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Trump says the U.S. is getting out of Afghanistan…again

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Is Trump Really Bringing Home The Troops? No

The United States’ war in Afghanistan has lasted so long that some of the troops who first invaded the country are now watching their children deploy to the same conflict.

“When we started this, people asked why I was going, and my response was, ‘So my sons don’t have to fight this war,’” Master Sgt. Trevor deBoer recently told Stars and Stripes. deBoer has been deployed to the country three times since 2002 and two decades later his son, Spc. Payton Sluss, was occupying it.

Earlier this month, Trump tweeted that the troops would be home by Christmas, which was apparently news to White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. O’Brien recently told a crowd in Las Vegas that the numbers would be halved in 2021. When the New York Times asked the administration about the contradictory messages, an official replied, “Oh my God!”

General Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, wouldn’t publicly back the Trump assertion during an interview with NPR, which suggests the tweet is based on absolutely nothing. For all of Trump’s rhetoric about ending the wars, his time in office certainly hasn’t impeded the United States’ imperial ambitions in any discernible way. As the Washington Post pointed out this summer, “While there have been some relatively minor shifts in distribution … the overall total of [U.S. troops] serving abroad is believed to have slightly increased since Barack Obama left office.”

It seems clear that Trump’s tweet was merely an attempt to drum up votes, but does anyone actually believe that he’s going to end the war in Afghanistan?

Actually, yes. The Taliban does. The group has endorsed Trump in this election and declared that he will win. “We think the majority of the American population is tired of instability, economic failures and politicians’ lies and will trust again on Trump because Trump is decisive, could control the situation inside the country,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told CBS in a phone interview. “Other politicians, including Biden, chant unrealistic slogans. Some other groups, which are smaller in size but are involved in the military business including weapons manufacturing companies’ owners and others who somehow get the benefit of war extension, they might be against Trump and support Biden, but their numbers among voters is low.”

The idea that weapons manufacturing companies are disappointed in Trump is certainly an interesting theory. During his first complete fiscal year in office, he approved $55.6 billion in foreign weapon sales, a big increase from the $33.6 billion that Obama approved in his final fiscal year. The administration’s recent “peace deals” in the Middle East, further expand U.S. arm sales. “If the narcissist-in-chief had been honest for a change, he would have dubbed those Abraham Accords the ‘Arms Sales Accords,’ wrote William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy, at the site recently. “The UAE was, in part, induced to participate in hopes of receiving Lockheed Martin’s F-35 combat aircraft and advanced armed drones as a reward. For his part, after some grumbling, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to one-up the UAE and seek a new $8 billion arms package from the Trump administration, including an additional squadron of Lockheed Martin’s F-35s (beyond those already on order), a fleet of Boeing attack helicopters, and so much more. Were that deal to go through, it would undoubtedly involve an increase in Israel’s more than ample military aid commitment from the United States, already slated to total $3.8 billion annually for the next decade.”

Afghanistan really hasn’t come up much on the campaign trail, maybe because it’s one of the issues where there isn’t a lot of daylight between the two candidates. Biden says that he’d like to reduce the number of troops to somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 and coordinate with allies to “take out terrorist groups.” In other words, he doesn’t want to leave either.

H.R.8494

Illinois’ Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider (and 18 cosponsors in the House) are trying to expand the Israeli government’s influence on U.S. foreign policy. H.R.8494, the Guaranteeing Israel’s QME Act of 2020, would require the president “to consult with appropriate officials of the Government of Israel for information regarding Israel’s qualitative military edge” before the United States sells weapons to countries in the Middle East.

While there’s very little chance of the bill actually passing, it was still designed to serve a purpose. On the website, Josh Ruebner points out that the bill can probably be understood as an attempt by Democrats to outflank Republicans on Israel, from the right.

“In opposing this weapons deal, pro-Israel Democrats are attempting to have their cake and eat it too,” writes Ruebner. “While cheering on Trump’s diplomatic efforts to normalize relations between authoritarian Arab regimes and Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people, they are simultaneously trying to protect and enhance Israel’s military superiority over them.”

BDS at NYU

Last month, New York University agreed to a settlement with the Department of Education on Sept. 15 over a 2019 complaint that claimed the school improperly handled accusations of antisemitism on campus. As a result of the settlement, the university’s Non-Discrimination Anti-Harassment Policy will now include the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which includes some criticisms of Israel.

Palestine Legal had a good Twitter thread putting the decision into context:

Students and faculty persevered in [BDS] activism and much, much more despite obstacles and condemnation from the university. For right-wing pro-Israel groups, this wasn’t enough..they complained to Trump’s Department of Education that this activism violated their civil rights…now NYU has agreed to make it go away by accepting a distorted definition of antisemitism from a Trump executive order that aims to censor criticism of Israel…the bottomline is, despite NYU administration working hand in hand with pro-Israel groups to misrepresent and silence campus activism, the movement will not go away. Students and scholars will not stop demanding peace, justice and equality for Palestinians. And we’re here for it.

Odds & Ends

🇵🇸 Palestinians in the United States, and over 50 organizations, have written a letter to congress demanding an end to Israeli military aid and calling for the money to be reinvested in local communities. “We seek life-giving policies,” reads the letter. “We implore you to consider a simple solution to this dead end in U.S. policy towards Palestine and Israel: center those most harmed by violence and oppression—the Palestinian people—and follow their vision for a free, just, and peaceful future for all.”

You can tweet at your Representative about the letter here.

🇮🇱 JVP, Palestine Legal, Adalah Justice Project, Center for Constitutional Rights, and a number of other organizations are sponsoring a supercut screening of The Lobby tonight. It will be followed by a virtual discussion on the Al Jazeera series. You can read more about the series (and the attempts to censor it) on our website and you can sign up for the event here.

💻 Last month, we reported on Zoom censoring an online event featuring  Leila Khaled that was sponsored by San Francisco State University. Since that story ran, Rep. Lamborn (R-CO) has sent a letter to Attorney General Barr and FBI Director Wray calling for an investigation (and potential prosecution!) of the school’s president and the professors who participated in it. Lamborn insists that the university provided material support for terrorism by sponsoring the online discussion.

🇮🇱 A new poll conducted by the Direct Falls Research Institute finds that 63.3% of Israelis want Trump to be reelected, while only 18.8% want Biden to win.

🇮🇷  Here’s a wild story from Eli Clifton at Responsible Statecraft. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank funded by billionaire Trump donor Bernie Marcus, linked up with the (taxpayer-funded) Iran Disinformation Project to harass critics of Trump’s Iran policy. We recent published a piece by James North on how the mainstream media has dropped the ball on covering the FDD.

Stay safe out there,

Michael

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