Will We Learn of the “Many Dark Actors”?

Anyone who has been following over the last eight years will not be surprised that Lord Goldsmith told Tony Blair that the Iraq War was illegal.

On July 29, [2002, Lord Goldsmith] wrote to Mr Blair on a single side of A4 headed notepaper from his office.Friends say it was no easy thing for him to do. He was a close friend of Mr Blair, who gave him his peerage and Cabinet post. The typed letter was addressed by hand, ‘Dear Tony’, and signed by hand, ‘Yours, Peter’.

In it, Lord Goldsmith set out in uncompromising terms why he believed war was illegal. He pointed out that:

  • War could not be justified purely on the grounds of ‘regime change’.
  • Although United Nations rules permitted ‘military intervention on the basis of self-defence’, they did not apply in this case because Britain was not under threat from Iraq.
  • While the UN allowed ‘humanitarian intervention’ in certain instances, that too was not relevant to Iraq.
  • It would be very hard to rely on earlier UN resolutions in the Nineties approving the use of force against Saddam.

Lord Goldsmith ended his letter by saying ‘the situation might change’ – although in legal terms, it never did.

I’m more interested, though, in the description of the scrum two Labour officials used to to convince Goldsmith to give the Iraq War some legal sanction.

He was summoned to a No10 meeting with Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer and Baroness Sally Morgan, Mr Blair’s senior Labour ‘fixer’ in Downing Street. No officials were present.

A source said: ‘Falconer and Morgan performed a pincer movement on Goldsmith. They more or less pinned him up against the wall and told him to do what Blair wanted.’

After the meeting, Lord Goldsmith issued his brief statement stating the war was lawful.

With this stuff coming out during the Iraq War inquiry, I honestly wonder whether we’ll eventually learn about the “dark actors playing games” who went after David Kelly.

What Peter Beinart Doesn’t Get

Peter Beinart courtesy of the US State Dept.)
Peter Beinart courtesy of the US State Dept.)

All y’all can save your Peter Beinart hatred. The man gave me a job right out of college, promoted me twice and gave me tons of opportunities. I would probably not be here if not for him. So I remain loyal, as I will ever be.

That said, this Daily Beast piece from Peter misses the mark substantially. He argues that it’s a mistake for Obama to provide a timetable for ending the war, calling it “an effort to appease the doves in his party.” Why’s it a mistake? Because it’ll reduce American leverage, Peter argues: “After decades of anarchy and war, Afghans have learned that survival requires backing the side that’s likely to win.” Ultimately, Peter says, providing a timeline for concluding the war successfully is “all too clever by half.”

The Iraq experience is instructive in this regard. In 2006, the Bush administration doubled down militarily with the surge. Then, once America’s increased military commitment (along with other factors) had strengthened Iraq’s government, the Bushies appeased nationalist hostility by setting a timetable for withdrawal.

But Peter’s argument is cleverer than it is wise. For one thing, by most accounts that have leaked so far, the exit strategy that’s going to be in the speech will look like this, as an anonymous official told the NYT:

“It’s accurate to say that he will be more explicit about both goals and time frame than has been the case before and than has been part of the public discussion,” said a senior official, who requested anonymity to discuss the speech before it is delivered. “He wants to give a clear sense of both the time frame for action and how the war will eventually wind down.”

So not really a timetable — David Dayen finds this more problematic than I do — and more like a time horizon. Congratulations, Peter, you’ve won the day! More seriously, I will put money on the proposition that the ultimate exit of U.S. military forces is conditioned on the readiness of the Afghan Army and police. Basically, what Peter uses as a cudgel to contrast with his expectations of Obama’s Afghanistan approach. (more…)

Unions Target Reid on Health Care Excise Tax, Employer Mandate

The Hill reports that unions are ramping up their pressure on Harry Reid to make the Senate health care bill palatable.  In their sights: killing the excise tax on employer plans and strengthening the employer mandate.

According to union officials, the bill’s employer mandate needs to be expanded to include all employers. Further, they are lobbying for the elimination of an excise tax on high-cost insurance plans, known as “Cadillac” plans. Finally, labor’s support of a robust government-run insurance plan, the “public option,” puts the Senate leader in tough spot considering centrist senators either want to jettison the plan or find a weaker compromise before voting for the bill.

Reid also faces a tough reelection campaign next year and Las Vegas is home to many union workers.

