Does Allowing Afghans to Starve Violate International Law? Announcing Operation Enduring Friendship

"To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate." - Article 55 of the Geneva Convention

Yesterday I called for action by Congress and the President to head off the kind of winter starvation in Afghanistan which has already happened in previous years, with solid reports from Samangan in 2008, in Tulak in 2005, and less well-documented but nevertheless entirely plausible, and frequent, reports from other provinces.  

Now that we know that the UN is asking for about what we spend in two weeks on combat operations to head off winter starvation  in the south and south-east, a question arises: are we in violation of international law, the Geneva Conventions, which requires a power which has occupied a country to at the very least "bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate"?  

Hunger and chronic malnutrition are one thing, but rapid starvation unto death, of this kind, are another:

Kandahar 2008

This is not just any old Third World country, where people sometimes starve to death, and that's that.  This is one we have occupied with soon to be over 100,000 of our troops, billions of dollars worth of military aircraft and resources, and the fastest reaction forces in the world.

Congress is aware.  We've made sure of that, buy direct appeals to specific staff at the following offices. They are not responsible, but their bosses, and the president, certainly are.   So the question comes down to the wording in Article 55, "To the fullest extent of the means available to it." Since overland travel is becoming impossible into remote regions, due to both snow and insecurity, we are talking about airdrops of food, blankets, and supplies to the vulnerable areas detailed by the UN.  

According to my friends at the local VFW post, in clear flying weather, cargo planes can drop pallet loads by parachure within a target of a couple of football fields, better if the pilot is a hotshot, or lucky.  We can put a bomb down any chimney in Afghanistan if we think there is one of them Taliban there.  Anyone who says the Air Force is not capable of this mission, given the right resources, is going to be arguing with an Air Force brat.  You bet they can.

The loads are marked bright colors so they can be seen from a distance, proximate to any village.  I'd say the question of whether it is possible is pretty much settled, given clear flying weather.  Which means, we do it now, not wait for a blizzard.  Pilots can weigh in here.  Given a GPS coordinate, and clear skies, is this do-able, within a few hundred yards of any village?  Historians may want to know.  Please continue your calls to the following good staffers who have told their bosses of the impending crisis, so they can tell their bosses that this is not going away.  That the American people now know what the Congress and the President are about to preside over. Forward this post to them or refer them to JobsForAfghans.org In previous years plausible deniability could perhaps be maintained.  We didn't do anything, because we didn't know.  Not this time.  

Best of all, as an Air Force brat I can assure you that there is not a flyer in the Force who would not eagerly jump at this mission, and say "CAN DO!" I know these guys.  Announcing: Operation Enduring Friendship.  

Sent to the following members:

Dear Congress Member,

We demand that a likely food crisis looming in parts of Afghanistan this winter be averted.  If the Congress can pass $100 billion package for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, it can pass a $870 million emergency assistance package to head off starvation.  

The person to initiate contact with at the UN Assistance Mission in Kabul in order to coordinate accounts toward which the funding should go is:

Dominic Medley
Tel: 93 0790 00 6292; 39 0831 24 6292; 1 212 963 2668 ext: 6292
Email: medleyd-AT-un.org

In addition, we ask that a true civilian solution which targets the poorest of Afghans through the National Solidarity Program be implemented, as the crisis in Afghanistan is driven largely by economic conditions.  We detail our proposed legislation HERE, the Afghan Stabilization Through a Cash-for-Work Initiative Act.

It has happened all too often in past winters that Afghan were allowed to starve.  This is unacceptable in a country which we have occupied now going on 9 years.  We ask that Congress immediately turn its attention to this matter, so that planning an airlift of food and supplies can begin.  We want Afghans to see America going the last mile in giving help when it is needed most.  We do not want to be remembered only for bombs and bullets.

Thank you.
Ralph Lopez
Jobs for Afghans
List of co-signers at website.

