U.S. Continues to Fund Taliban IEDs, Then Says Wikileaks Endangers Troops

This week the White House condemned the posting of politically embarrassing classified documents which could come to be known as the Afghan Pentagon Papers on the Internet, saying this "could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security," on the same day that Congress approved the administration's requests for further war funding, significant amounts of which, it is now known, will wind up directly in the hands of Taliban insurgents.  Seven months ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in testimony before Congress:

"You offload a ship in Karachi and by the time whatever it is – you know, muffins for our soldiers’ breakfasts or anti-IED equipment – gets to where we’re headed, it goes through a lot of hands. And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money."

Last month a report from the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by John Tierney (D-MA,) concluded definitively that up to 20 percent of funds for contracts to transport U.S. military supplies are knowingly and systematically paid to insurgents in "protection money" in order to avoid Taliban attack.  The report confirms that knowledge of the practice is widespread and well-documented up the chain of command, due not least to private contractors themselves reporting to the military that massive extortion payments were being paid to insurgents through warlord intermediaries who control almost every stretch of key road and highway.  The report states:

"HNT Contractors Warned the Department of Defense About Protection Payments for Safe Passage to No Avail....While military officials acknowledged receiving the warnings, these concerns were never appropriately addressed.
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When HNT contractors self-reported to the military that they were being extorted by warlords for protection payments for safe passage and that these payments were "funding the insurgency," they were largely met with indifference and inaction." (Bold contained in report)

HNT is Host Nation Trucking, the recipients of the $2.16 billion contract last year which is a main focus of the report.  The truck drivers and vehicles subcontracted to actually transport the supplies are almost exclusively Afghan.

The magnitude of the Department of Defense funds going to the insurgency, which inevitably pays for massive quantities of weapons, explosives, and fighters' salaries, may equal or exceed the amount gained by the Taliban from the opium trade.  The report places the range taken in from truck convoy protection payments at between $100 million to $400 million per year.  Taliban profits from the opium business are estimated at around $300 million per year.  

Of the leak of classified documents by Wikileaks, an ABC News report entitled "WikiLeaks Data Seem to Show Pakistan Helped Attack American Troops" said:

"Perhaps the single most damming collection of data in a massive trove of secret documents from Afghanistan released by the website WikiLeaks is some 180 files that seem to show Pakistan's premiere intelligence service, the ISI, helping the Afghan insurgency attack American troops.  The United States provides more than a billion dollars to Pakistan each year for help in fighting terrorism, but the papers seem to link the ISI with major Afghan insurgent commanders..."

This goes beyond what the Pentagon Papers, leaked by Vietnam Era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, revealed about the Vietnam War, which was largely a story of incompetence and knowledge within the high command that the war was futile and could not be won.  The Pentagon Papers, as damning as they were, did not show active collaboration of supposed allies with the enemy.

The Pentagon has announced that it has launched a manhunt for the leaker of the Afghan documents.  Reuters reports:

The Pentagon said on Monday it was launching a manhunt to find whoever leaked tens of thousands of classified documents on the war in Afghanistan, one of the largest security breaches in US military history.  U.S. defense officials said the person behind the release of some 91,000 classified documents appeared to have "secret" clearance and access to sensitive documents on the Afghan war.

Wikileaks burst upon the news scene earlier this year when it posted the classified video of an American Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad in which two Reuters reporters were killed.  The leaker of that video, Army Specialist Bradley Manning, says he believed it was important to show the true face of war.  He is currently under arrest and being held in a U.S. military prison in Kuwait.  His support network's website is at www.BradleyManning.org

The Tierney report says the reason the system of protection payments to insurgents in Afghanistan exists is that there is, in essence, no other way to insure the resupply of the network of 200 military bases in Afghanistan.  A former Defense Department contracting officer said in the report:

"the heart of the matter is that insurgents are getting paid for safe passage because there are few other ways to bring goods to the combat outposts and forward operating bases where soldiers need them. By definition, many outposts are situated in hostile terrain, in the southern parts of Afghanistan. The [Afghan security companies run by warlords] don't really protect convoys of American military goods here, because they simply can't; they need the Taliban's cooperation."

 

The roll call of the House vote yesterday to approve the administration's request for $34 billion more in war funding is HERE (a "yea" is in favor of more funds for the war.)  Campaign contributions to congressmen from defense corporations are HERE.

