Monday, August 31, 2009

It begins.

The following piece can be found at People's Worker Weekly.

With the U.S. commander in Afghanistan expected to ask President Obama to send more troops, peace groups are planning actions across the U.S. on Oct. 7, the eighth anniversary of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

United For Peace and Justice, the national peace coalition, is urging grassroots peace and economic and social justice groups to gather in their cities and towns on Oct. 7 for “action, dialog, and reflection on the eight years of death and dying in Afghanistan.”

The events, UFPJ says, will raise the issues of “the costs, human and economic, of the occupation and war in Afghanistan and impact on the region.”

UFPJ, which was formed in 2002 as the Iraq war was looming, is calling on its 1,400 member groups to initiate local actions or educational events including teach-ins, vigils, rallies and delegations to congressional offices. Also suggested are phone call and letter-writing campaigns, house parties to raise money for Afghanistan relief or other aid to the Afghan people, and “creative actions to highlight the devastating effects of the drone air strikes” on civilians in the region.

President Obama was elected with hopes for diplomacy, not war, the coalition notes. With recent polls showing 54 percent of Americans believe the Afghanistan war is a mistake, “the peace movement is challenged to organize the hope for change into a movement to end the war in Afghanistan as one of the big steps towards addressing the crisis in our communities,” UFPJ says. “With every bomb dropped and every civilian and military death, we are no closer to helping the Afghan people and the region to grapple with their problems. In fact, the U.S. presence is the biggest obstacle to doing so.”

The Oct. 7 events are “aimed at galvanizing the grassroots” to blunt the expected Pentagon request for more troops, Judith LeBlanc, UFPJ national organizing coordinator, said. LeBlanc said there is a growing consensus “that there should not be an escalation, it has to end.” The question, she said, is “not only does it need to end, but how? It’s a complicated question — people have many questions about what will happen to the Afghan people, the women.” Therefore, teach-ins, house parties and similar events are important to “expose some of the myths, explain the costs of the U.S. military involvement, highlight the importance of political engagement to create a better international framework in the region, and bring pressure to bear on Congress to speak out.”

“We need an open congressional debate on what the U.S. goals are and what the timetable is to get our troops out,” she said.

More information is available at

Two days before the war’s anniversary, on Oct. 5, a coalition led by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance will hold a procession to the White House, deliver a petition calling for an end to the Afghanistan war, and hold a nonviolent direct action in Washington. The pacifist group, founded in 2002 as the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, says it is “committed to ending the wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and trying to encourage our government to invest in human needs rather than death and destruction.”

The petition can be signed online at Along with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, the petition asks the U.S. government to “fund vigorous international efforts at assisting Afghans with the rebuilding of their decimated infrastructure.” It appeals to President Obama to “close a tragic chapter in our nation's history, restore its honor and improve our relationship with the global community.”

Peace Action, is calling for "out-of-Afghanistan" house parties. The group says, “Now is the time to tap into the political momentum for peace and educate the American public about the need to remove foreign forces from Afghanistan and increase international support of Afghan-led aid and development.”

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., have called on the administration to present an exit plan and timetable. McGovern has introduced a bill, HR 2404, that would require the defense secretary to present an exit strategy by the end of the year. The bill, HR 2404, has 95 copsonsors to date, including seven Republicans.
Feingold is calling for a “flexible timetable” for withdrawal. A petition pressing the Senate to demand an exit strategy is online at

With the U.S. commander in Afghanistan expected to ask President Obama to send more troops, peace groups are planning actions across the U.S. on Oct. 7, the eighth anniversary of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. United For Peace and Justice, the national peace coalition, is urging grassroots peace and economic and social justice groups to gather in their cities and towns on Oct. 7 for “action, dialog, and reflection on the eight years of death and dying in Afghanistan.” The events, UFPJ says, will raise the issues of “the costs, human and economic, of the occupation and war in Afghanistan and impact on the region.” UFPJ, which was formed in 2002 as the Iraq war was looming, is calling on its 1,400 member groups to initiate local actions or educational events including teach-ins, vigils, rallies and delegations to congressional offices. Also suggested are phone call and letter-writing campaigns, house parties to raise money for Afghanistan relief or other aid to the Afghan people, and “creative actions to highlight the devastating effects of the drone air strikes” on civilians in the region. President Obama was elected with hopes for diplomacy, not war, the coalition notes. With recent polls showing 54 percent of Americans believe the Afghanistan war is a mistake, “the peace movement is challenged to organize the hope for change into a movement to end the war in Afghanistan as one of the big steps towards addressing the crisis in our communities,” UFPJ says. “With every bomb dropped and every civilian and military death, we are no closer to helping the Afghan people and the region to grapple with their problems. In fact, the U.S. presence is the biggest obstacle to doing so.” The Oct. 7 events are “aimed at galvanizing the grassroots” to blunt the expected Pentagon request for more troops, Judith LeBlanc, UFPJ national organizing coordinator, said. LeBlanc said there is a growing consensus “that there should not be an escalation, it has to end.” The question, she said, is “not only does it need to end, but how? It’s a complicated question — people have many questions about what will happen to the Afghan people, the women.” Therefore, teach-ins, house parties and similar events are important to “expose some of the myths, explain the costs of the U.S. military involvement, highlight the importance of political engagement to create a better international framework in the region, and bring pressure to bear on Congress to speak out.” “We need an open congressional debate on what the U.S. goals are and what the timetable is to get our troops out,” she said. More information is available at Two days before the war’s anniversary, on Oct. 5, a coalition led by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance will hold a procession to the White House, deliver a petition calling for an end to the Afghanistan war, and hold a nonviolent direct action in Washington. The pacifist group, founded in 2002 as the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, says it is “committed to ending the wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and trying to encourage our government to invest in human needs rather than death and destruction.”

The petition can be signed online at

Along with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, the petition asks the U.S. government to “fund vigorous international efforts at assisting Afghans with the rebuilding of their decimated infrastructure.” It appeals to President Obama to “close a tragic chapter in our nation's history, restore its honor and improve our relationship with the global community.” Peace Action, is calling for "out-of-Afghanistan" house parties. The group says, “Now is the time to tap into the political momentum for peace and educate the American public about the need to remove foreign forces from Afghanistan and increase international support of Afghan-led aid and development.” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., have called on the administration to present an exit plan and timetable. McGovern has introduced a bill, HR 2404, that would require the defense secretary to present an exit strategy by the end of the year. The bill, HR 2404, has 95 copsonsors to date, including seven Republicans. Feingold is calling for a “flexible timetable” for withdrawal. A petition pressing the Senate to demand an exit strategy is online at
This story, by the Toronto Star's Rosie DiManno, who is on location in Afghanistan right now, reminds me of my own garden! I wish that I had been half as industrious this summer- but of course, there is still time for spinach :) This story reminds me of how the Doukhobors helped Japanese Canadians, who would have otherwise suffered malnutrition, with produce during the Second World War.

Here is the link to the story and some kind comments.


The testimonials are simple and eloquent.

"I bought a cow."

"I bought a carpet."

"I bought a refrigerator."

"My children are in school."

And, in an echo of mom urgings all over the world: "My kids are now eating fresh vegetables!"

From a faith-based institution in Waterloo, Ont., to a rigidly non-religious NGO in Kabul, this is the outcome – nine villages in Parwan Province, north of the capital, where nearly 3,000 women tend garden plots that earn a godsend income for their families.

They are, quite literally, victory gardens – as Canadians planted them during World War II – a triumph of modest ambitions over the boondoggle that has become international aid in Afghanistan.

"The women are growing carrots, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, grapes," says Catherine Sobrevega, country manager for MEDA Afghanistan. "But these are not the products you find being sold from the back of trucks on the side of the highway. These are higher-quality fruits and vegetables that are sold in supermarkets and to hotels."

MEDA is the Mennonite Economic Development Association, headquartered in Waterloo, which provides microfinancing for the Garden Gate Project in conjunction with CIDA.

The women who participate know nothing about Mennonites and, if informed that such an altruistic venture originated with a religious denomination in Canada, would likely be averse to involvement. But there is no proselytizing allowed in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for faith-based charities. So "God's work" – a Mennonite hallmark of humanitarianism – is done secularly.

"I'm not a Mennonite," notes Sobrevega, who hails from the Philippines and spent 14 years working for CARE International in Afghanistan before taking the MEDA job. "We don't try to bring faith. The only important thing is the sincerity you bring to the project."

The undertaking started with three villages in 2007, since expanded to nine, and 14 more are knocking on the door to join. That, too, is a victory of alien practice over rural culture, where women are severely circumscribed by Afghan patriarchy, rarely venturing outside their homes, discouraged from any activities not directly related to their families.

Through direct $2,000 MEDA grants and funds secured via various agencies, microfinancing is extended to these rural ladies for instruction in modern horticultural techniques and marketing acumen, linking them to a network of development organizations such as Women for Women and the Afghan Women's Business Council.

"What we do is provide the horticultural experts and link them to financial institutions that can provide them with loans because 50 per cent of the funding needs to come from the women themselves," says Sobrevega.

This shared cost is meant to encourage individual ownership of the garden plot scheme, rather than promoting the beggar-bowl mentality that has crippled aid projects in Asia and Africa.

Afghanistan is an agrarian country, yet modern horticulture is an unknown concept to most as they struggle to raise crops other than hardy opium. The Garden Gate Project has introduced these backyard lady entrepreneurs to such innovations as solar dryer facilities, underground storage and winter greenhouses. A solar dryer runs about $250, a greenhouse $600. That's a huge investment for poor Afghans – hence the need for grants and loans. But modern techniques mean maximum output using fewer supplies. Storing garden crops brings higher profits in winter sales, especially to hotels in Kabul that cater to Westerners who crave fresh salads and vegetables.

