But make sure you wear your masks in Dane County!

After 9/11, the United States had nearly international support as it invaded Afghanistan to find Al Qaeda and drive out the Taliban government who had been harboring them and supporting them. Successful on its face, too many members of both groups managed to escape across the mountains into the border regions of Pakistan. A nation who is a sometimes ally but traditionally has found it useful to be friendly with the Taliban even when it caused friction and terrorism within Pakistan.

This general idea for this post has been in my mental inbox since President Donald Trump started to negotiate with the Taliban last spring…part of his campaign promise to get out us out of forever wars. And my interest was renewed when it was announced that we had reached our negotiated drawn down troop level of 8,600, more recently.

Now this next part of the history is the fault of all three presidents since 2001. After that heady era of defeating the Taliban, American eyes and interests wandered off to other conflicts and hot spots. And the Taliban has quietly and efficiently returned to Afghanistan and methodically reclaimed control of region after region. This despite continued American military presence and billions of dollars in aid and training provided to the Afghan forces year after year after year since 2002.

But President Trump’s deal with the Taliban essentially cedes Afghanistan to their control once again in that familiar way he abandoned the Kurds in Syria. And here in Afghanistan, entirely ignoring the official Afghan government, the United States signed a one on one deal with the Taliban.

The deal essentially guaranteed the US troop withdrawal after the reduction of Taliban hostilities against our troops, and the release of Taliban prisoners…prisoners not under the control of US forces…but the Afghan government. So prisoners we had no right to pledge. Well the Taliban reduced attacks on US and allied forces for the most part and we have now withdrawn the required number of troops.

The premise of the prisoner release was as a preamble for Taliban and Afghan government authorities. And after a lot of pressure from American interests that is underway…but this original agreement never included Afghan input and was a wholesale abandonment of their interests. Something we’ve seen in Trump regime negotiations again and again.

“We have met our part of the agreement,” said Gen. Frank McKenzie, who leads U.S. Central Command. “We’ve agreed to go to mid-8,000 range within 135 days. We’re at that number now.”

General McKenzie, who was speaking in a video conference organized by the Aspen Strategy Group, suggested that completing a full withdrawal in 14 months, as the deal calls for, would depend in part on the Taliban. He said they should demonstrate that they had severed ties with Al Qaeda and engage with the Afghan government by reducing violence and starting direct talks on power-sharing.

But General McKenzie said that “military input is only one of the inputs that’s going to be considered.” Ultimately, how to move ahead with the troop withdrawal — whether to stick to the current schedule, slow it down or accelerate it — will depend on what President Trump decides.

Mr. Trump, facing an election in November, has made no secret of his desire to bring troops home. But commanders in his military worry that a premature withdrawal could lead to collapse and anarchy in Afghanistan, which could again result in safe havens for terror groups — the kind that Al Qaeda exploited to attack the United States in 2001.

Now, one of the key points of the original agreement was a reduction in hostilities against US forces by the Taliban. There were NO actionable provisions made for reducing attacks on Afghan military or police and Taliban attacks against those organizations seems to have actually increased. And now that they have begun talks with the Afghan government they may actually be trying to use those attacks as leverage as opposed to offering a cease fire instead.

Afghan and American officials say the war has entered a complicated period of uncertainty, with an emboldened insurgency aided by regional powers exerting pressure on a struggling government by cranking up bloody attacks often without claiming them.

The Taliban agreed not to attack American targets, but refused a cease-fire with Afghan government forces, leaving that to direct negotiations between the Afghan sides.

The Afghan National Security Council said June had the deadliest week of the war, with 291 Afghan soldiers killed in Taliban attacks in one week. Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the Taliban attacks in the past three months rose nearly 40 percent compared with the same period last year.

“We have had deep concern since the agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban was signed,” said Haidar Afzaly, the head of the Afghan Parliament’s Defense Committee. “The only group that has benefited from that is the Taliban, who are seeing their prisoners released.”

So once more President Trump is abandoning an American ally in a particularly cruel manner. Once the US completes its final draw down, how long before the Taliban consolidates power and retakes the entire nation?