CWA is continuing its campaign against the excise tax:

“We think the House bill is much stronger and supports our goals much more than the Senate version,” said Louise Novotny, director of research for Communication Workers of America. “It would have responsibility for all employers and require the wealthy to pay their fair share too.”

IAFF, the firefighters union, jumped into the fray:

“We are very troubled by the excise tax. We think it is simply bad policy and bad politics,” said Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, an AFL-CIO member.

SEIU, too:

“The real risk is that this will impact middle-income workers the most who have been crushed by the economy. They don’t need an additional burden,” said Lori Lodes, a spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union.

Most disturbing in this article is the assertion that unions will wait to impact the process after the Senate passes its bill, instead lobbying during the conference committee.

While planning to lobby for amendments to make the Senate legislation better, several union officials said they will wait to the conference between the two chambers to push for the biggest legislative changes.

From a strategic standpoint, that’s insane.  Conference is a secretive, closed-door process in which conferees won’t be subject to outside pressure.  Once the doors open and there’s a final bill, each conferee can blame the other for the bad parts of the final product.

It took an anonymous union official to tell the truth about conference:

“We would very much be in support of anything that raises the bar higher during the legislative process before this heads to conference,” said one union official. “From a strategic standpoint, that then becomes the floor.”

But will they oppose a final bill, even if they’re not happy?

“I am not going to ever draw any line with opposing an overall bill with so many steps in the process left,” [IAFF’s] Schaitberger said. “We are going to keep an eye on the ball to make the bill better.”

Others in the labor movement agreed with Schaitberger’s approach.

“We don’t like where the Senate bill is but we don’t want to reject it out of hand,” [CWA’s] Novotny said. “At the end of the day, we want to say ‘yes’ to healthcare reform but the details really matter.”


Forgotten and Ignored: The Shadow Army Awaits Deployment

Afghan contractors discuss road building with U.S. soldiers (photo: ISAF Media via Flickr)

I was taken to task for allegedly ignoring the role of military-industrial complex corporations in my recent post about the decision-making process leading up to Tuesday’s anticipated announcement regarding U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Concern about corporate interests is well-placed, but it’s only a portion of the picture. Contractors have been a nagging problem since the U.S. began military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. With a current ratio of nearly two contractors to every soldier, the immediate problem is the number of the non-military personnel — a virtual shadow army — we are about to deploy in an escalation in Afghanistan, and the one still on the ground in Iraq.

Coincidentally, Monday was the deadline which House Oversight and Government Reform Chair Eldolphus Towns set for Defense Secretary Robert Gates to report the number, size, and details of contracts awarded for work being performed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Towns’ letter is dated November 3, giving Gates nearly a month to get his hands around these numbers and report them.

Towns has even allowed Gates to report the numbers from the Department of Defense’s records without commenting in his letter about the rather disconcerting numbers Towns has already seen based on reports from the General Accounting Office and the Commission on Wartime Contracting.

The CWC, a bipartisan entity authorized by and reporting to Congress, reported a wide range of numbers depending on the tracking source. The DOD’s Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker (SPOT) reported 160,000 contractors working for the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and several other smaller and less active arenas this summer. However the U.S. Army Central Command’s quarterly census reported a much different number — 242,000 contractors, with much of the data gathered by hand rather than through reports. As the CWC noted, that’s a difference of roughly 80,000 between the two tallies.

Although CENTCOM’s census doesn’t include contractors working for Department of State or the Agency for International Development (USAID) and SPOT does not account for foreign nationals, it’s generally believed that 80,000 is still too broad a spread in numbers and cannot account accurately for the difference in contractors between the two systems.

It’s not exactly chump change we’re talking about when we can’t confirm how many contractors are working for DOD; based on U.S. experience in Iraq, the cost of private security contractors are roughly equivalent to U.S. soldiers, and the cost of a soldier in theater ranges between $500,000 and $1,000,000 each, depending on which area of the world and which department’s estimates you use. Using the high end of 80,000 contractors unaccounted for, well, you do the math.

When President Obama makes his announcement Tuesday, you can do the math again in your head. For every soldier he says we should muster out to Afghanistan, you can estimate at least one support person — most likely a contractor — and at least $500,000 per head.

And of course, every single contractor works for a corporation, some of which are either solid members of the military-industrial complex, being subsidiaries of other larger firms, or firmly connected to the same through a web of contracts and relationships.

Now…would you like to tell me again that I ignored the military-industrial complex corporations? Why not watch and see tomorrow night, Wednesday and beyond who really does ignore the shadow army we’ll be deploying?

