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U.S.-Trained Warlords Committing Atrocities in Afghanistan

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This morning, President Donald Trump gave a speech at the United Nations proclaiming his commitment to peace and sovereignty.

MAY JEONG, may.s.jeong at gmail.com, @mayjeong

Jeong wrote the piece “The U.S.-Trained Warlords Committing Atrocities in Afghanistan” — just published today by In These Times magazine.

She is a magazine writer based in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is also a Logan Nonfiction Fellow at the Carey Institute for Global Good and a visiting scholar at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

The magazine reports: “Drawing on two years of on-the-ground investigation in Afghanistan, Jeong reports on an Afghan village that alleges dozens of civilian murders at the order of a single U.S.-trained strongman — Abdul Hakim-Shujayi.”

Key findings include:

“Eyewitness accounts describe the American military protecting Shujayi from arrest by Afghan officials.

“Seven of the murders allegedly occurred within earshot of U.S. advisors.

“The U.S. military admits Shujayi was on its payroll, but says it has no records beyond that to confirm or deny these charges.

“Reports from human rights groups and witness testimony collected by Jeong show that these atrocities are not a one-off occurrence; rather, they are typical of the results of the U.S. approach in Afghanistan — training local militias to execute the war with impunity.

“This hands-off approach to warmaking in Afghanistan was started under the presidency of George W. Bush and continued under Obama. Now, President Trump is using the same buzzwords of ‘an Afghan-led’ conflict, and recently called for funds to escalate the war.

“As Afghan civilians face the deadly consequences of this U.S. military tactic, the American public has remained largely in the dark. This new investigation by Jeong finally shines light on the decade-old scandal.”

Jeong writes: “In 2010, at the behest of the United States, Afghan President Hamid Karzai forced the militias to reorganize themselves under a more respectable-sounding name: the Afghan Local Police (ALP).

“The name is misleading. The ALP, or arbeki as it is called in Afghanistan, is neither a local nor a traditional police force. … Trained and supervised by U.S. Special Operations Forces in conjunction with the Afghan government, and funded by the U.S. Department of Defense through the Afghan interior ministry, the ALP operates independently of the national, more structured, police force and army.”

Does Burns-Novick PBS Vietnam Doc Let U.S. Government Off Hook?

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Jeff Stein of Newsweek writes in “Ken Burns’ New PBS Doc Wades Into Vietnam’s Big Muddy” a review of the latest from “Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, directors of The Vietnam War, a much-heralded 10-part, 18-hour epic series that debuted Sunday night [yesterday] on PBS.”

ROBERT BUZZANCO, Buzzanco at yahoo.com, @bobbuzzanco
Buzzanco is professor of history at the University of Houston. He has written extensively about the Vietnam War, including the books Masters of War: Military Dissent and Politics in the Vietnam Era, and Vietnam and the Transformation of American Life. He also co-edited A Companion to the Vietnam War with Marilyn B. Young.

He said today: “Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, America’s best known documentarians, are back with an 18-hour examination of the Vietnam War. Liberals and establishment media are praising it, with George Will calling it a ‘masterpiece’ and corporations like Bank of America as well as the Pentagon are promoting it. Burns and Novick promote an equivalency about Vietnam — both sides wanted war, both sides caused destruction, both sides are to blame.

“Vietnam was a war of aggression caused by the United States. It created a ‘country’ below the 17th parallel, sent billions of dollars and weapons and hundreds of thousands of troops there, dropped over 6 million tons of bombs on an area the size of New Mexico, and led to the deaths of 2-3 million Vietnamese. Trying to rehabilitate the war with a false equivalency does a historical disservice and lets the U.S. government off the hook politically for what amounted to a huge war crime. As the U.S. government considers further military involvement in the Middle East and Korea, it is essential to understand the truth behind the war in Vietnam.”

Harvard Called “Disgraceful” Following CIA Pressure on Manning Fellowship

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The New York Times reports: “Facing harsh criticism, a Harvard dean said early morning that he was revoking his invitation to Chelsea Manning, a former United States soldier convicted of leaking classified information, to be a visiting fellow at the university. …

“Michael J. Morell, a deputy director at the intelligence agency under President Barack Obama, resigned as a fellow on Thursday, calling the invitation to Ms. Manning ‘wholly inappropriate.’ He said it ‘honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information.’ …

“Later, the director of the CIA., Mike Pompeo, withdrew from a Harvard forum he was scheduled to participate in that night, citing Ms. Manning’s fellowship as the reason.”

