Record US military losses in Afghanistan in 2009

Washington Post , December 31, 2009

Jim Heintz of the Associated Press says 2009 was the worst year in terms of US military deaths in Afghanistan. As of December 30, the number had doubled from the previous year from 151 to 304. It did not include the 8 American civilians, including 7 CIA operatives, who were killed by a suicide bomber in Khost Province. The bomber was disguised as an Afghan military officer. The Taliban promptly claimed responsibility for the attack and said the bomber’s name was Samiullah.

For the first time in eight years, the annual death toll among the international forces, including American troops, surpassed 500. It reached 502 compared to 286 in 2008. Britain lost 107 and Canada 32 soldiers. The total losses suffered by all other countries were 59. The AP report came as 30,000 additional troops ordered by President Obama began to arrive in Afghanistan. American officials admitted the insurgency had the momentum and that the death toll was likely to stay high with the arrival of more troops in the country.

Obama’s First Year: Compromised Domestic Policy, Militarized Foreign Policy

Deepak Tripathi
(CounterPunch, December 29, 2009)

With the passing of a disastrous decade and President Obama about to complete his first year in office, it is perhaps appropriate to look at the recent past and what may lie ahead. For the Obama presidency, it has been more of a downhill journey than a steep climb that many of his supporters and admirers in America and around the world had expected. President Obama will miss the January 22 deadline he set himself a year ago to close Guantanamo Bay prison camp. As the New York Times recently pointed out, difficulties in finding places abroad to resettle prisoners deemed innocent and Congressional resistance to approving money to transfer high-security terrorism suspects to a special prison in Illinois have made it impossible to meet the deadline. The Guantanamo prison might not be closed before 2011 at the earliest.

Obama’s health-care reform bill has had an arduous passage in the US Congress. After a long battle, the House of Representatives finally approved its version including a government-run health-care option the president wanted. It was a different matter in the Senate, where a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority could only be secured when Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid dropped the government insurance option to ensure support from conservative Democrats. Not one Republican senator backed the bill. And Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were forced to concede on other major issues, including restrictions on abortion coverage. More

Blair’s Iraq Confession

(Informed Comment, December 13, 2009)

Deepak Tripathi, former BBC journalist and author of the book Overcoming the Bush Legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan (Potomac, January 2010), writes in guest op-ed for IC:

Since the launch of the Iraq Inquiry in London at the end of July 2009, covers have been coming off with increasing frequency to reveal the circumstances leading to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And not always before the inquiry chairman, John Chilcot. The latest is the admission by Tony Blair, then British prime minister and President George W Bush’s closest ally. Blair now says that he ‘would still have thought it right to remove’ Saddam Hussein even without weapons of mass destruction; he would have had to ‘use and deploy different arguments’ to achieve the end.

The admission, made in a BBC program, amounts to a complete repudiation of Blair’s own position held since before the invasion: that British intelligence had evidence of there being weapons of mass destruction with Saddam Hussein; some of those weapons were ‘deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them’; and that he had no doubt that the threat was ‘serious and current’. On this assessment of the British government, published in September 2002, Blair had sought the parliament’s approval, which he secured in March 2003 despite a rebellion by 139 of his own MPs. The approval was made possible due to the backing of the opposition Conservative Party for the invasion of Iraq. Two senior ministers resigned from Blair’s cabinet: Leader of the House, and foreign secretary earlier, Robin Cook and, some time later, International Development Secretary Clare Short. More