War Crimes in Afghanistan? Time To Investigate

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on Firedoglake or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed here are my own.

A few weeks ago, Rep. Darrell Issa, the new Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House GOP’s self proclaimed “chief watchdog,” released his agenda for upcoming investigations in the new congress. Some of the issues he intends to focus on are dubious and partisan, but others slated for investigation are very serious.

One of these serious issues is the war in Afghanistan. Politico reported at the time:

Rep. Darrell Issa is aiming to launch investigations on everything from WikiLeaks to Fannie Mae to corruption in Afghanistan in the first few months of what promises to be a high-profile chairmanship of the top oversight committee in Congress. […]

The sweeping and specific hearing agenda shows that Issa plans to cut a wide swath as chairman, latching onto hot-button issues that could make his committee the center of attention in the opening months of the 112th Congress. By grabbing such a wide portfolio — especially in national security matters — Issa is also laying down a marker of sorts, which could cement his panel as the go-to place for investigations.

Great, if there’s one thing we need, it’s a “go-to place for investigations” in congress, especially concerning national security.  And certainly most everyone agrees that “corruption in Afghanistan”, referring here to waste, fraud, and abuse by US military contractors, could benefit from much stronger oversight in congress.

But here’s the problem: the bloody occupation of Afghanistan has been dragging on for ten long years now, the long-term cost is estimated to be in the trillions. The catastrophes we’re facing are much, much worse than losing a million or two here or there in graft. Continue reading “War Crimes in Afghanistan? Time To Investigate”

Journalism is not an Attack, Wikileaks is not Warfare

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on Firedoglake or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Wikileaks is under attack!

Journalists and politicians are calling for the criminalization of Wikileaks, or worse, the assassination of its members. The US government is coercing companies into blocking access to Wikileaks, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is normally very strong on internet freedom, has been forced to “evolve” her positions.

If you’re a supporter of Wikileaks, or even a relatively dispassionate observer, you likely find these actions to be offensive, or even downright criminal. How dare the US move so arrogantly, so aggressively, against Wikileaks for what seems to be nothing more than the second coming of the Pentagon Papers? We believe in free speech, in transparency and accountability for our government. It’s outrageous that Washington would move so decisively to crush a project like Wikileaks.

But are Wikileaks’ supporters actually feeding this response from the government? In our rush to rationalize and defend Wikileaks and their actions, have we inadvertently opened the door to attacks by the US government?

The answer can be found in how we’ve chosen to frame the debate so far. Continue reading “Journalism is not an Attack, Wikileaks is not Warfare”

Optics of the National Consultative Peace Jirga in Afghanistan

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

You better bite down on something, because here comes some NATO propaganda

That wasn’t so bad, was it? Very short, and they devote a fairly large chunk of time to criticism of the whole affair. It’s a little pedestrian for anyone with extensive knowledge of the region, but the explanation for the jirga is very accessible. But since the jirga has just gotten under way, it’s far too early to draw any substantive conclusions about the criticism, or the praise, of the jirga. Even if they aren’t making decisions and only building a broad consensus, it’s going to take a while.

However, it’s not too early to engage in that most reptilian form of analysis, gauging the “optics” of the event. How does it look? How does it register in your gut? And if we swirl our hands over the newsprint, what secrets of the future can we mystically divine? Not much, really. Most conclusions we come to about the optics of the meeting will be rendered meaningless soon enough when the jirga wraps up and the consequences to reality begin to take shape. But just as we can live through a little NATO propaganda to learn about the jirga, we’ll lower ourselves to the level of gut reactions and see what we can learn. Continue reading “Optics of the National Consultative Peace Jirga in Afghanistan”