[photo: Local contractors in Afghanistan discuss road building with U.S. soldiers (source: ISAF Media via Flickr)]

Five Days That Shook The Corporatists’ World: N30 in Seattle, Ten Years On

This week marks ten years since 60,000 Americans and internationals joined delegates from the developing world to defeat megacorps’ attempted coup against Earth’s democracies. The Seattle WTO protests‘ astonishing success forced global opposition to corporatist rule into mainstream awareness in the most developed nations.

Though the 1999 protests didn’t end corporate power, over those five days in 1999 protests, protesters, and developing world delegates did succeded in stopping megacorps from attaining the power to demolish the public sector around the world. To put it simply, the Seattle 1999 coalition of protesters, civil society activists, and developing nations’ delegates demolished the corporatists’ dream of forcing all public services to be offered up to the lowest corporate bidder. Had the corporatists succeed in Seattle, they would have armed themselves with international trade treaties to loot national treasuries and destroy what remained of national sovereignty. The Battle in Seattle’s success – maintined through subsequent "Doha Round" WTO meetings over the last decade – quite literally saved civil society around the world from exsanguination via forced privatization.

Who made the Seattle WTO protests possible? Tens of thousands of Americans and thousands of internationals who knew we deserve better than misery and death under de facto corporate rule. Hundreds of civil society organizers who worked to inform and empower their neighbors and communities. The Direct Action Network organizers who coordinated the street protests. Non-violent eco-activists and forest defenders betrayed by Clinton’s sell-off of our natural wealth and Gore’s sabotage of the Kyoto Protocols. Unionized workers enraged by NAFTA – Rahm Emanuel’s and Bill Clinton’s intentional sacrifice of their livelihoods and communities in propitiation of the DLC’s de facto rulers, the megacorps. Developing world delegates who’d seen our economic hit men and their deadly work up close, and still defied them.

Sadly, Rahm Emanuel’s continued political life proves the 1999 WTO protests didn’t drive a stake through the corporatists or their vampires. Now that Rahm’s the President’s Chief of Staff, the President and the majority Congressional leaders are openly turning on their base, and Obama’s enabled the corporatists to suck trillions out of Treasury, even the dullest Dem party fanboys and fangirls have figured out our audacious leaders are colluding with the usual looters.

This week the glorified bribery racket called the US Senate set to work grinding health care reform into another corporate bail-out, and folks are already gathering in Copenhagen to make sure the US and China can’t force a suicide pact on the world’s children. So this week’s a good time to revisit the week ten years ago when a tiny handful of Americans stood up (and sat down) to non-violently confront the "leaders" who wanted to trash our livelihoods and sacrifice our kids and elders – and defeated our corrupt, unrepresentative elites. The same social and political forces that defeated the WTO in Seattle are still vibrant, but now they have a lot more allies.

Ten years ago tonight I stood on Seattle’s streets outside the convention center where the WTO was scheduled to meet, but didn’t: civil society had won the day. I stayed out on the streets amidst active protests as long as the Nextel batteries held out, and then headed back to the warehouse on Denny, where I was greeted by improvised decontamination stations and a warehouse packed with chemical weapons survivors, many of whom needed medical care. And the week was just beginning.

"Pain is only temporary, and we are extremely strong"

This week I’m looking forward to describing how our strength came through for us in Seattle ten years ago. Over these next days I’m looking forward to exploring what happened there with FDL’s readers. That success deserves celebration. And now that corporatist-owned Dems are again choosing to sacrifice our lives for their masters’ profits, the sucess may well deserve emulation.

Happy Anniversary!

Living Up to Our Constitution – Part IV

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island)

I recently attended the Second Annual “Living Constitution” Lecture at the Brennan Center for Justice. The keynote speaker this year was Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and his topic was “Living Up to Our Constitution.”

Sen. Whitehouse identified four ways in which we live up to the Constitution. I’ve excerpted some of the best bits, breaking them into four separate posts for your contemplation; this is the final entry in this series.

Part 4
The Constution and Economic Well-being for All

…[T]hat progress toward economic opportunity for all makes good on our social contract and is another important way to live up to the ideals embedded in our Constitution.

