February 18, 2012

Published by Tom Hayden, The Peace Exchange Bulletin is a reader-supported journal, critically following the Pentagon's Long War in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, as well as the failed U.S. wars on drugs and gangs, and U.S. military responses to nationalism and poverty around the world.
The Long Wars
Afghan Fissures Worsen, Exit Proposed 
As the Afghanistan crisis deepens, "there is evidence of a continued divide between the White House and the military over the pace of withdrawal." (New York Times, February 2, 2012) This dispute between civilian and military leadership is expected to worsen if President Obama accelerates the withdrawals past the 33,000 mark later this year, and as American troops are shifted out of combat roles by next year.  

The US military openly opposes the pace of the drawdown, which already is too slow for most Democrats and the peace movement, because the resulting panic in Kabul could cause an implosion if efforts at a diplomatic settlement bog down. 
US Afghan Allies Attacking US Troops

Allied Afghan soldiers are stepping up the killing of American troops, according to a recently declassified US military report covering the period through May 2011. "The sense of hatred is growing rapidly," according to an Afghan officer who said the Americans are "rude, arrogant bullies who use foul language." The report concludes that "lethal altercations are clearly not rare or isolated, they reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat...unprecedented between 'allies' in modern military history."  

Afghan forces attacked their US allies 26 times, killing 58 Western troops, during 2007-2011, most often since October 2009. The report, "A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility," was carried out by a behavioral scientist who surveyed hundreds of Afghan and American soldiers.

Record Army Suicides and Sex Crimes 

The disturbing report last week of a record 164 suicides among active-duty Army soldiers in 2011 actually understates the rising number of American troops taking their own lives. Considering all military services, the fatalities are higher than the Army number, and total 2,356 since the so-called War on Terrorism began, through November 2, 2011. By comparison, 1,183 Americans have died in the Afghanistan conflict through February 15, 2012.
While the jump in suicides is correlated with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Army officials stressed "there are many other factors at work," including alcoholism and "lower recruiting standards."

The Army report also noted a sharp increase of 30 percent in violent sex  crimes by active-duty troops last year, mainly against 18-to-21-year-old female soldiers. Army officials said the rise in sex crimes was due to increased reporting, alcohol and "new barracks that offered no privacy."

For more, please see the New York Times, January 19, 2012.

Reps Ask for More Rapid Withdrawal 
McGoven, Jones, Lee Support Shift from US Combat Role

House members led by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) are circulating a moderate letter commending the Obama administration for announcing an end to the US combat role in Afghanistan in 2013, one year ahead of the previous timetable. Many of the signers supported an accelerated withdrawal in a resolution last year, which attracted 204 House votes.

To read the letter and updated list of signatories, please continue reading...  
A Proposal: Amend War Powers Act 
Include Drones and Libya-Style Wars 

Congress should update and amend the existing War Powers Act (WPA), passed in 1973 over Richard Nixon's veto, to cover future American military operations relying on drones instead of ground forces.  Republican and Democratic House leaders seriously questioned President Obama's executive order for the war in Libya, but have not followed up with amendments to protect the crucial constitutional role of Congress - and American voters - in future decisions to go to war.

The Pentagon budget for Libya, submitted by Obama to Congress, included an initial outlay of $713.6 million for "military operations." The War Powers Act, however, requires the President to terminate any deployment within 60 to 90 days unless authorized by Congress.

Democrats like John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich were joined by Republicans like Speaker John Boehner, Walter Jones and Ron Paul in   opposing the unilateral military action without Congressional approval.

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