A woman needs only show she has 250 square metres of land at her disposal, to start, with capacity to double that in the second or third year of gardening. Zero profit is expected in the first season of planting but $150 in the next and – with a greenhouse constructed, for example, an average of $380 in the third. That may seem piddling but it makes an immense difference to a rural household – allowing for the purchase of school supplies, appliances and other conveniences, even the odd luxury. And it's no small benefit that children get a better diet out of it to boot.

And, there has been an added benefit – a vibrant community of the feminine. "These women used to see each other only at weddings and funerals," says Sobrevega. "Now they're at each other's houses all the time, talking about vegetables and fruit prices."

Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
This is an excerpt from a piece that came out a few weeks ago by Catrina Stewart of the Associated Press. Russia has not repeated its precipitate adventurings in Afghanistan, of course.

The full piece is here:

NATO uses Russian aircraft in two main ways. At one end of the scale, Russian choppers take on simple supply missions. At the other end, massive Russian-owned Antonov planes are taking off from distant air bases, such as RAF Brize Norton, the United Kingdom's largest station, bound for the deserts of Afghanistan with heavy and sometimes classified freight.

While the air service companies are private corporations, experts say they almost certainly operate with Kremlin oversight.

"At the very least, there is an acquiescence," said Galeotti, a military and organized crime expert at New York University.

Indeed, there appears to be a quid pro quo. Just days after Russia agreed to allow the U.S. to transship lethal Afghanistan-bound cargo via Russian territory, Russian cargo company Volga-Dnepr — which already has contracts with the U.S. military — said it was in the lead running for a U.S. tender to fly supplies to Afghanistan.

RIA-Novosti news agency quoted chief executive Valery Gabriel as saying Washington had been advised to choose a Russian carrier for this critical service.

For the Kremlin, Russian carriers mean a degree of control over these shipments. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia reserves the right to inspect all cargo flown across its territories.

For the carriers, the work means millions in revenue. The U.S. Transport Command said it has awarded Volga-Dnepr and another Russian company, Polet, $400 million in contracts up to September 2009 in the past year.

Figures for chopper companies are harder to obtain. All of the companies approached refused to divulge both numbers and the identity of their government clients, citing confidentiality.

"Russia is delighted to be involved," said Galeotti. "One, it's big business. Secondly, they are very keen for allied forces to be increasingly dependent on supply lines through Russia."

He added that Russia's GRU, its military intelligence arm — believed to have close links with several Russian companies operating in Afghanistan — may also stand to benefit.

"From a GRU standpoint, you have an extremely useful source — low-level but extremely useful intelligence," he said.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The following story, and the poem are hosted here, at Our Journey to Smile, an organization started by Afghan college students and volunteers.

First, Zarlasht Hafeez, a female Pashto poet who has published a collection called "Waiting for Peace". Her lines read:

"The sorrow and grief, these black evenings,

Eyes full of tears and times full of sadness,

These burnt hearts, the killing of youths,

These unfulfilled expectations and unmet hopes of brides,

With a hatred for war, I call time and again,

I wait for peace for the grief-stricken Pashtuns"

This story makes me realize afresh that blue is such a beautiful colour- limitless, boundless, the hue of the great everlasting skies and oceans, of stone on the great mountains in the distance, the colour of freedom and the cosmos, to my mind.

But look now for the the tale:

I’m an Afghan girl. And ripe for marriage.

I don’t recall many pleasures in my childhood but I remember the blue skies.

I live near Kandahar. Most of you would have heard of this playground of war. But I don’t wish to describe the perpetual fighting. I wish to describe the perpetual sky.

You see, the pleasures which an Afghan child has, especially an Afghan girl, are few.

So whenever I could, I would sprawl on a secret green spot next to my mud house and stare at the blue beyond. Blue, blue, blue.

Afghan eyes, lakes and stones. That range of blue. Beautiful sky blues.

I’ll follow the clouds, magical pillows of comfort and tears. I’ll track the birds that paint and glide.

My mother used to tell me how the skies were divided into 7 layers and how when the dry lands were parched for help, everyone would look up to the heavens, often.

In the different swings of time, the sky would tease me by changing. Its blue changes. Real change in an unchanging war.

My mother would sometimes sit by my side knitting her shawl and I would sometimes lie on her lap looking up, safe, a true ‘refugee’, at peace.

The simple thing about the confidence of the skies was that it didn’t make claims. It didn’t need to say, “I am here for you.” It was there for me, even when it refused to rain in the harsh drought months.

I could hide under its generous freedom. I could shout complaints at it without being told ‘You are wrong!’, again. I could pour out my questions and hurts without being misconstrued as mad, as if I was talking with Allah, the sky’s keeper.

At least, the sky hears my voice.

It always helped when my mother whispered stories in my ears or better still, when she sang me the stories. She helped to seal the safety of earth below under a heaven above.

I’m lucky to be alive. Many mothers and newborns die early, despite hearts that hope. That’s just the way things are. It seems to be the best that life can do.

I remember the recent autumn when the leaves were turning yellow and the afternoons were beginning to cool a little. I watched the sky as its blue matured before the approach of dusk, as if coaxing me to rest, to cry if need be, but to rest.

The orange glow of our setting suns is wonderful too but that late afternoon, I did not want the blue to go away. I wanted it to stay because it was singing and dancing and twirling.

It made me surprisingly happy. Okay, maybe I was being childish, but I didn’t want to lose those colorful hues. I thought, “I’ll miss this blue sky like I miss my mum when I’m away collecting wood, too soon and too insensibly.”

A gust of wind came gushing by with a trail of dust, suddenly shielding me from the hanging sea view. My eyes shut instinctively, then, in the next second, needing to deliberately embrace the delight of the open skies, I forced them open.

Oh, the blue.

Thinking about such moments makes me smile many inner smiles.

People say that the Afghan smile is enchanting but there is nothing uniquely Afghan about that smile. It’s the smile of the skies. It arises from an ignored but dignified life.

That’s why this great expanse, drawn out like a cut blue ‘chadari’ ( burqa ) that flaps in the limitless winds, is worth the risk of a little dust. Dust may make my eyes smart and tear, but it’s worth it.

News of late hadn’t been good. Unrest. Insurgents. All sorts of shifty characters. And of course, killings. My mother says that Man and Woman have never been able to rid ourselves of what we don’t want, the selfishness and silence of violence.

Funny how both the perpetrators and spectators of this domineering violence are unaware of their own selfishness and silence. I really shouldn’t say funny. It’s not at all funny for the victims.

There are even rumours that strange planes have been spewing out remotely controlled bombs. And no pilots or humans in them! Ha! I usually don’t bother with such nonsense or make believe.

We shouldn’t have to cope with such cold possibilities; it’s just too unforgiving on our chronic grief.

It’s bad enough that people get blown to red pieces. People elsewhere hate us so much they say that even those red pieces are rotten, that we people are dirty.

Nowadays, we have to get permission even to bury those scattered, dirty pieces, just so others can quibble about the number who have been killed. And insist to each other, ‘You are wrong!’

Wrong not on the killing, but on the exact number killed.

As I mentioned, I was ready for marriage. Preparations had been underway and I was hopeful.

And please, don’t rob me of my hope, even if it were false hope. It can work out. I thought of my mum and how she had found and shown love in her family, my family.

The big, blue day had come.

My relatives and friends had gathered for my wedding. This was no make-believe! This was my wedding! My wedding!

That morning, my husband had received me into his village, and our future life. We had had gifts, food, dancing, and drums.

I was excited and nervous. My sisters were with me. The music was bright and homely. I was dressed to the glittering ‘brim’. :)

I was all the time conscious of my mother’s joy and sorrow. All my life, I’ve never let that go.

Through my veil, I could see the rhythmic clapping. It was a noisy merriment to drown all worries. I was compelled to sneak a look at the sky, at which I felt all calm and clouded.

When the carnage began, I was still feeling excited and nervous.

Damn…it must be the Taliban! Things and bodies were spurting everywhere.

I wanted to see my mother.

My sisters and I ran. Illogically, I still thought about preserving that wedding dress while scrambling, about retaining some trace of honour.

Blue, blue. Red and red. More red than blue.

I looked up. The planes, drones? Oh…they’re not rumours… and as the dizzying bombs made their precise way to my heart and everything and everyone I loved, I needed to deliberately embrace the delight of the open skies.

A sucking wind came gushing by with a stench of death, suddenly shielding me from the hanging sea view. My eyes shut instinctively, then, in the next second, I forced them open.

Oh,…the blue. The now misty blue I trusted and enjoyed.
This is from one of today's AFP stringers in Afghanistan. Excerpts below:

The troops were backed by helicopters in a battle on Friday that lasted 24 hours and resulted in the deaths of "a large number of enemy militants," the defence ministry and NATO said in a joint statement.

In the operation, which took place in an isolated mountain region of Urgun district, the joint force under NATO command "engaged small arms fire from hostile militants", it said.

"The force killed a large number of hostile militants and recovered multiple anti-aircraft artillery pieces, two heavy machine guns, two light machine guns, several assault rifles,... ammunition and communications gear.

"The force destroyed the bunker complex and all enemy weaponry in place," it said.

The Afghan interior ministry and deputy police chief of Kandahar province said seven civilians, including a child, were killed and another nine injured when their cars hit concealed roadside bombs on Saturday and Sunday.
"He saw war and tried to stop it," said Ted of Brother Bob." But who is trying to stop the wars now? Who is even talking about them?

We seem to have been living through what's been called a summer of death by well knowns-Michael, Farah, Walter, Don, Dominic and now a young DJ in New York-but, of course, others are dying whose names we don't know, who we don't hear about or maybe care about, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Burma, and among the growing ranks of the poor in a world menaced by curable diseases and economic deprivation.