After the vote, anti-war activists who opposed further war funding, partly on the grounds that, according to the Tierney report, U.S. taxpayer money was helping to kill American troops, strategized the next steps in ending the wars, noting that a record 114 congressmen voted to cut-off funding for the war compared to the 35 who voted this way in the last round.  Activists said bluntly, "The Pentagon is funding both sides of the war," and placed emphasis on "specific forms of [Afghan-led development] which empowers the Afghan people, not national elites or U.S. corporations" as a remedy for Afghan hopelessness and instability.

David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.org wrote:

We need a new approach that not only seeks to keep anti-war representatives in power, and to replace Republicans with anti-war Democrats, and to replace pro-war Democrats in primaries with anti-war Democrats, and to replace pro-war Republicans in primaries with anti-war Republicans, but also to defeat pro-war incumbents even if their opponent is pro-war too...

Swanson said the peace movement must make clear to incumbents that if they continued to support war funding in 2010 they should not expect to keep their job in January of 2011, even if voters put up with two years of another congressman they don't like, as a broom to sweep out the incumbent.

After the posting earlier this year of the 2007 Apache Helicopter attack video by Wikileaks, the Pentagon expressed that it was interested in the whereabouts of Wikileaks editor and founder Julian Assange.  Soon after that, Assange abruptly canceled a speech before the National Press Club in New York.  Daniel Ellsberg, who had been in contact with Assange, told MSBC's Dylan Ratigan that he feared for Assange's safety in light of the Obama administrations newly announced policy this year of keeping an assassination list of people it considers threats to the national security, including American citizens.  Ellsberg said "I think Assange would do well to keep his whereabouts unknown."  Assange has since resurfaced, but the identity and whereabouts of the "Afghan Pentagon Papers" leaker remains unknown.

U.S. Continues to Fund Taliban IEDs, Then Says Wikileaks Endangers Troops

This week the White House condemned the posting of politically embarrassing classified documents which could come to be known as the Afghan Pentagon Papers on the Internet, saying this "could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security," on the same day that Congress approved the administration's requests for further war funding, significant amounts of which, it is now known, will wind up directly in the hands of Taliban insurgents.  Seven months ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in testimony before Congress:

"You offload a ship in Karachi and by the time whatever it is – you know, muffins for our soldiers’ breakfasts or anti-IED equipment – gets to where we’re headed, it goes through a lot of hands. And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money."

Last month a report from the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by John Tierney (D-MA,) concluded definitively that up to 20 percent of funds for contracts to transport U.S. military supplies are knowingly and systematically paid to insurgents in "protection money" in order to avoid Taliban attack.  The report confirms that knowledge of the practice is widespread and well-documented up the chain of command, due not least to private contractors themselves reporting to the military that massive extortion payments were being paid to insurgents through warlord intermediaries who control almost every stretch of key road and highway.  The report states:

"HNT Contractors Warned the Department of Defense About Protection Payments for Safe Passage to No Avail....While military officials acknowledged receiving the warnings, these concerns were never appropriately addressed.
.
.
When HNT contractors self-reported to the military that they were being extorted by warlords for protection payments for safe passage and that these payments were "funding the insurgency," they were largely met with indifference and inaction." (Bold contained in report)

HNT is Host Nation Trucking, the recipients of the $2.16 billion contract last year which is a main focus of the report.  The truck drivers and vehicles subcontracted to actually transport the supplies are almost exclusively Afghan.

The magnitude of the Department of Defense funds going to the insurgency, which inevitably pays for massive quantities of weapons, explosives, and fighters' salaries, may equal or exceed the amount gained by the Taliban from the opium trade.  The report places the range taken in from truck convoy protection payments at between $100 million to $400 million per year.  Taliban profits from the opium business are estimated at around $300 million per year.  

Of the leak of classified documents by Wikileaks, an ABC News report entitled "WikiLeaks Data Seem to Show Pakistan Helped Attack American Troops" said:

"Perhaps the single most damming collection of data in a massive trove of secret documents from Afghanistan released by the website WikiLeaks is some 180 files that seem to show Pakistan's premiere intelligence service, the ISI, helping the Afghan insurgency attack American troops.  The United States provides more than a billion dollars to Pakistan each year for help in fighting terrorism, but the papers seem to link the ISI with major Afghan insurgent commanders..."

This goes beyond what the Pentagon Papers, leaked by Vietnam Era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, revealed about the Vietnam War, which was largely a story of incompetence and knowledge within the high command that the war was futile and could not be won.  The Pentagon Papers, as damning as they were, did not show active collaboration of supposed allies with the enemy.

The Pentagon has announced that it has launched a manhunt for the leaker of the Afghan documents.  Reuters reports:

The Pentagon said on Monday it was launching a manhunt to find whoever leaked tens of thousands of classified documents on the war in Afghanistan, one of the largest security breaches in US military history.  U.S. defense officials said the person behind the release of some 91,000 classified documents appeared to have "secret" clearance and access to sensitive documents on the Afghan war.