When I heard this, it did not seem directly intuitive like the other parts of the speech. There is no “economic  opportunity” clause in the Constitution. However, it does remind me of Franklin Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech delivered as a State of the Union Address in 1941. Roosevelt said:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want–which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants–everywhere in the world. (more…)

I Guess I Should Say Where My Head Is At On Escalation In Afghanistan

So I wrote this to one of the (too many) listservs I’m on, in response to a question about whether the Afghanistan war — or escalating it — is justifiably seen as a progressive goal. My reply was that I see the case for continuing the war and progressivism as two ships passing in the night, a category error. Reading my reply over, I figured I should just post it, since I haven’t recently written anything from a normative perspective about the merits of escalating the war. Frequent readers will have probably figured out where I stand. But why not be explicit about it? So, here goes, with some edits…

I would say the case for escalation is a case based on the national interest. That is, escalation in Afghanistan is necessary to secure our legitimate security interest against al-Qaeda. This can be done by adopting a counterinsurgency approach to deprive al-Qaeda of the strategic depth provided by its Afghan allies through addressing root-cause or ‘demand-side’ reasons why Afghans actively or passively bandwagon with the insurgency: lack of governance; lack of resources; and lack of security. I consider those to be achievable goals, but it’s quite possible they’re not, and the time that all of this could have been achieved is passed. I would be lying if I said I could know for sure. But I think the risks of continuing Afghan instability, providing al-Qaeda with greater strategic depth, trump the risks of not trying. I don’t like the fact that I find this to be a compelling argument, for what it’s worth.

The war may have some benefits that are progressive — such as cementing at least some gains in women’s rights — or it might not. An end to the war might, for instance, involve negotiations that empower at least some elements of the Taliban. And it’s not like the Afghan government today is remotely progressive. What I’m saying is that progressivism is orthogonal, or at best peripheral, to this war and its escalation. My heart is with the advocacy groups that say the U.S. ought to emphasize women’s rights more in the case for the war, as Ben Smith reports on, but I fear it would be misleading and exploitative to sell a war based on concerns that are not ultimately central to the objective. That’s not to say we ought to be indifferent to women’s rights, because we shouldn’t. We have a lot of influence over the Karzai government, and if there’s ever a cause that gets me thinking there are worse offenses than interference in a country’s self-determination, it’s the prospect of half the population stifling the desires of the other half.

But it is to say we ought to apply a test: what concerns, by themselves, justify a long and costly war? For me, it’s the prospect of extirpating al-Qaeda by getting rid of the conditions that allow it to function, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, in combination with the unavoidable military activity against the individuals that make up al-Qaeda. This is a war that we can end, on terms satisfactory to our interests.

That doesn’t have to be the end of the argument. I view the national-interest case for escalation as compelling, but not by much, and the arguments for it grow more compelling when paired with an ultimate endpoint for a war entering Year Nine, as Obama apparently will lay out tomorrow. But I think we should be pretty clear-eyed that this about the national-interest, not additional progressive goals. Wars can be justified and/or necessary without being progressive. The Gulf War, for instance, was, and it wasn’t progressive, unless we’re to define progressivism down to mean “opposition to foreign military conquest.”

So: handwringing enough for you? To add one other meta point: I hate the term “liberal hawk” for a variety of reasons. But foremost among them is the fact that it’s an incoherent term. It has to mean “hawk for liberal reasons” if it is to be meaningful, not “hawk who happens to be a liberal.” In this case, though, I’m the latter. Now take me to task in comments and strengthen my argument.

Obama Faces ‘Moment of Truth’ With TV Address to Nation on War in Afghanistan

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Monday, November 30, 2009)


Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama said repeatedly that President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq was a distraction from "the real war on terror" in Afghanistan. "We took our eye off Afghanistan and fought the wrong war in Iraq," Obama said at every opportunity on the stump.

Now, more than six-and-a-half years after Bush sent nearly a quarter-million United States troops to Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein and nearly a year into his own presidency, Obama is about make good on his campaign promise to shift America’s focus back to Afghanistan.

After weeks of meetings and deliberations with his top military officers and national security advisers, the president is scheduled to deliver his first prime-time televised address to the nation tomorrow night (Tuesday) to announce a significant increase in the number of American forces in Afghanistan.

The commander-in-chief will deliver his address before an assembly of Army cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. The president said last week that, more than eight years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, "it is still in America’s vital national interest to dismantle and destroy" al-Qaida and its extremist allies.

For Obama, tomorrow night’s speech is a "moment of truth" that — like Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and both George Bushes, father and son, before him — will ultimately make or break his presidency.

Obama won last year’s election in large part because millions of Americans who had grown tired of the Iraq War voted for Obama on the strength of his outspoken opposition to that conflict. Now he risks incurring the wrath of many of his supporters who thought they voted in a president who would end both wars and bring U.S. troops home.