Member                          Foreign Policy Staff Member      Phone
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)             Ann Vaughan                   202-225-6506
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-OH)       Drew Simon                   202-224-2152
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL)       David Gillies                   202-225-5661
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)        Mary Yoshioko                   202-224-3934
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN)             Nathaniel Milazzo           202-225-3021
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY)         Michael Ryan                    202-225-3335
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)             Fatima Sumar                   202-224-2742
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)        Jake Sciandra                    202-224-5344
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)     Andy Friedman               202-224-3224
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)             Derrick Nayo                    202-224-5641
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)     Charles Dujon                    202-225-0773
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)             Scott Exner                    202-225-2661
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)     Amy Vossbrinck                    202-225-5871
Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY)     Jennifer Prather            202-225-4706
Rep. Adam Schiff ((D-CA)     Timothy Bergreen            202-225-4176
Rep. David Obey (D-WI)             Anne Georges                    202-225-3365
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)     Ross Nodurft                    202-224-5824
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)     Brian Chelcun                    202-224-5323
Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA)     Christina Tsafoulias            202-225-5111
Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA)             Marta McLellan Ross            202-228-5243
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)     Peter Frosch                    202-225-6631
Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID)      Adam Elias                    202-225-6611
Rep. Steven Rothman (D-NJ)     Jonathan Moore                    202-225-5061
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)     Tim Riser                    202-224-4242

There's more...

Starvation Alert, Our Chance to Show Afghans We Are for Real

This time of year is always bad in Afghanistan.  It's when the passes get snowed in and people starve.  Rapidly.  

This is in contrast to the norm.  According to the UN, 35% of Afghans do not meet the daily caloric intake requirement required to avoid malnutrition.  Translation, this many Afghans are pretty much starving slowly.  This could help account for the average lifespan, the shortest in the world, of 43.  We're talking about a speed-up in the process, which, combined with unimaginable cold at these mountain altitudes, makes people drop like flies.  Especially children.  It happened in Samangan in 2008, in Tulak in 2005, and many other provinces where the world's fourth-poorest people expire without note by the wider world.  

It is disgusting that our government would rather talk about "offensive military operations" than this.  But then, people might catch on to why there is an insurgency, fix it, and their nice little war would be over.

At a UN press conference this week it was revealed that it is in danger of happening again, this time in the southern and south-east provinces.  Twenty percent of food aid has not reached it's target.  The financial shortage amounts to about US$ 870 million, what we spend on military operations 2 weeks.  This is the time we can show Afghans we are for real, and will never let another single child starve and freeze if we can help it.  Congress must pass emergency legislation as fast as it passed the legislation funding bullets and bombs.  Otherwise we are damned, and deserve it.

The UN office with knowledge of the specific valleys and villages at risk will be put into contact with the following congressional offices, selected for appropriations powers, foreign policy seats, or other factors.  We can never now say that the world did not know. OCHA, the humanitarian relief arm of the UN, estimates that on non-food assistance, i.e. things like blankets, tents, and first aid kits, "We're about 3,800 kits short of what we anticipate we need." 

Security is an issue when considering overland travel in some areas, and so are impassable roads. But in the winter, fighting always slows down as snows arrive, and travel grinds down to only the most necessary. In 2005 in Taluk, the problem was, too-little, too-late.  The food and supplies should be immediately airdropped. For once the food should arrive before people begin to starve, before a blizzard sets in which prevents flying.  In the above-linked report on Tulak:

Some private aid workers privately have expressed frustration at the slow response to what they believe would have been an avoidable situation if the airlifted food had been made available earlier.

In addition, our demand to congressmen will include the passage of the kind of civilian aid package for the entire country which would make a difference, which would amount to about what we spend in one month on combat operations.  The mechanism would be the National Solidarity Program run by Afghan community development councils (more than 22,000 at the local level) and the World Bank.  World Bank President Richard Zoellick said:

"The National Solidarity Program...empowers more than 22,000 elected, village-level councils to decide on their development priorities -- from building a school to irrigation to electrification. So far, the program has reached more than 19 million Afghans in 34 provinces, with grants averaging $33,000. Development owned by the community can survive amid conflict: When an NSP-funded school was attacked in August 2006, the villagers defended it."