Fox News reported Thursday: “Liz Cheney: Cut off Harvard’s federal funding over Chelsea Manning appointment.”

RootsAction just launched a petition: “Tell the Harvard Kennedy School: Revoking Chelsea Manning’s Fellowship Is Disgraceful.”

JESSELYN RADACK, jess at exposefacts.org, @JesselynRadack

Radack is director of the Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts. She stated today: “It is ironic that Michael Morell, a former CIA leader involved in torture and drone killings, had a crisis of ‘conscience’ that prompted Harvard’s Kennedy School to withdraw its invitation to humanitarian Chelsea Manning.

“Harvard obviously offered Chelsea Manning a visiting fellowship because of the valuable contribution she could make, and revoked it under pressure from the CIA. So much for academic freedom.”

JOHN KIRIAKOU, jkiriakou at mac.com, @johnkiriakou
A former CIA analyst, Kiriakou spent 23 months in prison after helping expose the CIA’s torture program. His most recent book is Doing Time Like A Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison.

He said today: “Harvard should be ashamed of itself. Chelsea Manning exposed evidence of U.S. war crimes. Mike Morell was an instrumental player in the CIA’s torture, rendition, and secret prison programs. And the University casts its lot with the torturer. CIA officers with crimes against humanity in their pasts know they have a home at Harvard.”

MATTHEW HOH, [currently in North Carolina; in NYC starting Monday], matthew_hoh at riseup.net
In 2009, Hoh resigned his position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of the war there by the Obama administration. See 2009 Washington Post piece about Hoh: “U.S. official resigns over Afghan war.” He previously had been in Iraq with a State Department team and with the U.S. Marines. He is now a senior fellow with the Center for International Policy.

He said today: “The Harvard Kennedy School’s incredibly fast and virulently shameful rescinding of its offer of a visiting fellowship to Chelsea Manning due to the complaints of the CIA director and former deputy director should not be a surprise to anyone who has witnessed the increased impact of federal funding on private universities. In 2014 Harvard received over $600 million in grants and subsidies from the federal government. I am quite certain that funding was on the mind of the Harvard deans as they bowed and scraped to the CIA and did their best to remedy their problem before President Trump had time to tweet any threats.

“Understanding Harvard’s desire for federal funding is the simplest way to understand how and why moral and intellectual honesty has been abrogated so willingly and consciously by Harvard. Mike Morell, the former CIA deputy director who resigned his fellowship in protest of Chelsea Manning receiving hers, directed, oversaw and covered-up the torture and murder of prisoners, drone assassinations, mass domestic spying and the spying on and hacking into U.S. Senate computers. Chelsea Manning’s crimes were to let the world know of the U.S. government’s crimes, crimes in violation of U.S. and international law that Morell and the CIA committed. Reviews done by the U.S. Department of Defense attested that Chelsea Manning’s actions resulted in no one being killed and no one being put at risk, what they actually did was to show the world the U.S. and CIA’s war crimes and failings. For causing that embarrassment and exposure, and for letting the world know the truth, the CIA will always hate her.”

Hoh notes the New York Times story from 1986: “Scholar to Quit Post at Harvard Over CIA Tie.”

Also see from Ray McGovern: “Mike Morell’s Kill-Russians Advice.”

Sanders’ Single-Payer Plan: “Politicians Must Take a Stand”

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ROBERT WEISSMAN, via Nadia Prupis, nprupis@citizen.org; Angela Bradbery, abradbery at citizen.org, @Public_Citizen
Weissman is president of Public Citizen. The group notes that: “Today at 2 p.m., ET, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is scheduled to introduce single-payer legislation. Tune into Public Citizen’s Facebook page to watch it live and hear our reaction.”

Weissman said today in a statement titled “Sanders’ Medicare-for-All Legislation Is the Right Thing to Do – Politically, Economically and Morally; Now Politicians Must Take a Stand”: “It is past time for America to join the rest of the industrialized world and ensure that health care is a guaranteed right for everyone.

“That’s why today’s introduction by Senator Bernie Sanders and 16 colleagues of single-payer, Medicare-for-All legislation is so vital.

“The moral, policy and economic case for single-payer is overwhelming. Under our current system, we pay far more for far less. The United States spends far more per capita on health care than other rich countries and has the worst health outcomes and the most severe inequality in access to needed care, by far. It is disgraceful that one in three Americans had a cost-related access to health care problem in the past year.

