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I’ve heard it more times than I can count.

What happened to the peace movement? Why aren't people out in the streets? Nobody cares about wars anymore.

The immense and effective public backlash to potential military action in Syria should put those lamentations about a lackluster peace movement to rest. Today’s peace movement responds to threats of war in the targeted, sophisticated manner that our political moment calls for.

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John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee to head the CIA, faced the Senate Intelligence Committee today. This was a rare opportunity to have congressional discussion on drones and other aspects of counterterrorism policy. It came on the heels of a flurry of debate following the leaking of a Justice Department memo on targeted killings of American citizens.

There will surely be much more to pore over, but a few early observations from the hearing:

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In our age of unmanned drones and kill lists, how does an American citizen know whether his own government might decide it’s necessary and lawful to kill him? Or in Justice Department language, erroneously deprive him of his life?

This is a question that many advocates and politicians, including a group of eleven senators who recently wrote to the president, have been trying to answer. A leaked Obama administration memo that outlines parameters for what it determines would be a lawful killing of an American citizen gives us a starting place.

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I think sincere, well-intentioned people can disagree about how the US should have responded to the situation in Libya, and I’m glad to see a civil discussion happening amongst people who are cautious about the use of US military force (see Juan Cole, Robert Naiman and Phyllis Bennis for a few).

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The media and the public are understandably paying a lot of attention to the brutal repression of the rebellion in Libya and the US and allied response. However, while debate rages about the proper response to Qaddafi’s violent push against the rebels, the suffering civilians of Bahrain and Yemen, whose governments have a much cozier relationship with the US, have been largely ignored.

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The New York Times reports today that the US military has begun pulling back from the Pech Valley, an area they once considered crucial to their counterinsurgency strategy. At least 103 American soldiers have been killed in the area, and many more wounded. While the piece doesn’t include statistics on Afghan deaths and injuries, one can only assume they were also significant. While American officials are portraying this step as a natural evolution of their counterinsurgency strategy and a move that allows them to better protect Afghan civilians, one American official questions the reasoning behind expending time and resources in the valley in the first place (emphasis mine):

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Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 12:38 PM PST

Psy ops on senators

by Rebecca Griffin

Michael Hastings, the reporter famous for bringing down General McChrystal, is back in Rolling Stone with another explosive story. Hastings exposes “another runaway general” (there seem to be too many of these) who instructed soldiers in a “psychological operations” team to manipulate key visitors, including US senators, into supporting the war and sending more resources their way:

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Last week, the House engaged in a budget free-for-all, debating hundreds of amendments on the continuing resolution that would fund the government through the end of the 2011 fiscal year. Republicans were set to impose draconian cuts on domestic programs—slashing to get to an arbitrary spending number rather than making decisions based on effectiveness of programs or need—while allowing the military budget to grow by $8 billion from last year’s spending levels. Through the amendment process, many members of Congress stepped up to attempt to right this imbalance, and I received reports from many of you that you called your representatives last week urging them to cut wasteful spending.

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Our political team spent a couple of days last week making the rounds of key congressional offices to strategize, feel out the new political landscape, and push for action on ending the war in Afghanistan, taking further steps to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons, and building out the development and diplomatic tools we need to deal with conflict peacefully.

Being so early in the year, and with committee assignments not even settled yet, there was still a lot up in the air. Here are a few of the interesting questions that surfaced and that will inform our organizing and lobbying in 2011.

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Few Afghanistan policy watchers anticipated any significant revelations in the Obama administration’s review of the war in Afghanistan.  Administration officials repeatedly downplayed the review and directed National Security staff not to offer policy alternatives. As expected, the overview released to the public reiterates the president’s justifications for the war from his 2009 West Point speech and makes the same weak claims of progress that administration officials have been making in the media in the run-up to the review. Tom Andrews of Win Without War lays out a good list of problems with the Afghanistan strategy that were conspicuously absent from the review.

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Crossposted at Groundswell

This past Tuesday was a rough election for many people, including supporters of a more peaceful foreign policy. While we know that there will be many more proponents of the war in Afghanistan and increased military spending in Congress, there are still a lot of questions about what specific challenges we face, and what opportunities will arise that we can take advantage of to move our agenda.

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The California Democratic Party became the first state party to go on record  in favor of ending the war in Afghanistan in November of 2009. Almost a year later, the war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in U.S. history, and conditions on the ground have only worsened.  We now mark the ninth anniversary of the war with more troops on the ground than at any point, and 2010 is already the deadliest year of the war so far with 3 months left.  To keep the pressure on California Democrats, party delegates from around the state will send a letter (pdf) to the Democratic congressional delegation on the 9th anniversary calling on them to step up and work to end the war and bring resources back to struggling communities:

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