It's time to start anew with Afghans.  The Berlin Airlift in 1948 saved hundreds of thousands of Germans from freezing and starvation.  Of course there was a political element, as two superpowers, the US and the USSR, jockeyed to shape the map after WWII.  But it worked, and the fact remains that decades later this is still what many Europeans remember about America.  Let the help in the winter of 2010 be what many young Afghans years from now remember about America, not a surge in troops. Listed below are the congressmembers' foreign policy staffers who have received this letter, with a request that they forward it to their members, in their email in-box this morning.  Please call to reiterate the importance of acting on this immediately. The subject line reads: "Emergency Legislation: Stop Starvation in Afghanistan This Winter Now." Let's get into the real American Christmas spirit, and show that the generals do not represent all of us.

Dear Congress Member,

We at Jobs for Afghans demand that a likely food crisis looming in parts of Afghanistan this winter be averted.  If the Congress can pass $100 billion package for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, it can pass a $870 million emergency assistance package to head off starvation.  

The person to initiate contact with at the UN Assistance Mission in Kabul in order to coordinate accounts toward which the funding should go is:

Dominic Medley
Tel: 93 0790 00 6292; 39 0831 24 6292; 1 212 963 2668 ext: 6292
Email: medleyd-AT-un.org

In addition, we ask that a true civilian solution which targets the poorest of Afghans through the National Solidarity Program be implemented, as the crisis in Afghanistan is driven largely by economic conditions.  We detail our proposed legislation HERE, the Afghan Stabilization Through a Cash-for-Work Initiative Act.

It has happened all too often in past winters that Afghan were allowed to starve.  This is unacceptable in a country which we have occupied now going on 9 years.  We ask that Congress immediately turn its attention to this matter, so that planning an airlift of food and supplies can begin.  We want Afghans to see America going the last mile in giving help when it is needed most.  We do not want to be remembered only for bombs and bullets.

Thank you.
Ralph Lopez
Jobs for Afghans

Member                          Foreign Policy Staff Member      Phone
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)             Ann Vaughan                   202-225-6506
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-OH)       Drew Simon                   202-224-2152
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL)       David Gillies                   202-225-5661
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)        Mary Yoshioko                   202-224-3934
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN)             Nathaniel Milazzo           202-225-3021
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY)         Michael Ryan                    202-225-3335
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)             Fatima Sumar                   202-224-2742
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)        Jake Sciandra                    202-224-5344
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)     Andy Friedman               202-224-3224
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)             Derrick Nayo                    202-224-5641
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)     Charles Dujon                    202-225-0773
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)             Scott Exner                    202-225-2661
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)     Amy Vossbrinck                    202-225-5871
Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY)     Jennifer Prather            202-225-4706
Rep. Adam Schiff ((D-CA)     Timothy Bergreen            202-225-4176
Rep. David Obey (D-WI)             Anne Georges                    202-225-3365
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)     Ross Nodurft                    202-224-5824
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)     Brian Chelcun                    202-224-5323
Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA)     Christina Tsafoulias            202-225-5111
Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA)             Marta McLellan Ross            202-228-5243
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)     Peter Frosch                    202-225-6631
Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID)      Adam Elias                    202-225-6611
Rep. Steven Rothman (D-NJ)     Jonathan Moore                    202-225-5061
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)     Tim Riser                    202-224-4242

Starvation in Kandahar Province, 2008, video evidence

WHERE DO YOUR CONGRESSMAN'S MILITARY CONTRACTOR CAMPAIGN DOLLARS COME FROM? Go to Maplight.org ("Defense") 

There's more...