“With single-payer, everyone is covered as a matter of right, solving the access problems. And while, yes, it will be expensive – health care is expensive – it will yield hundreds of billions in savings annually, by eliminating wasteful corporate bureaucracy and slashing drug prices, among other means.

“Today’s introduction signifies the beginning of a new phase in the campaign for Medicare-for-All.

“The broad senatorial support for the Sanders legislation — along with majority support in the House Democratic caucus for H.R. 676, the single-payer legislation in the House — is a political landmark because it moves single-payer from the edge to the mainstream of policy debate. Starting today, it is no longer possible for elected officials to avoid answering questions about single-payer or to dismiss it out of hand on the grounds that it is not politically viable. Now, they have to take a stand based on the merits. And the evidence makes an overwhelming case for single-payer.”

Sanders’ move did come in for criticism — including by some who have advocated for single-payer. See from Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet: “Bernie’s Big Healthcare Solution Has a Major Flaw…and It’s an Open Invitation for Critics to Sabotage the Movement.”

Also see series of tweets from Lee Fang of The Intercept: “I think the single payer momentum is great but Dems have long used the issue to rile up base (i.e. CA in 2006) and no action when it matters.”

With Children Heading Back to School, Educators Say Politicians Should Too

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As children across the country return to school, much is on the docket in both Congress and at the U.S. Department of Education that many educators say threatens public education.

Protesting the rhetoric and actions coming out of Washington, and pressing instead for research-based policies and democratic ideals, over 200 education deans last Wednesday released “Our Children Deserve Better: A Call to Resist Washington’s Dangerous Vision for U.S. Education.” Endorsed by 17 national education organizations, the statement reminds us that, “A half-century ago, in one of the most significant periods of education reform in the United States, the Civil Rights Movement and the War on Poverty envisioned the federal government as a protector of civil rights and an advocate of funding equity. Tragically, since the 1980s both Democratic and Republican administrations, with bipartisan support in Congress, have increasingly betrayed this legacy and focused instead on deregulation, privatization, and the rapid expansion of school choice.” The deans call for three things:

– Protect and nurture our children, do not abandon them
– Empower our educators, do not undermine them
– Invest in our public schools, do not privatize them

KATHY SCHULTZ, Katherine.schultz at colorado.edu, @kathyschultz22
Schultz is dean of the School of Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and is currently completing a book on distrust and educational change. She said today: “It is imperative that we change the direction our country is going in terms of supporting schools and school systems that serve our children well. As a country, we have lost sight of the role of public schools as a democratizing force in this country. We continue to move toward privatizing K-12 education and teacher education at our peril.”

TIMOTHY D. SLEKAR, TSlekar at edgewood.edu, @slekar
Slekar is dean of the School of Education at Edgewood College in Madison, WI, who recently blogged, “No Student Teaching? No Problem: Wisconsin Wants You”[http://bustedpencils.com/2017/09/no-student-teaching-no-problem-wisconsin-wants/]. He said today: “Let’s be honest: There is a war being waged on public education and the profession of teaching. Strong leadership is needed at this time in history. Education Deans for Justice and Equity have stepped up to provide that leadership, and this document simply elaborates the convictions of those determined to not only protect public education but also challenge all of us to envision a system of public education that is committed to justice and equity.”

KEVIN KUMASHIRO, [in D.C.] kevin at kevinkumashiro.com, @kevinkumashiro
Kumashiro is former dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco, and author of the book, Bad Teacher!: How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture. He is also founder and chair of Education Deans for Justice and Equity, which organized the statement.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 421-6858, David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

September 12, 2017

Florida and “How the World Breaks”

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STAN COX, cox at landinstitute.org, @CoxStan
Cox is co-author of the 2016 book How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe’s Path, from the Caribbean to Siberia. He is research coordinator at The Land Institute.

He co-wrote the piece “A Rising Tide: Miami is sinking beneath the sea — but not without a fight” for The New Republic.

In addition to writing extensively about Miami, he has also written in depth about Naples: “My parents retired in Naples at an RV park, so I spent a lot of time there. It’s a playground of the rich, who snatch up all the waterfront property and have the yachts, so you’ll see property damage for them, but there are also loads of low-income people and immigrants there to serve the construction, landscape, and service industries (and further inland, agriculture). They will suffer badly, and will have poorer recovery prospects than the affluent Neopolitans. I expect my parents’ former neighbors at the RV park are having quite a hard time right now.”