And the president is about the announce his decision amid sharply conflicting sentiment on the war effort among the American public overall. A November 17 Washington Post/ABC News Poll found that the percentage of Americans in favor of maintaining the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan fell to 44 percent, with 52 percent saying that the effort there wasn’t worth it.

However, a USA Today/Gallup Poll released last week found that, even as public support for the war has fallen dramatically, Americans nonetheless remain sharply divided on whether to send in more troops or to start bringing them home.

The poll found a slight uptick in the percentage of Americans supporting an increase in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, with 47 percent in favor of adding troops and 39 percent preferring a cutback. Just two weeks ago, the USA Today/Gallup Poll found the public almost evenly split, with 37 percent favoring an increase, while the percentage favoring a reduction remained unchanged at 39 percent.


With Obama expected to announce that anywhere from 30,000 to 35,000 more U.S. troops will be deployed to Afghanistan — fewer than the 40,000 that General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander of American forces, had asked for — he is likely to face a reversal of political fortune: Even as Democrats rebel against him, the president is drawing support from the opposition Republicans.

The new USA Today/Gallup Poll found that a solid 57 percent of Democrats favor a withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, while only 29 percent favor a buildup. In sharp contrast, an overwhelming 72 percent of Republicans favor a troop increase, while only 17 percent favor a pullout.

Independents — those mostly moderate-to-conservative voters who are absolutely vital to the Democrats keeping control of Congress in 2010 and to the president winning a second term in 2012 — were almost evenly split, with 46 percent supporting a troop increase and 45 percent favoring a cutback.

"Republicans agree that a strategic review of the current situation in Afghanistan is warranted, and we will work to ensure that our commanders on the ground have all the additional troops they have requested," said Representative John Boehner (R -Ohio), the House minority leader.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), Obama’s opponent in last year’s election, has been pressing the president for months for a buildup in American forces in Afghanistan. Attending a international security forum in Canada on November 20, McCain told reporters that a hike in the number of U.S. troops to Afghanistan would bring on a more successful outcome of the war effort there, similar to Bush’s highly controversial "surge" of troops in Iraq.

"I even am bold enough to predict that within a year or 18 months, you will see success if the effort is sufficiently resourced and there is a commitment to get the job done before setting a date to leave the region," McCain said.


For the millions of anti-war voters who cast their ballots for Obama in the belief that he would be an anti-war president and bring all American troops home from both Iraq and Afghanistan, the president’s televised address on Tuesday night is likely to be seen by many of them as a betrayal — and a repeat of history.

On April 30, 1970, then-President Richard Nixon, in a televised Oval Office address to the nation, announced an incursion of U.S. troops into Cambodia during the Vietnam War to disrupt what Nixon called North Vietnamese "sanctuaries."

This led to massive protests by as many as four million young people on college campuses and even high schools across the nation, many of whom felt Nixon had betrayed them — and at the same time were openly fearful that they would end up on the battlefield, as military service back then was compulsory for able-bodied American men aged 18 to 26.

Forty years before Obama’s historic run for the White House, Nixon had campaigned for the presidency in 1968 on a promise to bring "an honorable end to the war in Vietnam," declaring that "Never has so much power been used so ineffectively as in Vietnam" — a direct slap at his predecessor, Lyndon Johnson.

Congress abolished the draft in 1973, just as Nixon began withdrawing American forces from Vietnam. However, all American males aged 18 to 25 are still required to register with the Selective Service System — even though there’s been no real political will in Congress to reinstate the draft since the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 with the passage in 1971 of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution.


Political analysts inside and outside Washington warn that if Obama can’t convince his party to support a troop increase, the consequences could prove hazardous for Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections.

“I think it threatens his domestic agenda pretty substantially, unless he takes the people along with him,” Bruce Buchanan, a professor of government at the University of Texas, told Politico.com. “That’s what a lot of other Democrats like [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi are worried about right now…..He risks alienating large chunks of the Democratic Party.”

Already, Obama has lost the support of anti-war firebrand Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who denounced the planned buildup as an "indefensible" escalation of the war, in defense of a "corrupt" government in Afghanistan. "We can’t afford this war," Kucinich insisted. "We’ve got to start focusing of things that matter to people here [in America] and what matters to people in the United States is not expanding the war in Afghanistan.

"We’ve got to get out of there," Kucinich said.