Can we as a country honor them they way we honor our own, can our TV Screens portray their struggles as they do those of the people on top? Can our hearts open to their pain and need? Can we walk the talk that Teddy tried to walk?

-link: "Mourning With the Kennedys"- Schecter, Danny

I do hope, regardless of my fondness for this beautiful reminesce, that it become abundantly clear through the provenance of this blog that rather a lot of people are trying to stop the wars; rather a lot of people care, and rather a lot of voices are joining the effort. As the New York Times noted in their coverage today, the antiwar movement is preparing to make a rousing effort come October: this is wonderful but not unsurprising; would that I felt that we had the luxury of time to plan in this area. I simply sally forth, outer hull blazing, and hope for the very best, as indeed many of us are doing. In certitude, much of the commentary below this piece was rhetorical- "stop the wars- shouldn't that be all of us- rather than throwing up our hands, etc. etc." Extremely refreshing to read. A great deal of struggle, and a great deal of satiation is my outlook for the months to come before us.
ISLAMABAD — Bombings targeted a Pakistani police station and set a NATO fuel convoy ablaze Sunday, killing 16 cadets in the northwest's Swat Valley and threatening the supply line to international forces in Afghanistan in a separate attack near the border.

The two blasts hours apart and hundreds of miles from each other came as Pakistani officials said the Taliban were ramping up strikes to avenge recent setbacks, including the loss of territory to the military and the death of their top leader in a CIA missile strike near the Afghan border.
(See TIME's photos: Pakistan beneath the surface)

Pakistan's military has in recent months intensified its fight against the al-Qaeda-linked extremists, who threaten stability in the nuclear-armed nation and are suspected of helping plot attacks against U.S. and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan.

At least 16 cadets died Sunday after a suicide bomber sneaked into the courtyard where they were training in Swat's main town of Mingora and detonated his explosives, local government official Atifur Rehman said. It was the deadliest attack since an army offensive ended Taliban rule there.

Investigators later sifted through the blackened wreckage in the courtyard littered with body parts, shredded uniforms and police berets.

Authorities were looking into reports the attacker may have donned a uniform and slipped into the station posing as one of the dozens of recruits, Deputy Inspector General Idrees Khan of the district police said.

"We are investigating whether the bomber climbed over the wall of the police station, or whether he was already present among the police cadets," Khan said. He blamed the attack on a decision to relax a daily curfew in the area for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and police quickly blocked off roads and ordered residents back indoors.

The army's offensive to take back the area was its largest in years after periodic peace deals with the militants. The Taliban's takeover of parts of Swat, a former tourist enclave, about two years ago became a symbol of their expansion in the mostly Muslim country of 175 million.

Pakistan's army says it is restoring order to the valley and surrounding areas, but Sunday's attack indicated that while the Taliban may no longer be able to impose their harsh interpretation of Islam there, life is far from normal for the hundreds of thousands who are now returning after fleeing the army's fierce three months of fighting to wrest back control.

Provincial minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour blamed the Taliban for the suicide attack and said Pakistanis must be "mentally prepared" for more bombings until the Taliban are crushed.

The Pakistani Taliban have vowed revenge after the loss of Swat and the death of their top leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in a CIA missile strike Aug. 5 further west near the Afghan border. At least 40 U.S. drones have fired missiles into Pakistan's lawless border areas, targeting militant leaders believed to threaten the war effort in Afghanistan.

The other blast Sunday ripped through a line of trucks ferrying fuel to NATO troops in Afghanistan, setting several oil tankers ablaze at a backed-up border crossing in southwestern Baluchistan province, police said.

The blast appeared to be the second terrorist attack in a week to target a border crossing.

Local police chief Hasan Sardar said flames and smoke were billowing into the sky Sunday night as authorities struggled to control the blaze near the Chaman border crossing in Baluchistan province in Pakistan's southwest.

"It was a big explosion under one of the oil tankers that caused other vehicles to catch fire. The fire is spreading," Sardar told The Associated Press by phone.

"We are at the moment trying our best to control the blaze. We are not sure whether there is any human loss," he said. "It is just panic everywhere there."

Police officer Gul Mohammad said from the scene that a bomb was suspected. He said security officials had earlier found and defused another explosive device lying near one of the NATO tankers.

"This was another bomb, which we could not find in our earlier search, that exploded," Mohammad told the AP.

An eyewitness, Haji Mahmood, said he saw some men in a car and two on a motorcycle spraying the vehicles with a volley of bullets before the blast.

"The two men abandoned their motorcycle and escaped in the car," Mahmood said.

Chaman is one of two main crossing points for supplies for American and NATO troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. The foreign troops get about 75 percent of their supplies through Pakistan.

Some 1,000 trucks, many of them NATO tankers, were backed up on the road leading to the border because the Chaman crossing had been closed for two days in a dispute between customs officials over fruit inspections, police officer Abdul Rauf said. Afghan officials closed the border on Saturday in retaliation for lengthy inspections by Pakistani customs that were holding up Afghan trucks carrying grapes and pomegranates, he said.

Rauf said that he heard the explosion and saw at least three oil tankers, two container trucks and two dump trucks on fire.

Another suicide bombing Thursday killed at least 19 guards further north at the Torkham border crossing, the other main route into Afghanistan and gateway to the famed Khyber Pass.
The "spin" shifts.

Existence of the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force, which "will go after drug networks linked to the insurgency, interdict drug shipments, destroy heroin labs and identify and arrest their protectors in (the Afghan) government," was revealed in a recent report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

That the U.S. and NATO are targeting drug lords is well-known, but counter-insurgency warfare expert Thomas X. Hammes said the task force, its composition and methods are new.

"People have been thinking about how to solve this and for the first time we're starting to get the resources," Hammes, a retired U.S. Marine colonel, said from Washington.

The team, which has wide discretion to capture or kill suspected drug traffickers, was at the time of the report's publication "awaiting formal approval in Washington and London, but operations have been co-ordinated informally through what officers involved call 'goodwill' among British, U.S. and Australian personnel."

Canada's elite and highly secretive JTF-2 commandos have fought shoulder-to-shoulder with American and British special forces since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001.

The federal government rarely acknowledges the special forces operations, but Dan Dugas, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, said the burgeoning drug war is not among Canada's priorities and "our focus includes such things as training the (Afghan National Army) and the (provincial reconstruction team)," which is in charge of redevelopment.

It is the latest step back for the Conservative government, which having initially embraced the war, has grown disillusioned and tired of the costly struggle.

Hammes said he was surprised to see Canadians were not involved, but suggested holding the fort in Kandahar for three years is more than enough reason to take a pass.

"The administration should be having parades down here for what you've done," said Hammes.

"The Bush administration never gave you the recognition you deserved."

The team fuses soldiers, intelligence officers and drug enforcement investigators, including American DEA members and Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency.

The Senate report estimated that the Taliban reap as much as US $70 million per year from the opium trade, a much lower estimate than international observers.

"The new consensus among U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan that the war cannot be won without severing the links between the drug traffickers, insurgents and corrupt government officials began to get traction as the administration increased resources for the war," said the Aug. 10 study.

But there has been fundamental disagreement within NATO about adding a drug war on top of a brutal counter-insurgency conflict. Nations have disagreed about the size and scope of the military effort.

Last winter, the former NATO supreme commander, U.S. Gen. John Craddock, declared all drug traffickers in Afghanistan to be legitimate military targets - an order that other generals in the western alliance challenged as a violation of the laws of war. The rules of engagement were later modified to declare that only traffickers with bone fide links to the Taliban were fair game.

The rules being used by the troops are classified, but the Senate reports said: "The military places no restrictions on the use of force with these selected targets, which means they can be killed or captured on the battlefield; it does not, however, authorize targeted assassinations away from the battlefield."

The Pentagon has a list 367 "kill or capture targets," of which 50 apparently have connections to the Afghan drug trade, U.S. commanders told the Senate committee.

It is just the kind of ghostly, dirty war that would make Canadian politicians and the public squeamish. Beyond that, Canadian commanders and diplomats have another more imperative political reason to keep their distance.

The U.S. Senate committee report makes specific reference to the allegations that Ahmed Wali Karzai, half-brother of President Hamid Karzai, is heavily involved in the drug trade.

"Stories about him are legendary - how Afghan police and military commanders who seize drugs in southern Afghanistan are told by Ahmed Wali to return them to the traffickers, how he arranged the imprisonment of a DEA informant who had tipped the Americans to a drug-laden truck near Kabul, how his accusers often turn up dead," the committee said.

"No proof has surfaced, and he and President Karzai have denied the accusations."

The German magazine Stern recently reported that British special forces troops raided a Kandahar field apparently owned by Wali Karzai and turned up "several tonnes of opium."

Karzai vehemently denied the charges, claiming the field did not belong to him and the accusations were politically motivated to hurt his half-brother's re-election chances, just days before Afghans went to the polls.

As head of the provincial shura - or council - in Kandahar, Wali Karzai has regular dealings with Canadians.

But the U.S. report warned that American officials in Kabul have made it clear there is no longer "a red line on anybody for corruption."

The new task force will work in conjunction with another specialized team tucked away at Bagram Airfield, near Kabul.

The Afghan Threat Finance Cell, with an anticipated staff of 60, will attempt to disrupt the financial networks of the traffickers as well as collect information "on senior Afghan government officials suspected of corruption."
The fight for country!!!!

American Antiwar Movement Plans an Autumn Campaign Against Policies on Afghanistan
Published: August 29, 2009
A restive antiwar movement, largely dormant since the election of Barack Obama, is preparing a nationwide campaign this fall to challenge the administration’s policies on Afghanistan.