He just wrote the piece “100 Percent Wishful Thinking: The Green-Energy Cornucopia” and noted the new Wall Street Journal piece on the perils of maldevelopment: “Building Boom Puts Millions in Irma’s Path.”

He said today: “The way we ‘develop’ a place is part of the problem. Some economic stimulus is adding fuel to the fire, this is true for Miami because of its extraordinary vulnerability to sea level rise, as well as other parts of Florida. For decades, we’ve been building in places that should have remained as ecological buffers. Irma is showing that with the intensity of hurricanes being pumped up by greenhouse warming, threats are not just to places like Tampa, but to inland areas many thought were safe, like Orlando.

“In the immediate aftermath of such disasters, economists and Goldman Sachs types always tell us not to worry, that our economy is so big and resilient that the city or state that endured the disaster will quickly recover and return to its growth trajectory. In fact, we’re told, disasters provide economic stimulus: the construction and remodeling industries boom; car sales rise.

“We are already hearing this about Harvey, and will hear it even about Irma and the devastation it wreaked on an entire state.

“This idea — that in large economies, disasters of any size or ferocity can easily be folded into the cost of doing business — is a dangerous one.

“It ignores the toll in human misery that can never be undone by economic growth.

“It can lead people, including policymakers, to conclude that climate change won’t be such a big deal, that if we fail to rein in greenhouse emissions, we can just ride out the disasters that ensue.

“It fails to consider whose economy is going to recover and be just fine. The benefits of the economic stimulus will go to the top of the economy, where they always go. People and communities who were barely making ends meet before the disaster will find it difficult or impossible to recover.

“The way we ‘develop’ an area is critical. The real estate boom economy has always ignored the possibility of such disasters. But a disaster doesn’t befall a city, a city befalls a disaster.”

Cox wrote about the impacts of development in Naples in a previous book, Losing Our Cool.

Behind Clinton Book’s Attack on Sanders

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Hillary Clinton’s new book What Happened includes what a Washington Post headline calls a “subtly savage takedown of Bernie Sanders.” One passage of the book says that “because we agreed on so much,” Sanders couldn’t argue on policy grounds and “so he had to resort to innuendo and impugning my character.” Clinton adds that “his attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.”

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon was a Sanders delegate from California to the Democratic National Convention and the nationwide coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network.

He said today: “At first glance it may seem odd that Clinton has gone out of her way to rip open old wounds from a primary campaign that ended well over a year ago. But there’s a kind of perverse logic at play. Whatever aspects of score-settling or personal anger might be involved, what’s much more significant is the apparent political calculus.”

Solomon added: “If Clinton weren’t determined to boost the corporate wing of the Democratic Party for the future, her new book’s jabs at Bernie would be gratuitous and bereft of tactical logic. But those jabs are not mainly about the past. Looking ahead while recounting her version of what happened last year, Clinton is attempting to scapegoat not only Bernie Sanders but also his activist base. She’s trying to discredit the progressive wing that’s now ascendant in the party from the grassroots.

“By a thin margin, six months ago Clinton’s backers were able to shoehorn the uninspiring former Labor Secretary Tom Perez into becoming chair of the Democratic National Committee. But the DNC is close to floundering under the continuation of the same kind of leadership that led to the November 2016 disaster.

“After losing the presidential race, Hillary Clinton and the big-money elites behind her are fearful that they could lose control of the Democratic Party apparatus. Clinton’s decision to attack Bernie Sanders via her book is a reflection of that fear.”

Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org, an online activist group that now has 1.5 million active members. He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He recently wrote the piece “DNC Fraud Suit Exposes Anti-Democratic Views in Democratic Party.”

* Climate Chaos * Houston’s Toxicity

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EMILY WURTH, ewurth at fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Wurth is organizing co-director with Food & Water Watch, which put out a statement on climate chaos following Hurricane Harvey. Also see their fact sheet on renewable energy.

SHAYE WOLF,  swolf at biologicaldiversity.org@CenterForBioDiv
Wolf is climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity, which released a statement:

“Refineries and petrochemical plants in south Texas released nearly 1 million pounds of seven especially dangerous air pollutants during flaring and chemical spills triggered by Hurricane Harvey. …

“Staggering amounts of benzene, 1,3-butadiene, hexane, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, toluene and xylene — estimated at 951,000 pounds so far — were emitted during Harvey-related flooding by several dozen petroleum industry facilities operated by Chevron Phillips, Exxon Mobil, Shell and other companies. These seven chemicals are all toxic air pollutants documented to cause serious harms to human health, and several cause cancer.”

