Monday, July 28, 2008
1. Tom Schweich's description of the failure of many to deal adequately with the expansion of the drug industry in Afghanistan should embarrass not only the Afghan leadership -- Hamed Karzai in particular -- but also the Americans, especially the Pentagon, who can't seem to agree on what they are actually there for. See New York Times Magazine, 7/27/08 "Is Afghanistan a Narco-State?"
2. Farooq, whoever he is, has passed on to us the website announcing the existence of a woman prisoner at Baghram, Afghanistan, whose screams have been heard by other prisoners. We hope the truth about the existence and condition of this woman will soon be made known: See the following site:
3. RAWA has reported the gang rape of a 12 year old girl in Sar-e Pul, Afghanistan, by individuals connected to "warlords" -- at least persons with lots of leverage. Another outrage that ought to be exposed and dealt with by the Afghanistan government. The judicial system is desperately in need of revision. See http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2008/07/22/ warlords-gang-rape-12-year-old-girl-her-family-threatens-to-commit-mass-suicide- if-justice-is-not-done.html
Friday, July 25, 2008
I have been fearing our country, and our world led by our country, are creating a wreck of inesimable proportions. As no one else seems to think so I have tended to wonder if I was just being over-dramatic. Am I merely depressed? Given that most of my friends seem unable to internalize the scale of the problem our country and our world faces, or even some of them seem completely unaware, I have tried to scale back my expressions of alarm.
So the new post on Information Clearing House has gotten my attention. A Republican, Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, former Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review, is saying that “The Greatest Threat America Has Ever Faced” is the neoconservative controlled Republican Party. That's scarry.
He doesn't even list all the issues that seem to me salient for our time. The one thing he makes clear is that the neoconservative Republicans have created a huge mess, and emphasizes their disinterest in the Constitution. On that he would know better than I. But he seems to assume his readers know that there are broader issues of concern: that the situation in the Middle East -South Asia -Central Asia is profoundly dangerous, that global warming is real and almost beyond recovery, etc.
He makes me feel I might be sane after all. Is there anyone out there listening?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
What that means to American troops is described in another article in today’s NYTimes: “Taliban Breached NATO Base in Deadly Clash.” In it Carlotta Gall and Eric Schmitt point out that the insurgents who attacked a remote outpost in north-eastern
But then there is the way our own country double-deals in their relations with
So we see again how governments carry on their business: While they parade their moral agendas they conceal what they do on “the dark side”. The ancient wisdom is still salient: “Men loved darkness because their deeds were evil; they would not come into the light lest their deeds be exposed.” The problem we have – Americans, British, Pakistanis – is that these are our governments acting in our name.Addendum, thanks to my friend S:
*In the dark hole of a Pakistani prison by Tim Johnson,
McClatchy Newspapers, Feb 5, 2008
*'Briton' being held in Pakistan, by Syed Shoaib Hasan,
BBC News, 27 June 2007.
Monday, July 14, 2008
I have now read every word in this book [but not all the notes, yet]. It is many things: a documented indictment of leaders in many places: they are shown to be incompetent, obdurate, arrogant, often totally unable to face the urgent necessities before them, incapable of addressing the rising needs and frustrations of peoples in the Middle East/Central Asia/South Asia.
This book is also a cry of the heart. Rashid quotes Benazir Bhutto’s last speech in terms that are, I believe, his own: “Wake up, my brothers! This country [
Rashid’s book is an indictment of the high crimes and misdemeanors by many of the leaders of the modern world – notably, of course, the Bush administration but also, especially, the Musharraf government. In fact, it is not only the urgency and intensity of Rashid’s detailed and extensively documented critique that strikes the reader, but -- for those of us familiar with what happens to those who expose the truth about powerful figures in Pakistan -- it is the danger to himself (and to his family?) that Rashid has risked by this book. He has risked his life by telling so much, revealing so much, with such zeal, such particularity. Such a detailed description of the perfidy and outright dishonesty of the leaders of Pakistan has to make him the most despised citizen of the country -- despised, that is by Pervez Musharaf (the man who made himself President), despised by the generals of the army (who stand behind Musharraf), despised by the intelligence officers of the ISI (who have effectively constituted themselves as an independent government) --leaving aside the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who have their own reasons for wanting him dead.
