Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is Osama bin Laden Right?
Published on Saturday, September 19, 2009 by The Independent/UK
Everyone Seems to Be Agreeing with Bin Laden These Days
Only Obama, it seems, fails to get the message that we’re losing Afghanistan
by Robert Fisk
Obama and Osama are at last participating in the same narrative. For the US president's critics - indeed, for many critics of the West's military occupation of Afghanistan - are beginning to speak in the same language as Obama's (and their) greatest enemy.
There is a growing suspicion in America that Obama has been socked into the heart of the Afghan darkness by ex-Bushie Robert Gates - once more the Secretary of Defence - and by journalist-adored General David Petraeus whose military "surges" appear to be as successful as the Battle of the Bulge in stemming the insurgent tide in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.
No wonder Osama bin Laden decided to address "the American people" this week. "You are waging a hopeless and losing war," he said in his 9/11 eighth anniversary audiotape. "The time has come to liberate yourselves from fear and the ideological terrorism of neoconservatives and the Israeli lobby." There was no more talk of Obama as a "house Negro" although it was his "weakness", bin Laden contended, that prevented him from closing down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In any event, Muslim fighters wold wear down the US-led coalition in Afghanistan "like we exhausted the Soviet Union for 10 years until it collapsed". Funny, that. It's exactly what bin Laden told me personally in Afghanistan - four years before 9/11 and the start of America's 2001 adventure south of the Amu Darya river.
Almost on cue this week came those in North America who agree with Obama - albeit they would never associate themselves with the Evil One, let alone dare question Israel's cheerleading for the Iraqi war. "I do not believe we can build a democratic state in Afghanistan," announces Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the senate intelligence committee. "I believe it will remain a tribal entity." And Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, does not believe "there is a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan".
Colin Kenny, chair of Canada's senate committee on national security and defence, said this week that "what we hoped to accomplish in Afghanistan has proved to be impossible. We are hurtling towards a Vietnam ending".
Close your eyes and pretend those last words came from the al-Qa'ida cave. Not difficult to believe, is it? Only Obama, it seems, fails to get the message. Afghanistan remains for him the "war of necessity". Send yet more troops, his generals plead. And we are supposed to follow the logic of this nonsense. The Taliban lost in 2001. Then they started winning again. Then we had to preserve Afghan democracy. Then our soldiers had to protect - and die - for a second round of democratic elections. Then they protected - and died - for fraudulent elections. Afghanistan is not Vietnam, Obama assures us. And then the good old German army calls up an air strike - and zaps yet more Afghan civilians.
It is instructive to turn at this moment to the Canadian army, which has in Afghanistan fewer troops than the Brits but who have suffered just as ferociously; their 130th soldier was killed near Kandahar this week. Every three months, the Canadian authorities publish a scorecard on their military "progress" in Afghanistan - a document that is infinitely more honest and detailed than anything put out by the Pentagon or the Ministry of Defence - which proves beyond peradventure (as Enoch Powell would have said) that this is Mission Impossible or, as Toronto's National Post put it in an admirable headline three days' ago, "Operation Sleepwalk". The latest report, revealed this week, proves that Kandahar province is becoming more violent, less stable and less secure - and attacks across the country more frequent - than at any time since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. There was an "exceptionally high" frequency of attacks this spring compared with 2008.
There was a 108 per cent increase in roadside bombs. Afghans are reporting that they are less satisfied with education and employment levels, primarily because of poor or non-existent security. Canada is now concentrating only on the security of Kandahar city, abandoning any real attempt to control the province.
Canada's army will be leaving Afghanistan in 2011, but so far only five of the 50 schools in its school-building project have been completed. Just 28 more are "under construction". But of Kandahar province's existing 364 schools, 180 have been forced to close. Of progress in "democratic governance" in Kandahar, the Canadian report states that the capacity of the Afghan government is "chronically weak and undermined by widespread corruption". Of "reconciliation" - whatever that means these days - "the onset of the summer fighting season and the concentration of politicians and activists for the August elections discouraged expectations of noteworthy initiatives...".
Even the primary aim of polio eradication - Ottawa's most favoured civilian project in Afghanistan - has defeated the Canadian International Development Agency, although this admission is cloaked in truly Blair-like (or Brown-like) mendacity. As the Toronto Star revealed in a serious bit of investigative journalism this week, the aim to "eradicate" polio with the help of UN and World Health Organisation money has been quietly changed to the "prevention of transmission" of polio. Instead of measuring the number of children "immunised" against polio, the target was altered to refer only to the number of children "vaccinated". But of course, children have to be vaccinated several times before they are actually immune.
And what do America's Republican hawks - the subject of bin Laden's latest sermon - now say about the Afghan catastrophe? "More troops will not guarantee success in Afghanistan," failed Republican contender and ex-Vietnam vet John McCain told us this week. "But a failure to send them will be a guarantee of failure." How Osama must have chuckled as this preposterous announcement echoed around al-Qa'ida's dark cave.
2009 Independent News and Media.
Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper. He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Obama And The Healthcare Lobbyist
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Obama vs. the Lobbyists (TomDispatch)
by Dollars and Sense
From Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch; a link to Andy Kroll's article follows:
Congressman Joe ("You lie!") Wilson is undoubtedly not completely ignorant about how our health care system actually works. After all, in the course of his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, he's received $244,196 in contributions from the health-care profession -- and that doesn't even count another $86,150 from the pharmaceutical industry or the $68,000 that came in from hospitals and nursing homes. In fact, if you go to the page at that organization's website on Congressional contributions and start clicking around among the members of Congress, you'll be struck by how many times the health and pharmaceutical industries (and their lobbyists) pop up.It's not so surprising, of course, since there are staggering sums of money at stake, which means striking amounts of the same to inject like some potent drug directly into the bloodstream of our political system. Consider but one figure: since 2002, according to Harper's Magazine, the profits of the top 10 health insurance companies have increased by 428%. And the CEOs of those top insurers have a personal incentive for ensuring that those profits don't slide due to new health-care legislation; after all, they made a combined $690 million in the last nine years.In fact, any administration arriving in Washington wanting to do anything these days walks into a blizzard of money, not to speak of the fact that the wind at its back, the campaign wind that got it there, was already blowing strong with similar contributions. TomDispatch regular Andy Kroll offers a vivid portrait of that world at this moment and what it means for the Obama administration. —Tom Read Andy Kroll's article.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Terrorist And Bomb Scares...

