Archive for January, 2010

The State of the Union talking points distributed by the White House this morning seem to indicate that the president will only briefly discuss Afghanistan tonight, but we are working hard to keep the spotlight on the Afghanistan war. Tonight, join us for a State of the Union watch party streamed live on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook page.

Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook campaign around the State of the Union address is really heating up. We’ve already been the focus of two big write-ups on techPresident and Mashable. Here’s what techPresident had to say:

But chattering on Twitter, or live-blogging it, which more than 2000 sites and organizations are apparently promising to do!–is hardly the only or best way to use a live event for online organizing. See, for example, what “Rethink Afghanistan,” a project of the Brave New Foundation, is doing tonight around the State of the Union, via its staffer Derrick Crowe, writing on OpenLeft:

Note how Rethink Afghanistan is using multiple layers of engagement. Its strategists understand that people have many choices for watching SOTU–all equally good–but the opportunity to share the experience with other like-minded activists can add extra value to the experience. They’re also planning to add value to the speech video by adding a chyron with a running tally of the cost of the war throughout the speech, and with liveblogging by the group’s founder, Robert Greenwald. Finally, they’re hoping they can get their activists to generate some live feedback in a highly visible place, the White House’s Facebook page.

Check out the Mashable piece for a full description of what we’ve been up to over the past few days on Facebook and how it ties in to tonight’s event. Here’s a rundown of the agenda for tonight:

  • Rethink Afghanistan’s fan page will have a live stream of a part of Rethink Afghanistan (The Cost of War) prior to the speech at 8:30 p.m. Eastern / 5:30 p.m. Pacific.
  • Then, we’ll carry a live stream of the State of the Union address.
  • Brave New Foundation’s Robert Greenwald will be there for the conversation, and I’ll provide commentary and links to Afghanistan-related information.
  • After the speech, our whole mob will head over to the White House’s Facebook page to share our thoughts on his Afghanistan comments.

Please join us tonight starting at 8:30 p.m. Eastern / 5:30 p.m. Pacific on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook fan page. Let’s keep the focus tonight on ending the war in Afghanistan. Hope to see you there.

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President Obama will give his first State of the Union address on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. Eastern. Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan campaign wants to make sure this isn’t just a time to sit and watch, but a time to get together with our friends and push back against the expanding Afghanistan war.

20,000 and Counting

On Friday, we asked our supporters to sign a simple petition to President Obama:

In your State of the Union address on January 27, 2010, I want you to provide a concrete exit strategy for our troops in Afghanistan that begins no later than July 2011 and which completes a withdrawal of combat troops no later than July 1, 2012.

More than 20,000 people signed it. Instead of just handing it to someone at the White House, petition signers are getting their message and the list of signers to the White House by posting it on the White House Facebook fan page. If you haven’t signed the petition, please do so.

No Applause, Please

Our friends over at TrueMajority are pushing their Members of Congress to refrain from applauding when the president talks about Afghanistan. The media and people at home notice when an applause line falls flat during the State of the Union, and we want our representatives to represent us by refusing to cheer for more wasted spending on a deadly war that doesn’t make us safer.

Rethink the State of the Union

Why watch the speech alone on TV when you can hang out with more than 11,000 people like you who want the Afghanistan war to end? Join the other fans of Rethink Afghanistan and watch the speech on our Facebook fan page.

  • Rethink Afghanistan‘s fan page will have a live stream of a part of Rethink Afghanistan (The Cost of War) prior to the speech at 8:15 p.m. Eastern.
  • Then, we’ll carry a live stream of the State of the Union address.
  • Brave New Foundation’s Robert Greenwald will be there for the conversation, and I’ll provide commentary and links to Afghanistan-related information.
  • After the speech, our whole mob will head over to the White House’s Facebook page to share our thoughts on his Afghanistan comments.

We hope you’ll join us tomorrow night starting at 8:15 p.m. Eastern as our community gathers to rethink the State of the Union.

…I’ve started a great new job with Brave New Foundation, working on their Rethink Afghanistan campaign. This blog will start to refocus a bit on matters of faith and nonviolence in the coming few days, but for now, take a look at what I get paid to do now!

The Associated Press reports that roughly 5,000 Afghans today protested foreign forces on a road between Kabul and Jalalabad, shouting “Death to America!” and “Death to Obama!” after another group of children died in an explosion on Wednesday.

KABUL (AP) — Thousands of Afghans shouting ”Death to America!” protested the killings of children Thursday, the latest in a string of controversial cases in which international forces have been blamed for civilian deaths.