Kucinich was one of only a handful of Democrats who in October voted against a must-pass $680 billion defense authorization bill — which included $130 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — despite the attachment of a measure long sought after by gay rights advocates to expand the federal hate crimes law to includes cases of bias-motivated crimes against gays.

“Every thinking person wants to take a stand against hate crimes, but isn’t war the most offensive of hate crimes?” asked Kucinich. “To have people have to make a choice, or contemplate the hierarchy of hate crimes, is cynical. I don’t vote to fund wars, period. If you are opposed to war, you don’t vote to authorize or appropriate money for it."


But in a guest commentary published by The ‘Skeeter Bites Report in October, Thomas Barnett, a contributing editor and online columnist for Esquire magazine, warned that the U.S. was making a big mistake in failing to take into account the fact that the war in Afghanistan is an international effort.

"What’s especially odd about this debate is its stunningly self-centered tone," Barnett wrote. "What are America’s national interests? How long can America last? How much will America be forced to spend in blood and treasure? What will happen to America’s standing if we withdraw? The whole conversation feels like a neurotic superpower talking to its therapist.

"We continue to debate our involvement as though this is ‘America’s war’ alone," Barnett continued, "when it is nothing of the sort and never has been, even if its triggering tragedy — the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — is."

About 55,000 NATO troops are in Afghanistan now, about half of whom are Americans. The president’s decision will enlarge the total U.S. force by more than 50 percent.

Then there is the warning issued on Veterans Day by Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, in which he wrote in is a series of diplomatic cables to Washington that sending in more troops would be unwise because of "rampant corruption" in the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the envoy said is undermining its legitimacy.

Eikenberry, a retired Army general and former commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan under Bush, wrote that it would be "unwise" to send in more troops at a time when the domestic political situation in Afghanistan in the face of a still-disputed presidential election remained unsettled, despite Karzai’s apparent re-election victory.

For their part, Afghan officials insist the training of local security forces needs to be given top priority, so that their own troops can lead the fight against Taliban and other anti-government insurgents. But Western military advisers remain skeptical that this can be achieved anytime soon.


Regardless of the war’s ultimate outcome, one thing is clear: Any increase in the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is sure to raise the specter of increased American casualties, according to John Mueller, a professor of political science at Ohio State University.

“If [Obama’s] going to be more aggressive militarily, it means more Americans are going to die and that’s the thing that moves public opinion more than anything else,” Mueller told Politico.com, adding that with public opinion already on the brink of turning against the war, the president risks facing the same political fate with Afghanistan that befell Johnson and Nixon over Vietnam and Bush over Iraq.

“Once people are turned off on a war they tend to stay turned off,” Mueller said. "Even when it became clear that the war was decidedly going better, the numbers of people who supported it didn’t move much.”

# # #

Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.

KPCC's AirTalk: "Transgender Sportswriter Mike Penner Dies"

KPCC's AirTalk: Transgender Sportswriter DiesWell, the audio for KPCC‘s AirTalk broadcast regarding Mike Penner’s passing is up. Patricia Wojdowski and I were on with host Larry Mantle this morning (November 30, 2009). The producer, Karen Fritsche, was as a gracious, kind, and thoughtful a point of contact for the show as could be.

Here’s the explanatory text for the approximately 30-minute long audio, from the segment they entitled Transgender sportswriter Mike Penner dies:

LA Times sportswriter Mike Penner was found dead over the weekend, having apparently committed suicide. Penner changed his gender identification in 2007 and began living and writing as Christine Daniels. Later detransitioning, he reassumed Mike Penner’s gender and byline. Did gender trouble prompt his suicide? What unique challenges do transgender people face in their professional and personal lives?


Autumn Sandeen, New Media Reporter for Pam’s House Blend

Patricia Wojdowski, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, specializing in therapy for gender variant individuals and couples. For more info, visit: GenderCounseling.com


Further, Recommended Reading:

* Amanda Hess at the Washington City Paper: Should We Remember Mike Penner or Christine Daniels?

* Ina Fried at The NLGJA React Blog: Remembering both Christine Daniels and Mike Penner



* Thinking About Mike Penner; Thinking Again About Detransition

* Mike Penner (f.k.a. Christine Daniels) Dead Of Apparent Suicide

* Christine Daniels Retransitioning Back To Mike Penner

* LA Times’ Penner: “I am a transsexual sportswriter.”

* Check out LA Times sportwriter Christine Daniels’ transition blog (Autumn note: The blog has been removed from the L.A. Times website.) (more…)