18 Reps Call for Up-or-Down Vote on Surge. Peace Groups Target 100. Is One of These Your Rep.?

Breaking, 18 U.S. Representatives led by Jim McGovern, Barbara Lee, and Walter Jones (R-NC) have called on Speaker Pelosi to provide "the opportunity for a separate debate and up-or-down vote on the President's proposal to escalate the United States military presence in Afghanistan." The up or down vote would be stripped of bundling tactics like including unemployment benefits or, as Afterdowningstreet's David Swanson quips, funds to "save the kittens." This comes on the day a new Facebook group Stop the Surge is announcing a call campaign from now until December 24th, targeting the House members who co-signed McGovern's bill HR 2404 demanding an exit strategy, to commit to a "no" vote on escalation funding. It is feared that the additional $50 billion per year for the surge will be the "anvil" upon which any further action on domestic initiatives, such as health care reform, will be crushed.  The Facebook group states:


"The following reps have cosponsored McGovern's HR 2404 demanding an exit strategy. They know they didn't hear one in Obama's West Point speech announcing a surge of 30,000 more troops. They now need to cosponsor Lee's HR 3699 blocking the funding of the surge. No money, no surge."

The press release from Rep. Lee's office states:
 

"President Obama spent three months reviewing and deliberating United States strategy in Afghanistan. At the very least, Congress owes our men and women in uniform an honest debate regarding the benefits, costs, affordability, and strategic importance of a military escalation...combating terrorism around the globe will not be fulfilled by sidestepping this critical debate."

"Those of us who have signed this letter have differing views on how to move forward in Afghanistan," said Rep. Jones. "I, for example, do not believe that `doubling down' on the strategy of propping up the Karzai regime in Afghanistan is the correct strategy, but rather we should work with and through the tribal structures that have existed in the country for centuries.  We can all, however, agree that this is an issue that deserves a debate.  The American people deserve a debate on something that could so deeply affect their loved ones and their country."

Text of letter and 18 co-signers HERE. The letter signaled a return of the Legislative Branch into the decision-making process on war, reiterating the importance of Congress' role and responsibility.

This follows a speech on the House Floor by Cheney-why-don't-you-STFU Congressman Alan Grayson calling for no escalation funding.


The Facebook group strategy of targeting the 100 co-sponsors of HR 2404, mirrors film director Robert Greenwald's Rethink Afghanistan campaign, a large grassroots initiative which demands a civilian solution to a problem which, the group maintains, has no military solution and in fact can only be exacerbated by expanded military operations.  "Rethink" has spawned hundreds of Meet-ups and showings of Greenwald's film "Rethink Afghanistan" in homes and in public spaces across the country (full disclosure: I am interviewed in the film.)  

An enormously broad range of Afghan women's activists, experts both military and civilian, Afghan elders building tribal coalitions for security, and others have called the troop escalation a bad idea which will turn what is essentially an insurgency driven by hunger, starvation, and the red cape of foreign troops on Afghan soil, into a united, nationalist uprising which will only benefit the Taliban and the Karzai warlord government, not the Afghan people.  "Zoya" of the Afghan women's organization RAWA, who has conducted a US speaking tour under a disguised identity for her safety upon her return to Afghanistan has said:

"RAWA strongly believes that throwing more troops in will not solve the crisis of Afghanistan.  It will even make the situation worse than before."

Malalai Joya, the Afghan woman legislator who was thrown out of Parliament upon her criticism of "warlords" in the government, and who has already survived numerous assassination attempts, has called for US withdrawal as the wisest course, and says that the Afghan people are capable of turning on the Taliban themselves if the US would stop making them stronger by its presence:

"[If] these occupation forces leave Afghanistan and their governments leave us alone then we'll know what to do with our destiny - if they leave us a little bread and peace, because these warlords and the Taliban have no fruit among the heart of my people. My people hate them."

Chief Zazai of the Tribal Union in the Zazi valley, whose father was assassinated by Mullah Omar and who has united 11 tribes in his area as guarantors of security who pledge loyalty neither to the Taliban nor the Karzai government, says"

"To send more troops means to create more new battles, I think we have already got a few nasty fronts in the south where the British soldiers and U.S. Marines are fighting almost non-stop and of course more troops means more body bags and that itself would be an alarming sign. In Vietnam the U.S. had over half a million soldiers and still the generals were asking for more. I would suggest that Gen. McChrystal instead explore better alternatives on the ground rather than asking for more troops."