Anticipating a Pentagon request for more troops there, antiwar leaders have engaged in a flurry of meetings to discuss a month of demonstrations, lobbying, teach-ins and memorials in October to publicize the casualty count, raise concerns about the cost of the war and pressure Congress to demand an exit strategy.

But they face a starkly changed political climate from just a year ago, when President George W. Bush provided a lightning rod for protests. The health care battle is consuming the resources of labor unions and other core Democratic groups. American troops are leaving Iraq, defusing antiwar sentiments in some quarters. The recession has hurt fund-raising for peace groups and forced them to slash budgets. And, perhaps most significant, many liberals continue to support Mr. Obama, or at least are hesitant about openly criticizing him.

“People do not want to take on the administration,” said Jon Soltz, chairman of “Generating the kind of money that would be required to challenge the president’s policies just isn’t going to happen.”

Tom Andrews, national director for an antiwar coalition, Win Without War, said most liberals “want this guy to succeed.” But he said the antiwar movement would try to convince liberals that a prolonged war would undermine Mr. Obama’s domestic agenda. Afghanistan, he said, “could be a devastating albatross around the president’s neck.”

But there is also a sense among some antiwar advocates that Mr. Obama’s honeymoon with Democrats in general and liberals in particular is ending. As evidence, they point to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showing that 51 percent of Americans now feel the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting, a 10-point increase since March. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

“We’re coming out of a low period,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the antiwar group Code Pink. “But as progressives feel more comfortable protesting against the Obama administration and challenging Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress, then we’ll be back on track.”

The Obama administration has opposed legislation requiring an exit strategy, saying it needs time to develop new approaches to the war. “Given his own impatience for progress, the president has demanded benchmarks to track our progress and ensure that we are moving in the right direction,” a White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The October protest schedule is expected to include marches in Washington and elsewhere. But organizers acknowledge that it may be difficult to recruit large numbers of demonstrators. So groups like United for Peace and Justice are also planning smaller events in communities around the country, including teach-ins with veterans and families of deployed troops, lobbying sessions with members of Congress, film screenings and ad hoc memorials featuring the boots of deceased soldiers and Marines.

“There are some that feel betrayed” by Mr. Obama, said Nancy Lessin, a founder of the group Military Families Speak Out. “There are some who feel that powerful forces are pushing the president to stay on this course and that we have to build a more powerful movement to change that course.”

The October actions will be timed not only to the eighth anniversary of the first American airstrikes on Taliban forces and the seventh anniversary of Congressional authorization for invading Iraq, but also an anticipated debate in Congress over sending more troops to Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, is widely expected to request additional troops, beyond the 68,000 projected for the end of the year, after finalizing a policy review in the next few weeks.

The antiwar movement consists of dozens of organizations representing pacifists, veterans, military families, labor unions and religious groups, and they hardly speak with one voice. Some groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War have started shifting their focus toward Afghanistan, passing resolutions demanding an immediate withdrawal of troops from there. Others, like, support the American military presence in Afghanistan, calling it crucial to fighting terrorism.

And some groups, including, have yet to take a clear position on Afghanistan beyond warning that war drains resources from domestic programs.

“There is not the passion around Afghanistan that we saw around Iraq,” said Ilyse Hogue,’s spokeswoman. “But there are questions.”

There are also signs that some groups that have been relatively quiet on Afghanistan are preparing to become louder. U.S. Labor Against the War, a network of nearly 190 union affiliates that has been focused on Iraq, is “moving more into full opposition to the continuing occupation” of Afghanistan, said Michael Eisenscher, the group’s national coordinator.

“President Obama risks his entire domestic agenda, just as Johnson did in Vietnam, in pursuing this course of action in Afghanistan,” Mr. Eisenscher said.

Handfuls of antiwar protestors can still be seen on Capitol Hill, outside state office buildings and around college campuses. Cindy Sheehan, for instance, has set up her vigil on Martha’s Vineyard while Mr. Obama vacations there. But many advocates say a lower-key approach may be more effective in winning support right now.

An example of that strategy is an Internet film titled “Rethink Afghanistan,” which is being produced and released in segments by the political documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald. In six episodes so far, Mr. Greenwald has used interviews with academics, Afghans and former C.I.A. operatives to raise questions about civilian casualties, women’s rights, the cost of war and whether it has made the United States safer.

The episodes, some as short as two minutes, are circulated via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and blogs. Antiwar groups are also screening them with members of Congress. Mr. Greenwald, who has produced documentaries about Wal-Mart and war profiteers, said the film represented a “less incendiary” approach influenced by liberal concerns that he not attack Mr. Obama directly.

“We lost funding from liberals who didn’t want to criticize Obama,” he said. “It’s been lonely out there.”

Code Pink is trying to build opposition to the war among women’s groups, some of which argue that women will suffer if the Taliban returns. In September, a group of Code Pink organizers will visit Kabul to encourage Afghan women to speak out against the American military presence there.

And Iraq Veterans Against the War is using the Web to circulate episodes of a documentary, “This Is Where We Take Our Stand,” filmed in 2008 at its Winter Soldier conference, at which veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan testified about civilian casualties, combat stress and other tolls of the wars.

The group’s leaders say they do not expect many people to take to the barricades against the administration any time soon. But that will change, they argue, as the death toll continues to rise.

“In the next year, it will more and more become Obama’s war,” said Perry O’Brien, president of the New York chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “He’ll be held responsible for the bloodshed.”
War objector gets out of jail

Posted On: Sunday, Aug. 30 2009 05:27 AM
Holly Baker of Georgetown and Ann Wright of Honolulu, Hawaii, look at the arm band of Victor Agosto, who was sentenced to a month in jail and stripped of his Army rank for refusing orders to deploy, during a celebration of his release Saturday at Under the Hood in Killeen. Agosto was assigned to the 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion at Fort Hood.

A Fort Hood soldier who was arrested for refusing orders to deploy to Afghanistan was released from jail Saturday.

Victor Agosto, 24, who believes the wars in the Middle East violate international law, pleaded guilty to disobeying a lawful order during a summary court martial at Fort Hood earlier this month.

The Iraq veteran, assigned to the 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, was sentenced to 30 days in Bell County Jail and demoted to private, the lowest Army rank. Agosto ripped the specialist rank off his uniform after the sentence was read.

Now, after a 24-day stint behind bars, Agosto said his only regret is that he didn't refuse orders sooner.

"People always say, 'I can't imagine what you've gone through,'" Agosto, said Saturday, wearing a T-shirt that read, "The people united will never be defeated."

"I don't feel like I've had to endure a lot of difficulties. … You'll never regret following your conscience."

Agosto said he expects to receive an other-than-honorable discharge from the Army. He'll likely be chaptered out by his unit in the coming weeks, and his unit commanders will decide the appropriate discharge.

Agosto said his stint in jail was "relaxing." He received daily letters from around the world, including Ecuador and Germany.

"Everyone was very supportive," Agosto said. "I received many post cards from people thanking me for what I did."

During the Aug. 5 trial, Agosto said he did not oppose the wars in the Middle East when he enlisted in 2005.

It was not until he deployed to Iraq that he began to have doubts, he said. When Agosto returned from Iraq in November, he thought his Army contract would end this summer. Instead, Agosto was ordered to Afghanistan under the stop-loss program, which extends the tours of military service members beyond their contracts.

At the end of April, Agosto went public about his intent to resist the war, and in May, he refused an order from his company commander to prepare to deploy. Agosto said he did not apply for conscientious objector status because he does not oppose all wars.

Col. Ben Danner, III Corps public affairs officer, said on Aug. 5 that Agosto's court-martial was not about a soldier who refused to deploy for combat, but rather, one who refused a lawful order from a noncommissioned officer to report to the Soldier Readiness Check site.

"The Army is a values-based organization that embraces the values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage," he said. "For a soldier to violate military law by refusing to obey orders is a serious matter."

Celebrating his release

Peace activists flooded the Under the Hood Café in Killeen Saturday evening to celebrate Agosto's release.

Bryan Hannah, an Iraq War veteran, attended Saturday's event. Hannah refused to deploy to Iraq in November after he was stop-lossed. The former Fort Hood soldier never faced a court-martial, but instead received an Article 15. He was demoted from specialist to private and given an honorable discharge from the military.

"There's nothing in Iraq I would have died for," Hannah said, who's now a student at Austin Community College.

Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel and U.S. State Department official, addressed the crowd of Agosto supporters Saturday. Wright was one of three State Department officials who publicly resigned in direct protest of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"It takes great principle and courage to say, 'I love my country, but I'm not loving what my country's doing,'" she said.

Agosto is not the only Fort Hood soldier who has resisted the war in Afghanistan because of his beliefs. Sgt. Travis Bishop, also with the 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, was sentenced to a year in jail, stripped of his Army rank and given a bad conduct discharge during a special court martial at Fort Hood Aug. 14.

Unlike Agosto, Bishop went absent without leave (AWOL) the day he was supposed to deploy to Afghanistan. He turned himself into his unit a week later.

An eight-member jury found him guilty of two counts of missing movement, disobeying a lawful order and going AWOL.

Bishop, who said fighting in a war violates his Christian ethics, filed for CO status. His original application was denied, but James Branum, his attorney, said he is currently writing a rebuttal on the grounds that the Army chaplain evaluation did not meet legal requirements.

Working for peace

Agosto said he plans to remain an active member of the peace movement. He's considered a possible speaking tour, and wants to eventually go to college for sociology.

"Some kind of major where I don't make any money," he said.

He hopes to influence other soldiers against the wars in the Middle East to follow their conscience, he said.

"That was part of the idea of doing what I did," he said.