Is this how we really want to end this? And can we, as a nation, survive in the world community for another four years under the Trump regime?

Guitar presentation of the National Anthem courtesy of the US Army’s Fort Sam’s Own!

And hopefully you can get some sleep when your neighbors run out of fireworks. Good Night!

 

After suggesting that American History started in 1492 when Columbus discovered America (sidenote: shouldn’t we be speaking Italian or Spanish), President Donald Trump went on to describe Desert Storm was part of Viet Nam. Considering he avoided service in Viet Nam, you’d think he could distinguish the difference.

And for anyone to suggest that Vice President Joe Biden needs a cognitive test, the White House might want to start closer to home.

From the video: Trump said, “In the fields and jungles of Vietnam, they delivered a swift and swiffian, It was swift and it was sweeping like nobody’s ever seen happen. A victory in Operation Desert Storm, a lot of you were involved in that. A lot of you were involved. That was a quick one.”

as the neighborhood continues to explode with illegal fireworks, this arrived in my emailbox:

Happy Independence Day,

This year’s 4th of July feels quite different. I’m thinking about the ways in which our ideals of independence and patriotism relate to what we’re now experiencing: a public health pandemic and a national movement against racial injustice.

The ongoing nationwide protests to end the systemic racism that has existed since before America’s birth should remind us that when it comes to achieving true freedom, we have much more work to do.

On this day in which we celebrate our independence from a tyrannical government, I think it’s all the more important that we recognize, celebrate, and protect every American’s right to peacefully protest for changes to make this a more perfect union.

As our country faces a surge in COVID-19 cases and continues to struggle with this ongoing public health crisis, the notion of freedom can take another turn. For this president, taking the safe and necessary precautions to keep ourselves and our fellow Americans safe, like wearing a mask in public, has become a political weapon. Wearing a mask is not a loss of freedom; in this moment, it is a simple yet essential way to unite against the spread of this deadly disease and protect one another.

And as the president continues to demean peaceful protesters, he encouraged thousands of people to attend a flashy fireworks display at Mount Rushmore, in spite of the surge of more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day. That’s not patriotism.

To me, true patriotism is fighting for what is right and doing right by your fellow Americans. Speaking out against racism or marching for a criminal justice system that protects and serves everyone. Following medical professionals’ guidance, wearing a mask, and social distancing to stop the spread of disease and help our country recover from this global crisis. Those are examples of patriotism in 2020.

I hope you and your loved ones have a safe and healthy holiday weekend as we continue to reflect and put in the work — together — to overcome our challenges and strengthen our American values of freedom and justice for all.

Cory

from our email this afternoon:

I’ll be the first to admit, today feels different than it did last year. Because in so many ways, it is different. As you and your loved ones celebrate today, I hope you’ll let me share a few quick thoughts on what I’ve been reflecting on ahead of this Independence Day:

Almost 250 years ago, our democracy was born in revolution by little more than words on parchment and the courage of those who dared to write them.

Their declaration was heard around the world. But while it promised that all men were created equal, it only marked the beginning of the struggle for equality.

America won freedom, but Black lives did not.

America won independence, but women did not.

America celebrated liberty, but LGBTQ+ Americans did not.

The next two and a half centuries would see generations of brave Americans force this nation to confront its founding sins and live up to its founding values.

Enslaved people would demand freedom, women would demand suffrage, LGBTQ+ Americans would demand equality, immigrants would demand opportunity, workers would demand fairness, people with disabilities would demand dignity, people of all faiths would demand liberty, Black Americans would demand that our country recognize the worth and matter of their lives — and those in uniform would defend America and our values around the world.

We have come a long way since our founders met in Philadelphia to start this grand experiment. But make no mistake: We still have a long way to go — and folks just like you will be integral to moving our country forward.

In spite of the progress we’ve won together, the current president is hell-bent on dragging America backward. Donald Trump’s entire administration is premised on a longing for an unjust and unequal past. And his failure of leadership through this crisis has cost people their jobs, their savings, and even their lives. Our economy has plunged into a recession and our allies have lost faith in American leadership. And the American people are hungry for change.