Wolf added: “Oil-industry facilities spewed thousands of tons of toxic chemicals into defenseless communities, despite ample warning about hurricane risk to this area,. … Dangerous flaring from coastal refineries has become routine during major storms. The petroleum industry seems utterly unwilling to take responsibility for operating safely, even as climate change makes storms like Harvey more destructive.”

The group also released the statement: “Harvey: More Devastating Due to Climate Change.”

Cuba “Perfected the Art of Hurricane Preparedness”

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The Washington Post reports: “Hurricane Irma is an ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 5, barreling toward the northern Lesser Antilles and Southern Florida. It’s already the strongest hurricane ever recorded outside the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s likely to make landfall somewhere in Florida over the weekend.

“The storm is life-threatening for the United States, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and the southeastern Bahamas.”

The following analysts can talk specifically about Cuba’s noted hurricane preparedness:

MARGUERITE JIMENEZ, mjimenez at wola.org
Jimenez is senior associate for Cuba at the Washington Office on Latin America.

WILLIAM LeoGRANDE, wleogra at american.edu, @wmleogrande
LeoGrande is professor of government at American University. He said today: “Cuba has perfected the art of hurricane preparedness by mobilizing local neighborhood organizations and the military to evacuate not only residents in the path of ongoing storms but their pets and their most prized possessions. As a result, Cuba rarely experiences serious loss of life. In 2016, when Hurricane Matthew hit western Haiti and eastern Cuba almost simultaneously as a category 4 storm, it took the lives of over 1,000 Haitians but just four Cubans, even though property damage in Cuba was half a billion dollars greater.”

LeoGrande’s books include Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977 – 1992. Most recently, he is co-author of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.

Producers may want to use Jackson Browne’s “Going Down to Cuba” as lead-in music, which has the line “They might not know the things you and I know / They do know what to do in a hurricane.”

* Houston * Confederacy

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NBC News reports: “Crosby, Texas, Chemical Plant Explodes Twice, Arkema Group Says.” Esquire reports: “We’re Nowhere Near Prepared for the Ecological Disaster That Harvey Is Becoming.”

ROBERT BUZZANCO, Buzzanco at yahoo.com
Buzzanco is professor of history at the University of Houston. See the recent interview with him on Vimeo. He gives a breakdown of the current situation and the relevant history in Houston, including the 2001 tropical storm Allison, which deluged Houston and caused over 20 deaths. After that storm, Buzzanco notes there was widespread discussion of Houston following a different development model, only to pave over more green space. See from the Texas Tribune and ProPublica “Boomtown, Flood Town,” which notes: “unchecked development remains a priority in the famously un-zoned city, creating short-term economic gains for some while increasing flood risks for everyone.”

Buzzanco also gives a breakdown of the political players in Houston and Texas and gives background about more recent flooding. He breaks down what’s happening in different parts of the city now — his current house has been bone dry while his old house is reportedly half under water.

BRUCE DIXON, bruce.dixon at blackagendareport.com, @brucedixon
Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He just wrote the piece “The Missing Black History At Some Civil War Memorials,” which notes that: “I do suppose those four or five thousand Confederate soldiers who died in Chicago deserve a memorial. Certainly they deserve it a lot more than the slaveholding southern generals and politicians they were dumb enough to fight for. For ordinary white people, white supremacy is always stupid like that. The Confederate army was a draftee army, but any white man who owned 20 or more slaves was exempt from the draft. For them it was a rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight.

“They died because by 1863 the federal armies began fielding regiments of black troops. By war’s end there were more than 200,000 black soldiers in the Union Army, most of them former slaves. The Confederates refused to treat captured black soldiers as prisoners of war. Captured black soldiers were murdered on the spot, or sold into slavery. White officers and noncoms leading black troops were supposed to be tried and summarily executed for leading slave insurrection, a capital offense, so they also took pains not to be captured alive.

“The federal government demanded that captured black soldiers be treated as prisoners of war. The Confederates refused. The north stopped exchanging prisoners, and the numbers of captured prisoners of war mounted up into the hundreds of thousands. The South could barely feed its civilians and soldiers, let alone its prisoners, and the north simply would not. The 56,000 Civil War prisoners who perished at Andersonville, at Elmira, at Camp Douglas and elsewhere died because the South preferred to murder captured black soldiers or sell them into slavery.”

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