Wikileaks burst upon the news scene earlier this year when it posted the classified video of an American Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad in which two Reuters reporters were killed.  The leaker of that video, Army Specialist Bradley Manning, says he believed it was important to show the true face of war.  He is currently under arrest and being held in a U.S. military prison in Kuwait.  His support network's website is at www.BradleyManning.org

The Tierney report says the reason the system of protection payments to insurgents in Afghanistan exists is that there is, in essence, no other way to insure the resupply of the network of 200 military bases in Afghanistan.  A former Defense Department contracting officer said in the report:

"the heart of the matter is that insurgents are getting paid for safe passage because there are few other ways to bring goods to the combat outposts and forward operating bases where soldiers need them. By definition, many outposts are situated in hostile terrain, in the southern parts of Afghanistan. The [Afghan security companies run by warlords] don't really protect convoys of American military goods here, because they simply can't; they need the Taliban's cooperation."

 

The roll call of the House vote yesterday to approve the administration's request for $34 billion more in war funding is HERE (a "yea" is in favor of more funds for the war.)  Campaign contributions to congressmen from defense corporations are HERE.

After the vote, anti-war activists who opposed further war funding, partly on the grounds that, according to the Tierney report, U.S. taxpayer money was helping to kill American troops, strategized the next steps in ending the wars, noting that a record 114 congressmen voted to cut-off funding for the war compared to the 35 who voted this way in the last round.  Activists said bluntly, "The Pentagon is funding both sides of the war," and placed emphasis on "specific forms of [Afghan-led development] which empowers the Afghan people, not national elites or U.S. corporations" as a remedy for Afghan hopelessness and instability.

David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.org wrote:

We need a new approach that not only seeks to keep anti-war representatives in power, and to replace Republicans with anti-war Democrats, and to replace pro-war Democrats in primaries with anti-war Democrats, and to replace pro-war Republicans in primaries with anti-war Republicans, but also to defeat pro-war incumbents even if their opponent is pro-war too...

Swanson said the peace movement must make clear to incumbents that if they continued to support war funding in 2010 they should not expect to keep their job in January of 2011, even if voters put up with two years of another congressman they don't like, as a broom to sweep out the incumbent.

After the posting earlier this year of the 2007 Apache Helicopter attack video by Wikileaks, the Pentagon expressed that it was interested in the whereabouts of Wikileaks editor and founder Julian Assange.  Soon after that, Assange abruptly canceled a speech before the National Press Club in New York.  Daniel Ellsberg, who had been in contact with Assange, told MSBC's Dylan Ratigan that he feared for Assange's safety in light of the Obama administrations newly announced policy this year of keeping an assassination list of people it considers threats to the national security, including American citizens.  Ellsberg said "I think Assange would do well to keep his whereabouts unknown."  Assange has since resurfaced, but the identity and whereabouts of the "Afghan Pentagon Papers" leaker remains unknown.

Prisoners Deserve A Hearing Before Being Sent To Countries That Torture

Last week, the United States government transferred an Algerian national, imprisoned for the last eight years at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, back to his home country.

Normally, such transfers are a cause for celebration by the prisoners involved. But the reaction of 35-year-old Abdul Aziz Naji was markedly different: he was terrified. That's in part because the Algerian government has a bad track record for its treatment of anyone arrested on "security grounds." In fact, the U.S. State Department reports that in such cases, Algerian authorities still use torture to elicit confessions. A recent decision from the European Court of Human Rights reached the same conclusion, blocking a transfer to Algeria from France.

Naji also argued that he was afraid of local fundamentalist groups terrorizing him into fighting for their cause. In fact, he'd fled Algeria as a teenager precisely because he'd been attacked by extremists. As a result, Naji begged the U.S. government to allow him to remain in prison at Guantanamo rather than be returned to Algeria. But the U.S. government ignored that; it sent him to Algeria anyway.

Although Naji is now back home, reportedly under Algerian government surveillance, there are still another five Algerians left at Guantanamo Bay who are afraid to return home due to fear of mistreatment. Still other prisoners, from countries such as Tajikistan and Morrocco, have similar fears. And terror suspects arrested by U.S. authorities and sent to another country for interrogation and prosecution, under current U.S. rendition policy, face a similar risk.

The U.S. government's actions in Naji's case don't bode well for any of them.