... are in the news today especially since those ever persistent authorities in New York City went on a few raids of some apartments in which the cops were looking for evidence of explosives used for homemade bombs. Of course, the cops found nothing of the sort but that hasn't stopped
Counterterrorism officials from issuing warnings to police departments all over America to be on the lookout for such items. Of course, those in New York were also looking for links to al-Qaida operatives. I take it that none of those were found either.
The joint FBI and Homeland Security intelligence warning, issued Monday, lists indicators that could tip off police to homemade hydrogen peroxide-based explosives, such as people with burn marks on their hands, face or arms; foul odors coming from a room or building; and large industrial fans or multiple window fans. The warning, obtained by The Associated Press, also said that these homemade explosive materials can be hidden in backpacks, suitcases or plastic containers.

Economic News...

...that is of no real consequence to most people.
Today is the one year anniversary of the Lehman Brothers' (LEHMQ) bankruptcy filing, and it is also the 1st year anniversary of the government's bailout of AIG (AIG). Nothing much to celebrate on either account, is there?
On more pressing news (?), retail sales went up some 2.7% in August with most of the credit for the jump coming from the government's Cash For Clunkers program. Most economist were predicting only a 2% gain in sales.
Not including cars and car parts, sales were up 1.1%.
So what will be the next program to keep sales rising in the United States? Rest assured that Uncle Sam will come up with something. In the mean time, how about another price increase with the minimum wage? You know, in the area of at least maybe $10 an hour so that the really low income resident would actually have a small shot at surviving? Would that be asking for to much? Why, of course it would.