Contact Rebecca LaFlure at or (254) 501-7548.
According to a recent report by the New York Times, the Obama administration has retained the services of the notorious Blackwater guards to carry out drone attacks in Afghanistan, denoting no substantive distinction from the Bush administration’s use of Blackwater - now operating under the banner of Xe Services LLC - to carry out ’targeted assassinations’ in Iraq. With the number of military contractors in Afghanistan far exceeding the U.S. soldiers on the ground [*], what has so far been revealed regarding Washington’s arrangements with Blackwater and its more than a dozen affiliate companies might be just the beginning. --In the wake of Thursday’s revelations that the Bush administration hired Blackwater USA to carry out assassinations of alleged Al Qaeda operatives, more information has come to light regarding the intimate and ongoing relationship between the shadowy paramilitary security contractor and the American state.

In spite of Blackwater’s well-established record of indiscriminate killings of Iraqi civilians, the Obama administration has retained its services in Afghanistan, where a new report reveals that Blackwater has been contracted to work with the unmanned Predator drones that carry out assassinations and terrorize villages in eastern and southern Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan.

Under Obama, the close links between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Blackwater have continued. These relationships reveal not only the corruption and conflicts-of-interest that are ubiquitous in the multi-trillion dollar world of military contracting. It raises the question of where the US military—ostensibly controlled by the elected representatives of the American people—ends, and Blackwater, a for-profit entity accountable to no one, comprised largely of former US military special operations personnel, begins.

It is clear, moreover, that what has so far been revealed regarding Washington’s relationship to Blackwater—pacts concluded behind the backs of the American people—is only the tip of the iceberg. The military-intelligence community, a state-within-a-state that is connected with Blackwater through numerous personal and money ties, is mounting a campaign to prevent further information from coming to light.

The Obama administration has carried over from the Bush administration Blackwater’s critical role in the use of the remote-controlled Predator drones that have killed many civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a Friday report by the New York Times reveals [1]. The drones’ purported purpose is to assassinate Al Qaeda leaders. Their deployment in Pakistan is in clear violation of international law, as the US has never declared war on the South Asian state.

There exists no substantive distinction between the Bush administration’s hiring of Blackwater to carry out “targeted assassinations” in Iraq with snipers and ambushes, and the Obama administration’s farming out to the military security firm its drone assassination program in the “Af-Pak theater,” whose victims have consisted predominantly of civilians.

Blackwater, which has since renamed itself Xe Services LLC (“Xe” is pronounced “Zee”), provides security to “hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan” that carry out the drone attacks which have dramatically increased since Obama took office, the Times reported. Blackwater personnel also “assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs,” work formerly carried out by the CIA.

For years the CIA has launched its Predator attacks from a base in Shamsi, Pakistan, but has recently added a second, secret base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, anonymous sources have told the Times [2]. Most drone missions are now launched from Jalalabad, with CIA agents operating the attacks, and launching the missiles, from agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Blackwater began assisting the CIA in Afghanistan after gaining a contract to protect a new intelligence station in Kabul in 2002. Company employees who work on the Predator missions are trained by the US Air Force at a base in Nevada.

The Defense Department and the CIA are not the only agencies working with Blackwater in the Obama administration. Since the Obama took office, the State Department has contracted out more than $174 million in security work to the company in Iraq and Afghanistan, a recent analysis by The Nation reveals [3].

In its most infamous episode, in September 2007 Blackwater agents killed 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. The agents, who investigators have determined were unprovoked, opened fire with machine guns and rocket launchers without warning on motorists and pedestrians, and continued to kill civilians as they attempted to surrender and flee. Five Blackwater guards were ultimately indicted for murder.

In a lawsuit initiated by survivors of Iraqis killed in the Nisour Square massacre, two former Blackwater agents testified that Blackwater owner Erik Prince “and his employees murdered, or had murdered, one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information, to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct” of the company. [4]

A report issued by Giovanni Claudio Fava, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the CIA secret prisons and “extraordinary renditions”, concluded that Blackwater subsidiaries played a critical role in conducting the extraordinary rendition program that abducted “terror suspects” and shipped them via secret flights to a global network of detention and torture centers. [5]

Despite Blackwater’s association with extraordinary rendition and the killing of innocent civilians, Obama has retained its services, a decision doubtlessly based in part on Blackwater’s ties to powerful elements within the military-intelligence apparatus.

“Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top CIA officials,” the Times notes [6]. Among these is Cofer Black. Black, who headed the CIA’s counter-terrorism center from 1999, two years before 9/11, until 2004, was one of the architects of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. He left the agency to become vice president of Blackwater in 2005.

The same year, the CIA’s asociate deputy director of operations, Rob Richer, resigned from the agency to become Blackwater’s vice president of intelligence.

Commenting on the propensity for CIA personnel to go to work for Blackwater, former CIA director Porter J. Goss (2004-2006) explained that “there are some folks at retirement age who still feel like they have some horsepower left, so they go off into a consulting business and make themselves available.”

Another possible explanation is that the agency encouraged key personnel to join the firm as part of an effort to “outsource” criminal activity, including assassinations, to a private company unaccountable to the Congress or the American people.

Leading figures of Blackwater are also tied to the Republican Party as well as far-right and fascistic organizations. Prince has given liberally to Republican candidates and right-wing causes. His father co-founded with Gary Bauer the right-wing, Christian fundamentalist Family Research Council.

Leon Panetta claims that he only learned of the secret assassination program involving Blackwater six months after he was appointed by Obama to head the CIA. And Congress had been kept in the dark on the program for seven years prior to Panetta’s secret Congressional testimony. Evidently, the program was kept secret at the behest of Vice President Dick Cheney. After Panetta’s testimony, members of Congress kept the information on Blackwater’s role secret from the public until the Times report surfaced Thursday. [7]

Leading members of Congress continue to deny the public information on the CIA-Blackwater assassination program, including Senator Diane Feinstein, of California, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. Feinstein has refused to comment on the explosive revelations, beyond issuing a generic statement on outsourcing.

“It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for,” Feinstein said. “I have believed for a long time that the Intelligence Community is over-reliant on contractors to carry out its work. This is especially a problem when contractors are used to carry out activities that are inherently governmental.”

In other words, Congressional Democrats are not opposed to the assassination program per se; they merely prefer that it be carried out by CIA employees rather than private contractors.

The CIA is legally barred from carrying out assassinations by an executive order issued by President Gerald Ford in 1976, after the agency’s numerous assassinations and attempted killings in previous decades earned it the epithet of “Murder Inc.” the world over.

[*] Afghanistan Contractors Outnumber Troops, The Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2009.

Panetta has sought to cover for the CIA. He reputedly told Intelligence Committee members that he brought the matter to their attention not because he thought it was illegal, but because the program had moved beyond a planning stage and now required legislative review, even though he intended to cancel the program [8]. But officials inside or close to the agency say that Cheney offered a different rationale for keeping it secret. Cheney claimed that Congress had already given the CIA authority to assassinate Al Qaeda leaders.

The notion that the program remained in the planning stages has been dismissed by anonymous sources close to the CIA. “It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” one anonymous official told the Washington Post. “It went well beyond that.”

This has not stopped the media from repeatedly assuring the public that the assassination program “did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects,” as the Post put it. The basis for this bald assertion is evidently the CIA’s own account of Blackwater’s activities.

As is well known, Blackwater killed with impunity in Iraq. There is no reason to believe that it failed to use the carte blanche provided by the CIA’s assassination program to carry out similar murders elsewhere.

The recent revelations notwithstanding, the full extent of Blackwater’s activities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the secret flights and torture chambers of the “extraordinary rendition” program remains hidden.

On Monday, declassified sections of an internal CIA report issued in 2004, which reputedly criticized the use of torture at secret prisons, are expected to be released.

The military-intelligence apparatus is digging in its heels against any investigation or hearings, even of a symbolic character, into its illegal activities, with Goss recently warning of “a hurricane coming through Washington that is aimed right at the intelligence community,” and another former Bush CIA Director, Michael Hayden, openly defending Blackwater.

Goss and Hayden know that at every juncture, the Obama administration has quickly capitulated to such pressure, and that it is determined to cover up the illegal methods of its predecessor as it continues the “war on terror.” In recent months, Obama has promised that there will be no investigations into the abundant evidence that top Bush officials ordered and even oversaw torture, and has moved to suppress the release of photos documenting US intelligence agents and military personnel brutalizing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

Deadly 'US drone raid' in Pakistan

At least 10 people have been killed after a suspected US drone fired missiles into Pakistan's North Waziristan region, Pakistani intelligence agency officials have said.

The raid on Friday on Darpa Kheil village was the third such attack this month in Pakistan's ethnic Pashtun tribal areas by what are believed to be CIA-operated pilotless aircraft.

"The attack caused a huge explosion," said a Reuters reporter in Miranshah, about 2km from the scene of the raid.

Drones were seen flying over the area after the blast, he said.

Madrassa attacked

Darpa Kheil village is home to a large madrassa, or religious school, set up by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a former veteran Afghan fighter commander who is also a senior Taliban leader.

US drone aircraft attacked the complex in September last year, killing 23 people, most of them members of Haqqani's family.

Pakistani and US officials believe Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban chief, was killed in a similar strike in neighbouring South Waziristan on August 5.

Pakistan, an ally of the US, which is fighting al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the region, officially objects to US drone attacks on its soil, saying they violate its sovereignty.
Afghan boys seeking opportunity in Europe strain youth services
By Caroline Brothers
International Herald Tribune / August 30, 2009

PARIS - Hundreds of lone Afghan boys are making their way across Europe. Although a few are as young as 12, most are teenagers seeking an education and the future that has not materialized in their own country, which is still struggling with poverty and violence eight years after the end of Taliban rule.