I am asking you to keep fighting for that change. I am asking you to stand with Democrats in our fight to create a more perfect union.

The best way to celebrate our nation’s founding is to continue the fight to expand its promise of justice, equality, and opportunity for all. America’s greatness does not come from our past but from our constant pursuit of a better future. And in November, voters will carry on that pursuit by electing Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.

In unity,

Tom Perez

Chair Democratic National Committee

from our emailbox:

Sisters and Brothers,

I wish everyone a happy Fourth of July and, I implore you to be safe. Our country wasn’t founded on the hopes of fireworks; it was founded on the hopes of equality, as stated in the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

These are trying times, and we must continue being our brother’s keeper. Let’s continue to do all we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Let’s address social inequality. Let’s come together as a country for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As you celebrate the 4th, honor all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The cost of our democracy is high. I am reminded of a quote from P.C. Cast, “Battle scars from the war of good versus evil have a unique beauty all their own.”

Let’s keep up the good fight,

Congresswoman Gwen Moore

A proud Black woman

Proudly standing up to Trump since day 1

Humbly serving Wisconsin’s 4th Congressional District

another holiday missive from our email:

Celebrating our independence isn’t about looking at our history through rose-colored glasses. It’s about acknowledging that the high ideals on which this nation was founded haven’t always been realized by everyone, and it’s about working in the present to create a better, more inclusive future.

The inflection point we find ourselves in today is an opportunity to recommit this movement to stamping out injustice and bringing about the structural change we need. I’m proud to be in that fight with folks across Wisconsin who want nothing more than to make this country a better place for everyone.

Whether you’re keeping it low key today or celebrating at a socially distanced barbeque, I hope you and your loved ones have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day.

Happy 4th of July!

In progress,

Mandela

photo courtesy of Mandela For Wisconsin

From this morning’s emails:

Our country was founded on an idea. “We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal.“

We never lived up to it. Jefferson himself didn’t. He held slaves. Women were excluded.

But once proposed, it was an idea that couldn’t be constrained. It survived the ravages of the Civil War, the dogs of Bull Connor, the assassination of Martin Luther King, and more than 200 years of systemic racism. And just weeks ago, the murder of George Floyd.

Through it all, these words have gnawed at our conscience and pulled us toward justice.

American history is no fairy tale. It’s been a constant push-and-pull between two parts of our character: the idea that all men and women — all people — are created equal, and the racism that has torn us apart.

We have a chance now to give the marginalized, the demonized, the isolated, the oppressed, a full share of the American dream. We have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country. We have a chance to live up to the words that have founded this nation.

This Independence Day, let’s not just celebrate the words. Let’s celebrate that promise and commit to work — the work we must do to fulfill that promise.

We remain locked in a battle for the soul of this nation. But believe me — truly — it’s a battle we can and will win if we act together.

Happy Fourth of July,

Joe Biden

On July 4th we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence…the colonies declaration to be free and clear and independent of England’s King George III…on July 4th, 1776.

It isn’t Flag Day, although I’ve seen a myriad of social media posts centered around the American Flag. Although the flag is a prominent component in contemporary celebrations, it didn’t exist in 1776…nor did our nation. And we actually have a Flag Day to honor our nation’s flag…but that’s not today.

This isn’t Memorial Day either, although again many posts suggest this is a time to honor our fallen heroes…even the USO had one like that. But again, we have a very well respected and well celebrated Memorial Day in May of each year to honor and mourn those Americans who have died defending our nation.

And ditto Veteran’s Day. This isn’t a celebration of veterans. They too have earned and have their very own day of commemoration.

Today is Independence Day. Please celebrate it for the milestone that it represents. And let’s also make a vow to insure that going forward, all Americans get to share in the independence that those early Colonial Leaders promised…today…tomorrow…and forever.

And if you want to hear the Declaration of Independence: NPR Reads The Declaration of Independence! This is from 2017.

And from ten years ago today, Zach’s partial reprint of the Declaration itself: Happy Independence Day!

Enjoy your holiday…be safe!

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