Numerous foreign policy actors have said it is a mistake to believe that there is no means of mounting a civilian assistance solution which would reach the poorest of Afghans.  Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank which finances Afghanistan's widely hailed National Solidarity Program, notes:

there are steps one can take to make corruption harder and less likely. Afghanistan's reform-minded finance ministers have taken practical steps to simplify government processes and add transparency to reduce opportunities for corruption...

Zoellick told the Washington Post:

"locally led projects are the most effective. The National Solidarity Program...empowers more than 22,000 elected, village-level councils to decide on their development priorities -- from building a school to irrigation to electrification. So far, the program has reached more than 19 million Afghans in 34 provinces, with grants averaging $33,000. Development owned by the community can survive amid conflict: When an NSP-funded school was attacked in August 2006, the villagers defended it."

And in a remarkable Boston Review article by journalist Nir Rosen, Rosen concludes:

"Afghanistan should have been easier. Eight years after overthrowing the Taliban--the world's most detested and backward regime, which provided no service to its people--the United States has restored many brutal warlords the Taliban expelled. The authority the United States established is a failure, corrupt and brutal. Americans and their allies manage to kill innocent civilians, and the Taliban have once again become attractive to many Afghans. A few tens of thousands of troops will not turn things around."

Rethinkafghanistan and the Facebook "Defund the Surge" are asking citizens to call the following congressmembers, who have demanded an exit strategy, rather than the open-ended commitment "subject to conditions on the ground" which President Obama described in his West Point speech. Calls from constituents are most effective.  Is your congressman one of these?  Then you have power.  Let's give our young brothers and sisters in uniform  the best Christmas ever.  "Merry Christmas, trooper.  You're not going to Afghanistan."

