Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

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The American soldier accused of massacring 16 civilians, including nine children and three women, in southern Afghanistan was a 38-year-old staff sergeant, married, with two children, who enlisted in the Army soon after the terrorist attacks of September 11 and did three combat tours in Iraq before arriving in Afghanistan in December 2011.

In the decade-long Afghanistan war, 2011 was the deadliest year on record for Afghan civilians with 3,021 killed — a rise of 8 percent from the year before, as Taliban-affiliated insurgents ratcheted up violence with roadside bombs and suicide attacks, according to a new United Nations report.

Summary: The first half of this year was the deadliest six months for civilians in Afghanistan since the decade-old war began, according to the country’s U.N. mission. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said that civilian deaths hit a record high in the first half of this year, up 15 percent on the first six months of 2010, due to roadside and suicide bombings, increased ground fighting, and more deadly air strikes. … One-year retrospective: One year ago today, on July 17, 2010, Aubrey Immelman reported that as concerns grew about the war in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton headed to South Asia on a mission aimed at refining the goals of the then nearly 9-year-old conflict.

Jun 14th, 2011

Summary: May 2011 was the deadliest month for Afghan civilians since the war began shortly after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, with 368 civilians killed and 593 wounded, according to a U.N. midyear civilian casualty report. … One-year retrospective: One year ago today, on June 14, 2010, Aubrey Immelman reported that in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation establishing June 14 as Flag Day, and that President Harry Truman made it official in 1949 when he signed legislation designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day.

Mar 27th, 2011

Summary: Three suicide bombers killed 20 people in an attack on a construction firm in southeastern Afghanistan, with the Taliban claiming responsibility for the assault. … The Taliban claimed that it kidnapped 50 Afghan policemen in northeastern Afghanistan — part of the insurgents’ murder and intimidation campaign against anyone affiliated with the U.S.-backed government. … A provincial governor in southern Afghanistan said that seven civilians were accidentally killed when a NATO helicopter fired on two vehicles believed to be carrying Taliban fighters. … One-year retrospective: One year ago today, on March 27, 2010, Aubrey Immelman reported that the U.S. and Russia sealed the first major nuclear weapons treaty in nearly two decades, agreeing to slash the former Cold War rivals’ warhead arsenals by nearly one-third and talking optimistically of eventually ridding the world of nuclear arms altogether.

Mar 7th, 2011

Summary: On a visit to Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ruled out permanent American military bases in Afghanistan, though the U.S. is interested in maintaining a military presence in the former al-Qaida haven beyond the planned end of U.S. combat in three years. … One-year retrospective: One year ago today, on March 7, 2010, Aubrey Immelman reported that Adam Gadahn, the American-born English-language propagandist for al-Qaida, had been captured in Karachi, Pakistan. However, it was later revealed that this was a case of mistaken identity and that the man in custody was in fact Abu Yahya Majadin Adam.

Mar 4th, 2011

Summary: Weekly report of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, compiled from U.S. Department of Defense news releases and … Frankfurt airport shooting: Alleged gunman Arid Uka appears to fit the “puritanical compulsive” terrorist profile, similar to 9/11 hijack ringleader Mohamed Atta and CIA bomber Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi. … One-year retrospective: One year ago today, on March 4, 2010, Aubrey Immelman reported that the suicide bomber behind the Dec. 30, 2009 attack on CIA Forward Operating Base Chapman in eastern Afghanistan, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, claimed in a posthumously released recording that he lured U.S. and Jordanian intelligence officers into a trap by sending them misleading information about terrorist targets as well as videotapes he had made of senior al-Qaeda leaders.

Sep 6th, 2010

Summary: The number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan this year has reached at least 500, compared with 521 in all of 2009, according to the independent monitoring site and a tally compiled by Reuters. … One-year retrospective: One year ago today, on September 6, 2009, Aubrey Immelman reported that opinion polls showed support for President Barack Obama and his policies dipping sharply, though he remained personally more popular than his policies. How will those dynamics impact the 2010 election and what do they tell us about President Obama’s personal qualities and leadership style?

Aug 13th, 2010

Summary: The number of civilians killed or wounded in the Afghan conflict rose 31 percent in the first six months of 2010, with anti-government forces causing about three-quarters of the casualties, according to a report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). … One-year retrospective: One year ago today, on August 13, 2009 Aubrey Immelman reported that U.S. Marines surging into Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, to protect citizens ahead of the August 20 national election were meeting fierce resistance from the Taliban.

Aug 1st, 2010

Summary: July 2010 was Iraq’s deadliest month in more than two years, according to new official figures, suggesting that a resilient insurgency is successfully taking advantage of the months of deadlock in forming a new government. The figures show that 535 people were killed last month, the highest since May 2008 when 563 died. … One-year retrospective: One year ago today, on August 1, 2009 Aubrey Immelman reported that 40 U.S. troops died in Afghanistan in July 2009, by far the heaviest monthly toll up to that point in the war. The worst previous month for U.S. forces had been September 2008, when 26 were killed.