Under international law, the United States isn't supposed to transfer anyone to a country where they're likely to face torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. That's exactly what Naji fears will happen to him if he's arrested in Algeria. But he did not get an opportunity to make his case to any sort of neutral U.S. arbiter. Although the Obama administration said that the Algerian government had promised not to torture Mr. Naji upon his return, Naji never got a chance to explain why he's skeptical of that promise, and why he's still afraid.

Unfortunately, despite the requirements of the international Convention Against Torture, Naji's treatment complies with official U.S. policy. U.S. officials have insisted that they can send a prisoner or terror suspect to a country that's known to torture prisoners so long as that country provides "diplomatic assurances" -- essentially, an official promise -- that the person will be treated fairly. Perhaps the U.S. obtained such a promise from authorities in Algeria. But what are these "diplomatic assurances" worth?

As the United Nations and many other international experts have recognized, not much. According to Manfred Nowak, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on torture, "diplomatic assurances are unreliable and ineffective in the protection against torture and ill-treatment and such assurances," and are usually sought "from States where the practice of torture is systematic." They're also not legally binding.

Thus Maher Arar, for example, a Canadian terror suspect (who turned out to be innocent) rendered to Syria by the Bush administration, was brutally tortured under interrogation there, despite "diplomatic assurances" provided to U.S. authorities by the Syrian government.

Nowak and Martin Scheinin, the U.N. Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, last week protested the United States' return of Naji to Algeria.

Although Naji was never charged, tried or convicted of anything by the United States, his imprisonment for the last eight years, supposedly on security grounds, suggests he's likely to be a target of interest to the Algerian authorities.

Indeed, after he was returned home on July 18, his lawyers reported that he had disappeared. He was presumably held and interrogated in secret detention by Algerian security forces.

Then on Monday, Reuters reported that he'd been returned home and was "resting." An Algerian prosecutor said he'd been treated lawfully.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Naji had been indicted on terrorism-related charges and placed under "judicial supervision."

Whatever Naji's status is now, it could change at any time. Even though the U.S. never charged him with anything, Algerian authorities could go a different route. Or they could detain him for questioning and torture him in prison. Now that the United States has released him, it no longer has any authority to determine his treatment.

But the U.S. doesn't have to follow suit for the other Algerian detainees still imprisoned without charge at Guantanamo, who similarly face repatriation against their will. Human Rights First has called on the Obama administration to back up its professed commitment against torture by systematically providing a hearing before a neutral arbiter before returning anyone in U.S. custody to a country where he fears persecution. The United States should stop relying on the "diplomatic assurances" that have proved utterly ineffective in the past.

Reports That Pentagon Funding of Taliban is "Unintentional" Are Wrong

In the wake of the report from a congressional subcommittee which confirms that massive amounts of Pentagon money (perhaps equaling or exceeding the Taliban's opium profits) finance the Taliban insurgency through a "protection racket" for truck convoys, media reports have been careful to hedge descriptions of the funding as "unintentional."  This CBS news report mirrors the AP write-up, which states:

Criminal investigators are examining allegations that Afghan security firms have been extorting as much as $4 million a week from contractors paid with U.S. tax dollars and then funneling the spoils to warlords and the Taliban. If the allegations are true, the U.S. would be unintentionally financing the enemy and undermining international efforts to stabilize the country.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is simply not correct.  The truth is much worse.  

The report is "Warlord Inc," summary here.

Although it may be understandable if the Pentagon insists on the use of this word "unintentional," which lessens the impact, especially among military families, of finding out that many of the weapons and explosives used against their loved ones were paid for by funds from the U.S. Treasury, the Pentagon has known for years that this has been going on.  It may be "reluctantly," but it is not "unintentionally."  Unintentional implies a lack of deliberation and knowledge of consequences.  The Tierney subcommittee report at many points includes statements such as:

"When HNT contractors self-reported to the military that they were being extorted by warlords for protection payments for safe passage and that these payments were "funding the insurgency," they were largely met with indifference and inaction."

And Hillary Clinton herself said in Nov. 2009 in Congressional testimony:

"You offload a ship in Karachi and by the time whatever it is – you know, muffins for our soldiers’ breakfasts or anti-IED equipment – gets to where we’re headed, it goes through a lot of hands. And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money."

How can something be unintentional if knowledge of the practice goes all the way up the chain of command even to the Secretary of State herself, seven months ago?  