Representative     District     Phone

Bartlett, Roscoe G.   MD-6   202-225-2721

Berkley, Shelley    NV-1    202-225-5965

Berry, Marion    AR-1   202-225-4076

Bishop, Timothy H.   NY-1   202-225-3826

Braley, Bruce L.   IA-1   202-225-2911

Carson, Andre   IN-7   202-225-4011

Christensen, Donna M.  VI   202-225-1790

Clay, Wm. Lacy   MO-1   202-225-2406

Cleaver, Emanuel    MO-5   202-225-4535

Costello, Jerry F.   IL-12   202-225-5661

Davis, Danny K.   IL-7   202-225-5006

DeFazio, Peter A.   OR-4   202-225-6416

Delahunt, William D.   MA-10   202-225-3111

Doggett, Lloyd   TX-25   202-225-4865

Duncan, John J.   TN-2   202-225-5435

Farr, Sam   CA-17    202-225-2861

Fattah, Chaka   PA-2   202-225-4001

Fudge, Marcia L.   OH-11  202-225-7032

Gutierrez, Luis V.   IL-4   202-225-8203

Hare, Phil   IL-17   202-225-5905

Harman, Jane  CA-36   202-225-8220

Hastings, Alcee L.  FL-23  202-225-1313

Himes, James A.  CT-4   202-225-5541

Hodes, Paul W.  NH-2    202-225-5206

Holt, Rush D.  NJ-12  202-225-5801

Honda, Michael M.  CA-15  202-225-2631

Jackson, Jesse L.  IL-2  202-225-0773

Kagen, Steve  WI-8  202-225-5665

Kaptur, Marcy  OH-9  202-225-4146

Kilpatrick, Carolyn C.  MI-13  202-225-2261

Kilroy, Mary Jo  OH-15  202-225-2015

Lewis, John  GA-5  202-225-3801

Loebsack, David  IA-2  202-225-6576

Lujan, Ben Ray  NM-3  202-225-6190

Maloney, Carolyn  NY-14  202-225-7944

Matsui, Doris O.  CA-5  202-225-7163

Michaud, Michael H.  ME-2  202-225-6306

Moore, Gwen  WI-4  202-225-4572

Napolitano, Grace F.  CA-38  202-225-5256

Oberstar, James L.  MN-8   202-225-6211

Olver, John W.  MA-1  202-225-5335

Pastor, Ed  AZ-4  202-225-4065

Pingree, Chellie  ME-1   202-225-6116

Polis, Jared  CO-2   202-225-2161

Price, David E.  NC-4  202-225-1784

Richardson, Laura  CA-37  202-225-7924

Rohrabacher, Dana  CA-46  202-225-2415

Rothman, Steven R.  NJ-9  202-225-5061

Rush, Bobby L.  IL-1  202-225-4372

Ryan, Tim   OH-17  202-225-5261

Schakowsky, Janice D.  IL-9  202-225-2111

Schrader, Kurt  OR-5  202-225-5711

Serrano, Jose E.  NY-16  202-225-4361

Sestak, Joe  PA-7  202-225-2011

Shea-Porter, Carol  NH-1  202-225-5456

Slaughter, Louise McIntosh  NY-28  202-225-3615

Space, Zachary T.  OH-18  202-225-6265

Speier, Jackie  CA-12  202-225-3531

Spratt, John M. Jr.  SC-5  202-225-5501

Stearns, Cliff  FL-6  202-225-5744

Stupak, Bart  MI-1  202-225-4735

Sullivan, John  OK-1  202-225-2211

Sutton, Betty  OH-13  202-225-3401

Thompson, Bennie G.  MS-2   202-225-5876

Thompson, Mike   CA-1  202-225-3311

Tierney, John F.   MA-6  202-225-8020

Tsongas, Niki  MA-5  202-225-3411

Walz, Timothy J.  MN-1  202-225-2472

Waxman, Henry A.  CA-30  202-225-3976

Welch, Peter  VT  202-225-4115

Whitfield, Ed  KY-1  202-225-3115

Woolsey, Lynn C.  CA-6  202-225-5161

Wu, David  OR-1  202-225-0855

Yarmuth, John A.   KY-3  202-225-5401   

WHERE DO YOUR CONGRESSMAN'S MILITARY CONTRACTOR CAMPAIGN DOLLARS COME FROM? Go to Maplight.org ("Defense") 

There's more...

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs: A Better Strategy for Afghanistan

Named one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World", famed economist Sachs needs little introduction.  As a colleague he has asked me to cross-post this article, in which he calls urgently for the alternative to the escalation, saying: "We will spend around $100 billion in 2010 on the military approach compared with just $2 billion or so on economic development in Afghanistan, a 50-to-1 ratio. If we raised the development budget to even $10 billion, and deployed it thoughtfully and consistently, the benefits for the Afghan people would be so strong that we could avoid the surge altogether [and] save $40 billion..."

Pls. forward this to your 2 senators, as war funding is now in their hands.

A Better Strategy for Afghanistan

By Jeffrey Sachs

   President Obama's strategy in Afghanistan does not pass the tests for war that he offered in his Nobel Lecture. Afghanistan is being preyed upon by a limited insurgency that feeds on Afghanistan's poverty and desperation. Most Afghans do not support the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, but are vulnerable to their pressures. Young unemployed men often join militant factions out of the need to earn a meager income to eat  and feed their families. In these circumstances, the fight against poverty should be dominant in the fight against terror and instability. Yet Obama's policy in Afghanistan almost completely neglects the strategy of economic development, and relies almost entirely on the military.

Fighting poverty would obviate the need for extra US troops, and would pave the way for a drawdown of troops. The US military already vastly outnumbers Al-Qaeda and the Taliban insurgents. The problem is that extreme poverty overwhelms the fragile social fabric of the countryside. Afghanistan will remain unstable and vulnerable until this poverty is addressed. Obama acknowledged such realities in the Nobel Lecture by declaring that "a just peace . . . must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want." Yet the war policy fails to act on this insight.

    Obama has hardly mentioned Afghanistan's poverty in his recent speeches and deliberations. He has not announced or unveiled a development strategy. He has no experts on development among his war counselors, despite the fact that Afghanistan is one of the very poorest countries in the world (ranking 181th out of 182 in the UN's Human Development Index). Child mortality, at 235 deaths per 1,000 births according to the UN, is staggering, easily one of the highest rates in the world. Has anybody in the Administration focused on these basic realities and their implications for instability?