NATO troops were among those killed in Wednesday’s blast, which the Afghan Interior Ministry attributed to a detonated roadside mine. However, Afghans were already enraged by accusations of execution-style killing of children by foreign forces in late December, and the taint of that incident made the protesters more than willing to attribute blame to coalition forces:

On Wednesday, an explosion tore through a group of children gathered around foreign soldiers visiting a U.S.-funded road project in Nangarhar province, east of the capital of Kabul. Afghan officials said four children were killed. NATO said two died.

Minutes after the blast, local residents were accusing American forces of throwing a grenade into the crowd — even though several international troops were among the wounded. The Afghan Interior Ministry later released a statement saying the explosion occurred when a passing police vehicle hit a mine.

Still, an estimated 5,000 protesters demonstrated the deaths Thursday along a road between Kabul and Jalalabad in Nangarhar. They waved a banner condemning the attack, set fire to an effigy of President Barack Obama and chanted ”Long live Islam!” and ”Death to Obama!”

This is the latest in a series of protests against foreign troops that erupted across Afghanistan over the past several weeks. Protests erupted in late December in Kabul and Jalalabad over the killing of children by foreign forces in Ghazi Khan in late December. In early December, hundreds of Afghans protested in Mehtar Lam after an airstrike reportedly killed 12 civilians (NATO initially denied the deaths and then had to walk it back pending investigations, as usual).

According to a recent report by the Afghanistan Rights Monitor, an average of three children are killed per day by the Afghanistan war.

Cross-posted at Rethink Afghanistan.

Alissa J. Rubin’s and Abdul Waheed Wafa’s story on the reported execution of eight Afghan boys demonstrates journalistic incompetence or intentional propaganda tactics in the lede:

KABUL, Afghanistan — The killing of at least nine men in a remote valley of eastern Afghanistan by a joint operation of Afghan and American forces put President Hamid Karzai and senior NATO officials at odds on Monday over whether those killed had been civilians or Taliban insurgents.

First of all, these were not “men.” They were boys. The youngest was 11, and the oldest was 17, all of which would be considered children were they not scary brown people in a country we’re bombing.

The military often dismisses this distinction with such euphemisms as, “They’re fighting-age.”

But get this through your stenographic skulls, corporate press: even if these kids were uniformed members of some local militia wearing bandoleers of grenades and toting bazookas, the correct term would be child soldiers.

But, of course, child soldiers is a term that evokes sympathy and tragedy, while “men” of “fighting age” evokes threat and violence.

Rubin and Wafa use the word “men” four times, at least once as a statement of fact without attributing the characterization to anyone. By contrast, the term “schoolboys” is used only once, and then portrayed it only as Karzai’s characterization of the dead.

But the larger issue here is the total deflection of the actual story in the lede. This is not a story about a spat between Karzai and NATO. This is a story about allegations of execution-style killings carried out by coalition forces. For comparison, see the Times UK story on the same incident:

American-led troops were accused yesterday of dragging innocent children from their beds and shooting them during a night raid that left ten people dead.

That accusation is the story, and is far more relevant to the crisis in Afghanistan than The New York Times’ amateurish “he-said-she-said” narrative.

For a much more detailed comparison of the two stories, see this post by Dave Lindorff which brought this to my attention.

To learn more about civilian deaths in the war in Afghanistan, watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part 4): Civilian Casualties.

Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. The views expressed are his own. Visit RethinkAfghanistan.com to send your loved ones a video that matches your concerns about the war in Afghanistan.

It’s been a terrible year for the U.S. in Afghanistan. After endless policy reviews and two huge shipments of young people and weapons to the Graveyard of Empires, here’s what we’ve got to show for it:

The year was capped by the reported killing of school children by an international raid. Protests erupted. The locals burned President Obama in effigy. Good riddance, 2009.

While it was a terrible year in Afghanistan for you, America, it was a great year for ChinaThe People’s Republic just locked in rights to one of the richest copper supplies on Earth:

While the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda here, China is securing raw material for its voracious economy. The world’s superpower is focused on security. Its fastest rising competitor concentrates on commerce.

“We do the heavy lifting,” [Central Asia-Caucasus Institute chairman S. Frederick Starr] said. “And they pick the fruit.”

While China reaps the payoff, we continue to pay the costs.

According to the National Priorities Project’s Jo Comerford, we’re spending $57,077.60 per minute in Afghanistan just for the latest 30,000-troop escalation. The total per-hour cost is around $12 million. With the money we’ll spend to ship our young men and women and equipment to Afghanistan, we could have instead created “537,810 construction jobs, 541,080 positions in healthcare, fund 742,740 teachers or employ 831,390 mass transit workers.” Or doubled the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

But by all means, let’s keep sending our neighbors and our neighbors’ kids to Afghanistan to ensure China’s economy stays on track.

Learn more: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Three): The Costs of War.

Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. The views expressed are his own. Visit RethinkAfghanistan.com to send your loved ones a video that matches your concerns about the war in Afghanistan.