Their unauthorized arrival is adding a new dimension to the issue of clandestine migration, while challenging the protection systems of the nations they cross - which, under national and international law, have an obligation to provide for them.

“Afghanistan is hemorrhaging its youth into Europe,’’ said Pierre Henry, director of France Terre d’Asile, an organization that works with the European Union, the UN refugee agency, and the French government on asylum affairs.

The European Union does not record statistics on the number of foreign children who are wandering Europe alone, and aid groups and government agencies keep records that vary greatly.

But requests for asylum by unaccompanied Afghan minors suggest that there are thousands across Europe. The number of requests provide a baseline, analysts say, since there are many more youths who do not seek asylum.

Blanche Tax, a senior policy officer at the European bureau of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that last year 3,090 Afghan minors requested asylum in Austria, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Germany - the EU countries where their numbers rose the most sharply - compared with 1,489 in those same countries in 2007. In Britain alone, she said, requests increased from 1,100 in 2007 to 1,700 last year.

Overall, the Separated Children in Europe Program estimates that there are 100,000 unaccompanied children from non-EU countries within the European Union, with many requesting no protection in any form. The program is run jointly by the International Save the Children Alliance and UNHCR.

This year, for the first time, Afghans have overtaken sub-Saharan Africans as the biggest group of isolated foreign minors to request admission to child protection services in Paris, said Charlotte Aveline, an adviser on child protection at Paris City Hall.

“Some arrive very beaten, very tired, but if they stay put for just one week they very quickly become adolescents again,’’ said Jean-Michel Centres of Exiles10, a citizens’ organization that works with Afghan migrants.

“First they ask where they can go to have papers, then where they can go to school, and where after that they can get a job,’’ Centres said.

Five youths interviewed for this article told of being exploited as underage labor, of dodging police violence in European ports, or of risking death under wheels of trucks when they hitched rides under the chassis.

Sotiria Goula, general secretary for welfare at the Greek Heath Ministry, said her nation had been overwhelmed by the number of asylum-seekers crossing its borders.

The Save the Children charity has called a meeting, under the auspices of Sweden’s presidency of the European Union, for Sept. 15 to address protection for minors across the bloc
Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater USA

A civil lawsuit accuses Blackwater USA and its founder, Erik Prince, of being responsible for the deaths of more than 20 innocent Iraqis. During a hearing Aug. 29, an attorney for the plaintiffs argued Prince had essentially committed war crimes.
At a hearing Aug. 29, attorneys representing Iraqis suing Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince argued that he is to blame for the “deaths of more than 20 Iraqis between 2005 and 2007.” The civil lawsuit was filed by families of several Iraqis allegedly killed by Blackwater guards.
Blackwater USA, now called Xe Services LLC, is a rather controversial private security firm that received lucrative contracts from the U.S. State Department. and Central Intelligence Agency.
Earlier this month, two former employees of Blackwater presented sworn statements accusing the private US security firm and its founder, Prince, of killing Iraqis for fun, smuggling weapons and deceiving the State Department.
On Friday, however, the focus was upon Prince. Speaking in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Susan L. Burke, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said:

The person responsible for these deaths is Mr. Prince. He had the intent, he provided the weapons, he provided the instructions, and they were done by his agents and they were war crimes.

In response to Burke’s assertions, Judge T.S. Ellis III expressed skepticism about the claims saying, “I don't have any doubt that you can infer malice. What you can't infer, as far as I can tell, is intent to kill these people.''
The current lawsuit is a consolidation of five earlier lawsuits.
The hearing on Friday was held in response to a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Blackwater attorneys. The attorneys, on behalf of the company, denied the allegations, saying they “go far beyond describing the harm allegedly suffered by Plaintiffs.”
Moreover, Blackwater attorneys asked the judge to “strike the affidavits from the former employees from the court record.”
Judge Ellis indicated that he would issue a ruling “promptly.”

Saturday, August 29, 2009

By Lara Jakes / Associated Press

NOW ZAD, Afghanistan – After three tours in Iraq, U.S. Marine Sgt. Andre Leon was used to brutal shootouts with enemy fighters and expected more of the same in Afghanistan.

Instead, what he's seen so far are anonymous attacks in the form of mines and roadside bombings — the mark of what he calls a cowardly adversary.

"I'm not impressed with them," Leon, 25, of Herndon, Va., said this past week from a Marines camp deep in the southern province of Helmand, where U.S. forces are challenging Taliban insurgents and their devastating use of IEDs, or homemade bombs. "I expected more of a stand-and-fight. All these guys do is IEDs."

Marines on the front lines in southern Afghanistan say there's no question that the militants are just as deadly as the Iraqi insurgents they once fought in Iraq's Anbar Province. The Afghan enemy is proving to be a smaller, but smarter opponent, taking full advantage of the country's craggy and enveloping terrain in eluding and then striking at U.S troops.

In interviews, Marines across Helmand said their new foes are not as religiously fanatic as the Syrian and Chechen militants they fought in Iraq and often tend to be hired for battle. U.S. commanders call them the "$10 Taliban."

Taking advantage of the Afghanistan's mountainous rural landscape, the fighters often spread out their numbers, hiding in fields and planting bombs on roads, rather than taking aim at U.S. forces from snipers' nests in urban settings, as often was the case in Iraq. And they are not as bent on suicide, often retreating to fight another day.

"One thing about Afghanistan, they're not trying to go to paradise," said Sgt. Robert Warren, 26, of Peshtigo, Wis. He served a tour in both Iraq and Afghanistan before his current assignment at Combat Outpost Sharp, a Marines camp hidden in cornfields and dirt piles.

"They want to live to see tomorrow," Warren said. "They engage with us, but when they know we'll call in air support, they'll break contact with us. ... They're just as fierce, but they're smarter."

Marine commanders believe they face between 7,000 and 11,000 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, although it is unclear how many are low-level militants hired for battle as opposed to extremist leaders.

By comparison, officials still are unsure how many members of al-Qaida in Iraq remain. Earlier estimates ranged between 850 to several thousand full-time fighters, although commanders believe that number has been reduced significantly as a result of counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq.

There are some similarities between the fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Officers and enlisted troops said both foes have no qualms about using civilians as human shields.

Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of the Marine brigade leading the current fight in Helmand, said the Taliban's use of IEDs shows the extremists' disregard for Afghan civilians — much as in Iraq.

"Enemy here is equally brutal and cowardly in conducting despicable acts of intimidation and cruelty directed against (the) local population," said Nicholson, who was severely wounded in a rocket attack in Fallujah in 2004 during the first of his two commands in Iraq.

Both foes are also sometimes known to use drugs — troops have reported finding syringes and needles in enemy camps.

Training does not seem to be an issue for Marines who have been making the transition from Iraq to Afghanistan. Their skills appear to have held up in both war zones.

But new U.S. battle guidelines that limit shooting into or otherwise attacking buildings without ensuring there are no civilians inside have at times made the fighting more difficult.

The rules were put into place this summer after dozens of Afghans were killed in a May battle in Farah province that ended when U.S. forces bombed a building where Taliban fighters were believed to be hiding.

"It's frustrating to be attacked from a building," said Lt. Joe Hamilton of Baltimore as he scrutinized two-story village structures on the other side of dirt-and-barbed wire walls at Combat Outpost Fiddler's Green. "You can't shoot back because you don't know if there are civilians there."

He added: "They're more disciplined. They wait longer until we get in their kill zones, then they attack us."

Once in Iraq, now in Afghanistan, the Marines say they relish the battle in either place, preferring the action to staying home, out of the fight.

Asked where he felt the threat was most dire, Sgt. Warren shrugged his shoulders.

"Camp Lejeune," he said wryly. The North Carolina base is where Marines train and live between deployments.
Powerful Bomb Kills 40 in Southern Afghanistan
By Steve Herman
25 August 2009

Police in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar say 40 people are dead and 64 injured after an apparent truck bomb exploded. It is the deadliest blast in the country since an attack on the Indian Embassy more than a year ago.

People look at the destruction left by a car bomb in Kandahar, 25 Aug 2009
Residents of Kandahar describe the blast as shaking the city as if a powerful earthquake had struck.

Authorities on Ogata Road describe a scene of widespread devastation with 10 residential buildings torn apart by the powerful explosion.

The blast took place shortly after dusk when Muslims were breaking their fast during the month of Ramadan.

Kandahar provincial council head Ahmad Wali Karzai, brother of the country's president, lives less than a kilometer away. He tells VOA many of the casualties are women and children.

Karzai says the blast knocked out windows and blew doors off buildings in a half-kilometer radius. He adds rescue teams are attempting to reach those trapped in collapsed structures.

Hours earlier in Kabul, election officials announced the first partial results of last week's presidential election that show the incumbent, Hamid Karzai, with a slim lead over his closest challenger.

Local authorities tell VOA the explosion in Kandahar took place equidistant from the office of a Japanese road construction company, a restaurant and the Kandahar branch of the national intelligence agency. The blast was 200 meters from a guest house popular with foreign journalists.

Police say they are unsure which building was the target, but they suspect the attack was carried out by a Taliban suicide bomber.

Kandahar, the most populous city in southern Afghanistan, is a Taliban insurgent stronghold.

The last time Afghanistan experienced a higher number of deaths in a single incident was in July last year when a suicide car bomber killed 60 people, including two senior diplomats, in an attack outside the Indian embassy in Kabul.
Burpee’s Harvest Festival celebrates home gardening
Published: Wednesday, August 19, 2009

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By Frank D. Quattrone
Ticket Editor

You can blame it on the recession, if you choose, or to heightened concerns about the way our food is processed. Anyone who has seen Robert Kenner’s devastating documentary “Food, Inc.” (Magnolia Pictures, 2007) will never look at corn (not to mention beef, poultry and pork) products the same way again.