    We will spend around $100 billion in 2010 on the military approach compared with just $2 billion or so on economic development in Afghanistan, a 50-to-1 ratio. If we raised the development budget to even $10 billion, and deployed it thoughtfully and consistently, the benefits for the Afghan people would be so strong that we could avoid the surge altogether, save $40 billion, and could quickly reduce the current level of military spending, saving even more money and lives, Afghan and American. Our existing troops would be more than sufficient to protect the development activities because the communities themselves would also strongly defend themselves and their economic gains. Indeed, with stronger and reinvigorated local communities, we could quickly and safely turn security efforts over to the Afghan people themselves.

    So why do we ignore this more peaceful and less expensive path? Our country has relied so heavily on the military for so long - and despite so many failures by now -- that the public has completely lost the confidence, spirit, programs, memory and even human interest of fighting poverty as a strategy of consolidating stability and national security. The war industry, a mega-business out of all proportion to the miniscule "peace industry" composed mainly of NGOs, completely dominates the lobbying scene. The public opposes "wasting" a few billion dollars to help impoverished people, yet then supports wasting tens of billions of dollars on a military approach destined to fail.

    The extreme skepticism over development is based on often-repeated myths rather than actual experience. There are countless development successes, yet often at modest scale because of the limited funding behind them. These successes are based on local development initiatives that bypass the corruption in Kabul (and the corrupt contractors lobbying in Washington). In rural societies like Afghanistan, development takes places in local villages and towns. That's where the efforts should be focused, not on illusory "anti-corruption" campaigns in the capital city.

    A recent New York Times story (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/13/world/ asia/13jurm.html?_r=1&scp=6&sq=A fghanistan%20villages%20&st=cse) reported on such successful efforts in rural Afghanistan, with the right ingredients, but as usual at too small a scale (because of limited funding). Here's what the New York Times reported.

    In the village of Jurm, "People here have taken charge for themselves -- using village councils and direct grants as part of an initiative called the National Solidarity Program, introduced by an Afghan ministry in 2003. Before then, this valley had no electricity or clean water, its main crop was poppy and nearly one in 10 women died in childbirth, one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Today, many people have water taps, fields grow wheat and it is no longer considered shameful for a woman to go to a doctor . . . Local residents contend that the councils work because they take development down to its most basic level, with villagers directing the spending to improve their own lives, cutting out middle men, local and foreign, as well as much of the overhead costs and corruption. 'You don't steal from yourself,' was how Ataullah, a farmer in Jurm who uses one name, described it."

    Meaningful economic progress in Afghanistan villages could be achieved at around $100 per villager per year, meaning that the annual cost of stationing one soldier -- $1 million -- could instead support annual economic development of a community of perhaps 10,000 people. Even at $200 per villager, we'd still reach 5,000 people. That's right, the approximate trade-off is meaningful help for an entire village versus stationing one more US soldier. Extrapolating, we could easily help all of Afghanistan's villages with plenty more left over for the big-ticket infrastructure --local roads, highways, power, and connectivity - all for a small fraction of the cost of the surge. Of course, I am presupposing that we adopt a delivery system relying on local services and construction, and not putting the money through the hugely overpriced US mega-contractors.

The truth is that our government is geared to expanded war while disdaining or utterly neglecting the opportunities through non-military approaches. Those are viewed as soft, naïve, and "for them," while war is viewed as hardheaded and "for us." The tragedy is that war is breaking our economy and society, while attention to economic development and poverty reduction might just help to solve some deeper crucial problems in the world, including US national security.

Dr. Jeffery Sachs is Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs and a Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia's School of Public Health. He is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Sac hs

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Lefties Call for Alliance with Paulies Against War

by "Sue4theBillofRights"

Citing Dr. Ron Paul's clear and unambiguous "non-interventionist" platform which condemns US troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, anti-war speakers at a rally headlined "No You Can't" called for an alliance between anti-war left and anti-war right on war and peace issues.   Organized by the newly-formed anti-war coalition End US Wars, the rally was held in Lafayette Park in front of the White House last Saturday.  The coalition announced a new alliance of national and grass-roots antiwar organizations and more than 100 leading peace activists.  It featured a joint appearance of four former presidential candidates, former Democratic Senator Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and Ralph Nader.

