees: Chuck Hagel and John Kerry. Video above or here, if you’d like to take a look.
It’s official, drones have become the essence of the American way of war. As Obama begins his second term, drone strikes are spiking 6 strikes in 8 days have left 35 dead.
Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room observes: “While the statistical sample is small, it’s starting to sound like the drone campaign over Pakistan is ticking back up after a recent decline… The U.S. launched 43 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2012, according to the tally kept by the New America Foundation, reflecting a two-year downward trend from 2010′s high of 122 strikes. The average time in between strikes last year was 7.7 days. But eight days into 2013, there have already been six deadly drone strikes, for reasons that remain unclear. It’s worth noting that senior Obama administration officials recently reversed their earlier rhetoric that the U.S. was on the verge of defeating al-Qaida and have returned to describing a protracted shadow campaign.”
(Read the full story here: 6 Strikes, 8 Days, 35 Dead: The U.S. Drone War in Pakistan Is Back | Danger Room | Wired.com)
Ideally, the 66,000 American troops would already be leaving, and all of them would be out as soon as safely possible; by our estimate, that would be the end of this year. The war that started after Sept. 11, 2001, would be over and securing the country would be up to Afghanistan’s 350,000-member security force, including the army and police, which the United States has spent $39 billion to train and equip over a decade.
But there is a conflict between the ideal and the political reality. Mr. Obama has yet to decide how fast he will withdraw the remaining troops, and the longer he delays, the more he enables military commanders who inevitably want to keep the maximum number of troops in Afghanistan for the maximum amount of time.
POLITICO reports that President Barack Obama has “settled on Chuck Hagel, a Republican and former U.S. senator from Nebraska, to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, with an announcement expected Monday.”
|—||Nick Turse from an introduction to the latest article, “Obama in Tehran?” by Asia Times’ reporter Pepe Escobar|
|—||From an open letter to President Obama by public intellectual Tom Engelhardt of The Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com|
They don’t call it the “cliff” for nothing. It’s the fiscal spot where a nation’s representatives can gather and cry doom. It’s the place — if Washington is to be believed — where, with a single leap into the Abyss of Sequestration, those representatives can end it all for the rest of us.
In the wake of President Obama’s electoral victory, that cliff (if you’ll excuse a mixed metaphor or two) is about to step front and center. The only problem: the odds are no one will leap, and remarkably little of note will actually happen. But since the headlines are about to scream “crisis,” what you need to understand American politics in the coming weeks of the lame-duck Congress is a little guide to reality, some Cliff Notes for Washington.
As a start, relax. Don’t let the headlines get to you. There’s little reason for anyone to lose sleep over the much-hyped fiscal cliff.
Need to know:
The crisis in Syria is getting a lot worse – fast.
That’s the stark warning from the United Nations, whose humanitarian office told theSyria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva today that as many as four million Syrians will require aid by early next year. Two and a half million need it already. There are currently almost 400,000 known refugees in the countries surrounding Syria; the figure will be 700,000 within months if the civil war continues at its current, devastating pace. Turkey says 9,000 Syrians crossed its border last night alone.
Meanwhile the Syrian National Council, the most prominent opposition group, is meeting in Qatar to decide whether to unite with other military and political groups. The merger would bring it recognition from other countries, and with it, the more practical benefits of funding and, potentially, military aid.
What’s President Bashar al-Assad up to amid all this? Oh, just reminding interviewers that: “We do not have a civil war… If the Syrian people are against me, how can I be here?” How, indeed.
Want to know:
There’s still no comment from Iran on the Pentagon’s revelation that Iranian forces fired on one of its surveillance drones.
A warplane shot at the US aircraft repeatedly as it carried out “routine surveillance” some 16 miles off the coast of Iran, a Pentagon spokesman said yesterday. The incident, which happened a week ago, was kept quiet until now, but defense officials said Washington had already sent a formal warning to Iran.
Iran has not yet responded publicly – other than to warn, via state media, that “if any foreign aircraft seeks to enter our country’s airspace, our armed forces will confront it.”
Dull but important:
Anglicans have a new spiritual leader. Eight months after Rowan Williams announced he was stepping down as the head of the Church of England, Justin Welby has been selected to take his place.
The Right Reverend Welby, Bishop of Durham (to give him his full title) will become Archbishop of Canterbury in March 2013. When he does so, he’ll be responsible for not only the Church in England, but some 77 million Anglicans worldwide.
Bishop Welby – who used to be an oil executive before the death of his daughter prompted him to enter the priesthood – faces a tough job to unite his vast global flock, who range from the relatively liberal to the extremely conservative – especially in Africa, where more than half of all Anglicans worship. Williams never managed to reconcile the warring factions; can Welby, a renowned mediator, save the Church from a split?
The first rule of SEAL Team Six? Don’t talk about SEAL Team Six.
But if you will insist on, oh, killing Osama bin Laden and rescuing aid workers from Somali pirates, you can’t expect other people not to talk about you. In the past two years, the elite US special forces unit – which, technically, doesn’t even exist – has become the subject of TV documentaries, movies and countless novelty T-shirts.
Lo and behold, it seems not even Navy SEALS are immune to the call of fame. Two months ago, a book came out that purportedly offered one Team Six member’s firsthand account of the mission that killed bin Laden. And now, seven members have been disciplined for helping to design the latest ‘Medal of Honor’ video game.
Developers paid the troops, all of whom are on active duty, to give the game “a dotted line to real world events.” The Navy reprimanded them and put them on half wages for two months, apparently as an example to others who’ve forgotten that silence is golden.
Strange but true:
Sibling rivalry is a cruel thing. We’re sure the Kenyan woman who gave birth to twins shortly after this week’s US election loves both her boys equally, but you’ve got to wonder what being named Barack and Mitt will do to the brothers.
New mother Millicent Owuor, who hails from the village where President Obama’s father was born, said she wanted to remember the elections a long time. Her sons certainly will, whether they want to or not.
Baby Barack was born first; Baby Mitt was not. Baby Barack heard local residents chant his namesake’s surname in joy after results were announced; Baby Mitt, unsurprisingly, did not. Still, it could have been worse: at least it’s not Abel and Cain. Or George and Al. Or George and Bill. Yep, on second thoughts, Mitt and Barack will be just fine.