You can also credit the First Family’s White House vegetable garden, if you will, or (on a lighter note, during the 40th anniversary of Woodstock) to the desire of many to “get [themselves] back to the garden.” But this year has seen the biggest renaissance in edible gardening since the end of World War II.

To celebrate the boom in home vegetable gardening and to educate those eager to learn what to do after they harvest their garden bounty, world-class seed company W. Atlee Burpee & Co. is hosting its periodic Harvest Festival, Friday, Aug. 21, and Saturday, Aug. 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine.

The two-day event will take place at Burpee’s Fordhook Farm at 105 New Britain Road, just across from Delaware Valley College in Doylestown.

The farm’s chief researcher, Grace Romero, during a tour of the vegetable gardens last Saturday, said, “The festival is all about the vegetables, including a workshop on preparing your garden, a tomato tasting and a peek at some of the new varieties we’re working on before they appear in the [Burpee] catalogue.”

Our tour of the Cook’s Garden (gourmet vegetables) revealed to this denizen of urban/suburban environments that Burpee’s, a company founded by the visionary 18-year-old W. Atlee Burpee in 1876, developed not only the Big Boy tomato but also Iceberg lettuce and that, “among the thousands of plants being tested,” according to Romero, “we might choose only 20 varieties.”

A tour of the Harvest Garden brought into sharp relief more than 500 tomatoes of every size, shape and color, including the Golden Mama, the only variety that retains its golden color in sauces, as well as a host of other vegetables, such as squash, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, okra and tomatillo, all being tested for the catalogue.

At this moment, Burpee is harvesting a new variety of potato expected to have a rich, buttery texture, right on the heels of having developed (earlier this year) the Sweet Seedless tomato and the Salsa tomato, both available only through the catalogue.

Grace Romero — who got her first taste of gardening at her maternal grandmother’s farm in her native Philippines and who has degrees in horticulture and botany from Cornell University and the University of Michigan — said that the criteria for introducing new varieties of vegetables being developed at the Cook’s Garden (set up like a prospective domestic garden) and Heronswood (“unusually great plants,” according to its catalogue) are “that they offer something different, something not on the market yet — like superior taste, nutrition, yield and resistance to disease.”

Visitors will be able to roam across much of the farm’s 60 acres, during guided garden tours that will provide an advance look at some of Burpee’s new varieties prior to their release to the public. They can also attend a pesto-making demonstration given by cookbook author Laura Schenone, who will use freshly harvested basil grown in Fordhook’s kitchen garden.

Schenone will also give a lecture on “Discovering the Power of the Vegetable Garden — in the Kitchen, in History and in Daily Life,” followed by a book signing featuring two of her cookbooks.

Other planned activities include a tomato-tasting, in which visitors will have a chance to taste and comment upon various Burpee’s tomatoes, purchase hard-good items as well as cool-weather vegetable seedlings, share and receive recipes from Burpee’s employees at a display table, and learn how to prepare their fall gardens and sow cool-weather vegetable seeds at a workshop led by Burpee’s expert horticulturalists. Food will also be available for purchase for those who get hungry during their visit.

There will also be a coloring contest for children.

So really, now, how does one explain the increased interest in vegetable gardening over the past few years? More than a mere fad, it has become a way of life for many.

As Burpee’s President George Ball Jr., a passionate gardener himself, explained in a telephone interview Aug. 7, “It all started with the aging of the baby boomers, that segment of the population that’s now middle-aged. There’s an ocean current of demographics flooding the marketplace.

“They include non-recurring events,” he said, “like concern for food safety. There have been a lot of food contamination problems and outbreaks, like salmonella, E. coli, fungal spores on raspberries grown in Central America, and the diseases keep mutating.”

Ball also cited health on a general level, with the rising awareness that eating home-grown vegetables in simply better for you — “plus, you’re exercising while doing it,” he added, “and it’s an environmental issue, gardening in healthy fresh air.”

Money is another factor. It’s not just that with more time spent at home, there is more cash available for other needs. The savings can be significant. In fact, a Burpee’s cost-analysis study uncovered the following — namely, “a 1 to 25 cost-savings ratio for those who grow their own vegetables as opposed to purchasing them at the supermarket. Simply put, folks who invest $50 in their vegetable garden on seeds and fertilizer will be able to harvest at least $1,250 worth of vegetables.”

“And with 401(k)s being cut,” continued Ball, “a lot of older people would rather send their granddaughter to college with the money they’re saving.”

According to the National Gardening Association (NGA), 19 percent more households will grow their own fruit, berries, vegetables and herbs this year than in 2008. The NGA also predicts a 20 percent increase in edible gardening in 2009 — that’s roughly 7 million new gardeners.

Ball explains, however, that even though many young people are becoming vegetarians and vegans, new gardeners are a small minority in this number. The huge increase, he contends, lies “in existing gardeners gardening more. And we find this expressed in two ways: 1. the increased size of gardens, and 2. flower sales have gone down, except for zinnias and sunflowers and others that grow alongside vegetables. But sales of seeds for roses and other more decorative flowers are way down.”

Ball does credit the Obama White House for much of the surging interest in edible gardening since the early part of the year.

He said, as casually as can be, “Michelle Obama called me on the first day of spring, seeking advice on the best seeds to plant at that time. Since it was kind of late in the planting season, I made some suggestions, and I hear that the garden is doing quite well. Next year will be even better.

“But what really impresses me is that the First Lady is not being a leader so much as she is responding to what the people want.”

If you want to know what the fuss is all about regarding planting your own edible garden, you couldn’t receive a much better primer than Burpee’s Garden Festival this weekend.

Burpee’s Harvest Festival

will take place

at Fordhook Farm,

105 New Britain Road,

Doylestown, PA 18901,

Friday & Saturday,

Aug. 21 & 22, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.,

rain or shine.

Admission fee: $5.

Info: 1-800-333-5808 or
There is not much on Straight Edge on wikipedia, but this is the entry :)

Straight Edge refers to a lifestyle and youth movement that started within the hardcore punk subculture whose adherents make a lifetime commitment to refrain from drinking alcohol, using tobacco products, and taking recreational drugs. The term was coined by the 1980s hardcore punk band Minor Threat in the song "Straight Edge".

Contents [hide]
1 The X symbol
2 History
2.1 Old School (1970s and early 1980s)
2.2 Youth Crew (Mid 1980s)
2.3 1990s
2.4 2000s
3 See also
4 References
5 Further reading
6 External links

[edit] The X symbol
The letter X is the most known symbol of Straight Edge, commonly worn as a marking on the back of both hands, though it can be displayed on other body parts as well. Some followers of Straight Edge have also incorporated the symbol into clothing and pins. According to a series of interviews by journalist Michael Azerrad, the Straight Edge "X" can be traced to the Teen Idles' brief U.S. West Coast tour in 1980.[1] The Teen Idles were scheduled to play at San Francisco's Mabuhay Gardens, but when the band arrived, club management discovered that the entire band was under the legal drinking age and therefore should be denied entry to the club. As a compromise, management marked each of the Idols' hands with a large black "X" as a warning to the club's staff not to serve alcohol to the band. Upon returning to Washington, D.C., the band suggested this same system to local clubs as a means to allow teenagers in to see musical performances without being served alcohol. The mark soon became associated with the Straight Edge lifestyle. In recent years, more music venues and (even dance clubs) have begun adopting this system.

A variation involving a trio of X's (xXx) originated in artwork created by Minor Threat's drummer, Jeff Nelson, in which he replaced the three stars in the band's hometown Washington, DC flag with X's.[2] The term is sometimes abbreviated by including an X with the abbreviation of the term "Straight Edge" to give "sXe". By analogy, hardcore punk is sometimes abbreviated to "hXc". The X symbol can be used as a way to signify a band or person is Straight Edge, by adding the letter to the front and back, for example, the band 'xFilesx'.

[edit] History
William Tsitsos writes that Straight Edge has gone through three different eras since its creation in 1980.[3] Associated with punk rock, the early years of the Straight Edge subculture are now called the old school era.

[edit] Old School (1970s and early 1980s)
Straight Edge sentiments can be found in songs by the early-1980s band Minor Threat, particularly within their song "Straight Edge". [4] An additional example of what may be considered a proto-straight-edge song is "Keep It Clean" by first wave English punk band The Vibrators. Singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman's early band The Modern Lovers also made a proto-straight-edge stand in the song "I'm Straight," which rejected drug use and first appeared in the compilation Troublemakers (1980). However, Straight Edge was most closely associated with punk rock, particularly the faster subgenre of hardcore punk which developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and partly characterized by shouting rather than sung vocals.[5] Straight Edge people of this early "old school" era often associated with the original punk ideals such as individualism, disdain for work and school, and live-for-the-moment attitudes.[3]

Although Straight Edge started on the east coast of the United States in Washington D.C. and New York, it quickly spread through the US and Canada.[6] By the 1980s, bands on the west coast of the United States, such as America's Hardcore (A.H.C.), Stalag 13, Justice League and Uniform Choice, were gaining popularity. In the early stages of this subculture’s history, concerts often consisted of non-straight-edge punk bands along with Straight Edge bands. However, circumstances soon changed and the old school era would eventually be viewed as the time "before the two scenes separated".[5] Old school Straight Edge bands included: the Washington D.C. bands Minor Threat, State of Alert (S.O.A.), Government Issue and Teen Idles, Reno, Nevada's 7 Seconds, Boston's SSD, DYS and Negative FX, California bands as mentioned above, and New York City bands such as Cause for Alarm and The Abused.