Newsblaze reported:


"Rally organizers are calling for the left to end its support for Obama now that he has committed to a troop surge, and to condemn and oppose Obama's war policy. In addition, the process will begin to replace Obama with an anti-war candidate, and to remove any pro-war legislators. Protests will intensify..."

One of the most passionate denouncements of the proposed troop escalation came from Rev. Graylan Hagler, a prominent African-American DC-area minister and former supporter of President Obama.  Hagler said, "We want people to be respected and treated right.  I did not vote for Barack Obama to take his people into a war.  I voted for change"

Speaker after speaker spoke of having worked for, campaign for, raised money for and enthusiastically supported Obama's presidential campaign, but feeling a sense of betrayal at the announcement of the escalation into Afghanistan.  A speaker for the Black is Back coalition spoke of the Democratic party taking black voters for granted, and called on fellow African-Americans to remember the oppressions of the past, and to not participate through silence in state violence against the Afghan people.  

While acknowledging probable disagreements on other issues, such as health care reform and abortion, two speakers noted that Republican followers of Dr. Ron Paul cited a clear and unambiguous "non-interventionist" policy which could form the basis of an alliance between right and left elements on war issues.  A show of hands of "any Ron Paulies in the audience" was requested at one point.  At the show of a few hands, a warm welcome was extended.  

"We may agree to disagree on many things, but on the issue of war and peace we are all just Americans, and can work together on this" the speaker said.  A welcome was also extended to the Capitol Police detail, who nodded cordially.

Speakers included World Can't Wait coordinator Debra Sweet, Military Families Speak Out Chairwoman Elaine Brower, writer Chris Hedges, numerous members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace, and statements from Rabbi Michael Lerner, Col. Ann Wright, Kevin Zeese, Dr. Stephen Zunes, Granny D (turning 100), Jared Ball, John Judge, and Stephen Lendman.

Dr. Ron Paul has charged that the proposed escalation is a recipe for "perpetual war," and holds that it will be militarily impossible to begin withdrawal in 2011.  Paul writes in "Who Wants War? Follow The Money"

"Perpetual war is not solving anything.  Indeed continually seeking out monsters to destroy abroad only threatens our security here at home as international resentment against us builds.  The people understand this and are becoming increasingly frustrated at not being heard by the decision-makers.  The leaders say some things the people want to hear, but change never comes.

One has to ask, if the people who elected these leaders so obviously do not want these wars, who does?  Eisenhower warned of the increasing power and influence of the military industrial complex and it seems his worst fears have come true.  He believed in a strong national defense, as do I, but warned that the building up of permanent military and weapons industries could prove dangerous if their influence got out of hand.  After all, if you make your money on war, peace does you no good.  With trillions of dollars at stake, there is tremendous incentive to keep the decision makers fearful of every threat in the world, real or imagined, present or future, no matter how ridiculous and far-fetched."

During his presidential campaign President Obama called for sending of "two or three more brigades" of troops to Afghanistan, about 10,000 troops, at a time when troops numbered about 30,000 in Afghanistan.  The total is now up to 62,000, after granting a Pentagon request last May.  The proposed increase would bring the total to almost 100,000.  Scholars and journalists have called the renewed insurgency in Afghanistan a result of dashed hopes of a reconstruction and descent into economic despair.  Unemployment in Afghanistan remains at 40%, with the UN estimating that at least 35% of Afghans are malnourished, 40% of children underweight, and starvation being common across the country.  Although relatively stable until 2005, in that year car bombs and suicide attacks began to rise exponentially.  With high unemployment, the Taliban has been called the employer of last resort, able to pay young fighters $10 per day for participating in attacks, sometimes issuing rifles just before an attack.

Western contractors have come under fire for turning excessive profits on reconstruction projects, which often employ relatively few Afghans.

Kucinich, Nader, McKinney, Gravel, and organizer

Lobby Congress here

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