The generals and Gates know about it and knew about it and continue to know about it, and it is still happening to this minute, because there is absolutely no other way to move the amount of military supplies required to re-supply the network of 200 American bases. The further bad news is that no amount of "criminal investigation" can fix this.  An American officer in the Tierney report says:

 

 "the heart of the matter is that insurgents are getting paid for safe passage because there are few other ways to bring goods to the combat outposts and forward operating bases where soldiers need them. By definition, many outposts are situated in hostile terrain, in the southern parts of Afghanistan. The [Afghan security companies run by warlords] don't really protect convoys of American military goods here, because they simply can't; they need the Taliban's cooperation."

Figures from the report place the amount going to insurgents from the protection racket at between $100 million to $400 million last year.  The amount the Taliban is estimated to take in from the opium business is about $300 million per year.

The Pentagon and the PTB have excellent reason to downplay the conclusions of the report.  This is war, and everyone understands that f-ed up shit happens accidentally, like friendly fire, all the time.  That is one matter.  But this is not an accident, and as reluctantly as contracting officers who continue to release the funds might participate, there is full knowledge of the consequences.  Were an understanding that this is not an accident to sink in, really sink in, among the general public, next week's vote in the Senate on continuing war funds might become a bit more difficult.  "Unintentional" is something which simply cannot be claimed.

The following is a statement being circulated among peace activists for transmission to the Senate and the U.S. Congress.  If you are in agreement, please sign it and fax or forward it to both your senators via the contacts you have developed, or if nothing else, their online email form (faxes are better.)

The following is a statement from opponents of the war in Afghanistan on the report recently issued by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, the Honorable John Tierney, Chairman:

It is unconscionable that U.S. taxpayer dollars, in very significant sums rivaling the Taliban's estimated take from the opium business, should be ending up as "protection money" which in turn finances the Afghan insurgency.  This is appalling to U.S. taxpayers and the Afghans who suffer from continued war, and to military families whose loved ones serve.  The Pentagon is funding both sides of the war.  

Further, it is an outrage that the U.S. Congress is, and has been, completely aware of this practice.  Any claims to lack knowledge of the practice are erased by the work of one of Congress's own subcommittees.  The only remedy possible following this news is the suspension of funding for continued military operations, now under consideration in Congress, except in preparation for orderly withdrawal.  We also support very specific forms of civilian assistance which empowers the Afghan people, not national elites or U.S. corporations.  

This report is the stunning final proof that the war in Afghanistan is inherently flawed and unwinnable, when the price of continuing the charade is U.S. taxpayer dollars being handed over to insurgents who then use the money to buy weapons and explosives, and to pay fighters to attack U.S. troops.  

There is no longer any plausible reason to continue war funding for anything but preparation for withdrawal, keeping U.S. troops confined to forward operating bases until such time. There is not, and never has been a military solution to Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

 

Bushes and Clintons

Today's Politico has a piece on the presidential aspirations of Jeb Bush, who some say would be a leading contender were it not for his last name (leaving aside, of course, whether he would have ever been Governor of Florida in the first place had it not been for his last name). But one part of the article particularly stood out to me:

Alex Castellanos, a longtime GOP consultant who worked on Bush’s gubernatorial campaigns and is still in touch with his old client, argued that the family brand could be rehabilitated for Jeb just as it was for Hillary Clinton after her husband’s presidency.

I'm not at all sure what Castellanos is talking about. In what way was the Clinton brand "rehabilitated" by Hillary Clinton? In what way was it in need of rehabilitation?

Look through the polling. I have. Every single poll during the waning days of the Clinton administration found the 42nd President to be wildly popular. Just how popular? A 66 percent approval rating in the final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of the Clinton presidency. A 66 percent approval rating in the final Gallup poll. A 64 percent approval rating in the final CNN/Time poll. A 61 percent approval rating in the final Pew poll. A 68 percent approval rating in the final CBS poll. A 62 percent approval rating in the final Fox News poll. These were numbers requiring "rehabilitat[ion]"?

What did George W. Bush's numbers look like now? A 33 percent approval rating in the final ABC News/Washington Post poll in January 2009. A 31 percent approval rating in the final CNN poll. A 34 percent approval rating in the final Fox News poll. A 27 percent approval rating in the final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. A 34 percent approval rating in the final Gallup poll. A 24 percent approval rating in the final Pew poll.

Look even more recently. The latest polling from ABC News and The Post finds 59 percent blaming George W. Bush for the current economic woes in the country, and just 25 percent blaming Barack Obama.

Notice any difference between the Bush brand in 2009-2010 and the Clinton brand in 2001?

What's more, look at Jeb Bush's national numbers. They're old. But they aren't good.

But if the GOP genuinely thinks Jeb Bush is the way to success in 2012, and that he will be embraced after George W. Bush's presidency in the way that Hillary Clinton was embraced after Bill Clinton's presidency, all the better for them.

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