[edit] Youth Crew (Mid 1980s)
During the youth crew era, which started in the mid 1980s, the influence of music on the Straight Edge scene seemed to be at an all-time high. The new branches of Straight Edge that came about during this era seemed to originate from ideas presented in songs. Notable youth crew bands included: Gorilla Biscuits, Judge, Bold, Youth of Today, Chain of Strength, 7 Seconds and Slapshot.

Starting in the mid-1980s, the band Youth of Today became associated with the Straight Edge movement, and their song "Youth Crew" expressed a desire to unite the scene into a movement.[7] The most identifiable theme that arose during the youth crew era was an association of Straight Edge with vegetarianism. In 1988, Youth of Today released the song "No More", which initiated this new theme within the subculture. Lead singer Ray Cappo displayed his vegetarian views in the lyrics: "Meat-eating, flesh-eating, think about it. So callous this crime we commit". [8] This began a trend of animal rights and veganism within Straight Edge that would reach its peak in the 1990s.

[edit] 1990s
By the early 1990s, militant Straight Edge was a well-known presence in the scene - the term militant meaning someone who is dedicated and outspoken, but also believed to be narrow-minded, judgmental, and potentially violent.[9] The militant Straight Edger was characterized by less tolerance for non-straight-edge people, more outward pride in being Straight Edge, more outspokenness, and the willingness to resort to violence in order to promote clean living.[9]

It was also around this time that veganism would become a major part of the lives of many Straight Edge individuals and was reflected by bands such as Birthright, Earth Crisis, Path of Resistance and Warcry that promoted militant Straight Edge and animal rights messages.

In the mid-1990s, a number of bands advocating social justice, animal liberation, veganism, and Straight Edge practices displayed a stronger metal influence. Bands from this era include Mouthpiece, Culture, Earth Crisis, Chorus of Disapproval, Undertow and Strife.

[edit] 2000s
After the 1990s, some of the more controversial aspects that surrounded Straight Edge began to disappear, partly in response to media reports portraying the movement as a type of gang.[10] In the 2000s, Straight Edge and non-Straight Edge bands have played concerts together regularly. Both Straight Edge and non-Straight Edge people attend the concerts of such a nature. Some of these new era Straight Edge bands include xAFBx, Allegiance, Black My Heart, Casey Jones, Champion, Cockpunch, Down to Nothing, Embrace Today, Fight Everyone, The First Step, Have Heart, Recon, Righteous Jams, Stick to Your Guns, Throwdown, and xTyrantx.
What is Straight Edge?
The short answer is that it is a subculture centered around hardcore music. People who are straight edge do not smoke, do drugs or consume alcohol. There are no dietary or religious beliefs tied to straight edge contrary to media coverage. The long answer requires a bit of a history lesson

In the late 1970s and early 1980s a group of bands and kids began something that grew into a movement. It would become a movement that would outlive many of their involvement in the music and the scene. They didn't know what they were doing. They knew they didn't like what was going on around them, the self destruction, the self hatred, the pain and suffering caused by the punk mentality. The fuck you and fuck the world attitude didn't make sense to them. They took a symbol that was originally used to identify them as being too young to drink so that the bartenders would know not to serve them and they made it their own. So they started setting themselves apart by wearing X's on their hands and by singing angry songs proclaiming:

"I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and fuck my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white shit up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don't even think about speed
That's something I just don't need

I've got the straight edge"

Minor Threat wrote this song in 1980 and a name was given to what would become a movement. The basic beliefs that drugs and alcohol were not needed and should be rejected. That one should live against the grain of popular society and live by rules and standards from themselves and not the ones dictated by society.

Influenced by Minor Threat and other Washington DC bands like the Teen Idles and SOA, the Boston bands SS Decontrol and DYS took the words to heart and expanded on them and expanding Straight Edge's presence within the growing hardcore music genre.

SS Decontrol, Forced Down Your Throat from the GET IT AWAY LP

What's there to do weekends here
Go to a party drink some beer
Everybody's drinking why shouldn't you
Be a part of the drinking crew

That's real cool you're a man
Forced down forced can
Forced down your throat
Forced down your throat

Conditions set conditioned to drink
Too much pressure just won't think
Look what's next smoking a J
Think for yourself break away


Do the hard stuff its real fast
Do it straight the buzz will last
Fuck off you I ain't no waste
Why drink that when I just can't stand the taste

The East Coast was not the only place where Straight Edge was starting to take hold. West Coast bands Unity, Uniform Choice and 7 Seconds were each adding their voice to the growing chorus.

Uniform Choice, Straight and Alert from the Screaming for Change LP

Who drinks the barley?
Who drinks the grain?
Who shoots that shit into their veins?
Is there really the need for the use of dope?
Does it solve ones problems
Can it help one cope?

All the above bands were active between 1981 and 1984. Things stalled at this point. It wasn't until 1985 that a band would come along and change straight edge forever and turn it into the movement that everyone involved today knows and loves. This band was Youth of Today. The record that would change it all was Can't Close my Eyes. During its existence youth of Today featured pretty much a who's who of New York Hardcore. Youth of Today shared members with bands that would define the youth crew and straight edge sound for years to come. Bands like Bold, Side By Side, Gorilla Biscuits, Judge, and Project X. These bands together would form the backbone that all modern straight edge bands benefit from. These are best represented by the lyrics of the song that named the era.

Youth of Today, Youth Crew from the Can't Close my Eyes 7"

Me you youth crew!
If the world was flat I'd grind the edge
To the positive youth my heart I pledge
X on my hand now take the oath
To positive youth to positive growth
To positive minds, to pure clean souls
These will be all my goals
Walk with me and my crew
There is so much shit we can do
And we won't stop until we're through

The Youth Crew era lasted through the late 80s and straight edge would never be the same. It was now a movement. It was more than just a set of personal beliefs. It was something more. It was more than words it was a force of change in the world.

The late 1980s and early 1990s found many straight edge bands becoming more and more political and more geographically dispersed. California saw bands like Inside Out, Insted, Chain of Strength, Outspoken, No for an Answer, Carry Nation, Chorus of disapproval and Unbroken. Seattle saw bands like Brotherhood and Undertow. The east coast had Turning Point, Mouthpiece, Flagmen, Crud, Battery, and Lifetime.

Brotherhood, No Tolerance (For Ignorance) from Fuck Racism, No Tolerance EP

So proud of your country, nationalistic pride
So proud of your race, prejudiced mind
If you so love your country why can't you see
It's made up of all people, no racial boundaries

We're dedicated to stop your ignorance
Band together to bring you to your knees
For your actions we have no tolerance
Your blind hate, prejudice, a disease

Beating up kids who don't share your views
Pull that shit with us and you'll lose
We may lose some battles
But we'll win this war
We may have sat complacent once, no more

The mid 1990s saw explosive growth due in large part to the pro animal rights, pro straight edge band Earth Crisis. The more metallic Bands of this era were One King Down, Brother’s Keeper and Strife. Many of these bands and people involved embraced a militant animal rights stance. It was at this time that Straight Edge gained notoriety, incorrectly, for advocating violence and a gang like mentality in places like Salt Lake City Utah. While misconceptions continue to this day, there is no truth or foundation in accusations like these. These stories were isolated and were blown out of proportion and ended many many years ago. During this time a large portion of people involved in Straight Edge were vegan however they were and still are viewed as completely seperate beliefs. Now however veganism is not as popular as it once was nor are any of the prominent bands now militant animal rights supporters.

Firestorm by Earth Crisis was often misinterpreted and pointed to as an example of advocating violence in the name of straight edge. However as with most hardcore the song wasn't literal, but the mainstream press doesn't understand subtext.

Firestorm from the Firestorm EP/ The Oath that keeps me Free
Street by street.
Block by block.
Taking it all back.
The youth's immersed in poison
Turn the tide counterattack.
Violence against violence,
Let the roundups begin.
A firestorm to purify the bane that society drowns in.

During this same time period saw a Youth Crew revival spearheaded by Ten Yard Fight and included bands like In My Eyes, Hands Tied, Atari, Rancor, 97a, and Better than a Thousand.
Far less militant than the "vegan warriors" of the time, these bands were positive and brought crucial and edgemen back into the lexicon.

Courage to Care by In My Eyes from The Difference between

Growing up not slowing down
Time got your best just look around
But I've found something that keeps me aware
A whole scene of people with the courage to care
Your youth is behind you
As if you were dead
Those times were good man
My best lies ahead
When I deal with you now
All I get is upset
You keep pushing me away
Something you'll regret
I know only a few have the will to stay sincere
Seeing different faces every fucking year!

The first half of the 2000's have seen a lot of ups and downs in both the number of straight edge kids as well as the number of bands. There currently aren't an overwhelming number of straight edge bands as there once were, but the ones that are around are doing it with all their heart. Recently ending bands A.18 and Over My Dead Body were straight edge super groups made up largely by members from earlier bands and all involving men in their 30s a rarity in hardcore and especially straight edge. Some bands that keeping things alive and spreading the message, With Honor, Casey Jones, Champion, The Answer, and Blue Monday

The Mirror by With Honor from their Self Titled EP

I've let tomorrow be a good excuse for
Not changing today
Looking over our lists of to-do's routines have gotten in the way
Day in, day out it becomes the same
I'm tired of standing for nothing and sleepwalking our time away

Leaving our questions unanswered
Or never asking at all

Could we be something more?
Than we are right now?
Eyes closed, shut tight,
Apathy has us by the throat,
Loosen the ropes and let our dreams take flight!

So often we let our dreams fall away but not this time... let's go

I feel like I've never wanted something so bad as this
Stand up and be something more!

We’ll make a change
No time to waste

I would also like to take the time and oppurtunity to thank The Promise for their years of dedication and great music. Thanks guys and good luck with whatever you decide to do next