If anything can save Rashid it is that he has been equally unsparing of the leaders of virtually all other government officials mentioned in his tale: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Richard Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Tony Blair, and many other leaders of the great powers in
Here are some samples of his critique:
On the Musharraf government:
- p. 379: “In 2007 there had been 56 suicide bombings in
, which killed 419 security officials and 217 civilians … [And yet] the regime had failed to track down a single culprit. Now the public was expected to believe that the military had resolved the Bhutto murder in a couple of days … [Moreover, there was] Musharraf’s failure to show any remorse over Bhutto’s death. Instead he blamed her for sticking her head out of the sunroof and said the army had never liked her anyway.” Pakistan
On George W. Bush:
- 293: [T[he decision by President Bush on February 7, 2002, to deny captured al Qaeda, Taliban, and other terrorist suspects prisoner-of-war status or any access to justice was a step backward for the United States and for mankind – one that has haunted the United States, its allies, and the international legal system ever since. Whereas in the West it created a furious debate about civil liberties, in the Muslim world it further entrenched dictatorship and abuse of civilizations.”
On US Secretary of Defense Richard Rumsfeld:
- 342: “…
promised again to pursue democratic reforms. Yet its crackdown on political dissent had already reached new heights. … [E]leven prisoners had died as a result of torture in Uzbek jails that year, even as the State Department claimed that the country was making progress in human rights. No longer were just the accused tortured, but also their families if they dared ask where relatives were imprisoned. … Rumsfeld continued to heap praise on [President] Karimov. … [A]s major US NGOs were being thrown out of the country, he spoke of “the wonderful cooperation we’ve received from the government of Uzbekistan and promised $57 million in aid for 2004.” Uzbekistan
On Tony Blair:
- 356: [Blair] followed the Americans so unquestioningly and blindly into
that he lost his influence in the White House. The neocons saw Blair as their poodle … Attempts by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to prop up Colin Powell to take on the neocons were constantly undermined by Blair ….” Iraq
There is so much here that I can only urge everyone possible to take the time to read this book. I repeatedly had to put the book down because of my own anger and exasperation. You will too.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The world of “news” is so filled with lies that we all have a hard time sorting them out. The truth seems ever more elusive, the more we understand that so many of those who hawk information have reasons for presenting it in a certain way. We are becoming inured to lies. We are even inventing courteous ways of saying that we are being lied to, perhaps to avoid being so blunt. The newest way, at least that I have noticed, appears in today’s New York Times. Here is Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, talking about Maj. Gen. Jerome Johnson, former commander of the Army Sustainment Command: “I believe General Johnson presented evidence that deceived Congress,” Mr. Dorgan said in an interview. But the neatest way he put it is further down in the article: Dorgan says of Johnson’s report, that it was “a display of negligent disregard for facts that were known to the Pentagon.” “Negligent disregard for facts that were known”: a pretty good definition of “lying”.
But there are other ways to misrepresent the truth. The way that Fox News represents Michelle Obama is to run several minutes of talk about her in which she says scarcely anything except the few words that they find offensive. Given this kind of treatment, how would anyone get across anything they want to say? That kind of treatment indicates again that the “news” is crafted for an audience by social elements that have reasons, interests, in persuading others to see things they way they see it. It becomes all the most critical, then, for us to know what the interests are of those who describe situations. Politics is the contest over how to define the public situation. That makes news agencies political vehicles. Again, we need to know who owns the news companies and what their interests are. We know quite a bit about Fox: it would be nice if they would seek a better reputation; but then Bill O’Reilly is just too valuable.
Somewhere I saw that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth announced that they would be taking on Obama. This is a group whose credentials were dubious when they claimed to represent the real combat experience of John Kerry, and they have even worse credentials for saying anything in particular about Barak Obama. That they announced their plans to go after him reveals in fact what they are: professional character assassinators whose connection with “truth” is and has always been a charade. They have been pretty quiet, though, since both Obama and McCain have appeared to quash the “527 organizations” this time around. In fact, their website now says that as of May 31, 2008, they have “formally disbanded and ceased all operations”. Is it possible their claim to be working on an attack against Obama was an offer to serve the high-rolling elite who funded their activities the last time? These days the super-rich are not dumping so much money into the Republican cause this time around; could it be that the Swift Boaters didn’t get any offers worth their trouble this time? What with the cost of gas these days and the vanished funding from the super-rich, it hardly pays anymore to be in the business of character assassination.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
The editorial by Najam Sethi in this week’s Friday Times [July 4-10, 2008] indicates how dire the situation is in
Many Pakistanis are worried about a perceptible sense of drift in
More alarmingly, the Pakistani economy which grew by 6.8 per cent a year from 2003-07, is sputtering in the face of post-election economic uncertainty and political instability. … Without continued high growth and poverty alleviation, significant sections of the politically volatile urban middle classes will slip through the net, creating a vast pool of angry unemployed or under-employed. With the government becoming increasingly immobilized in the face of rising Islamic and anti-American nationalism (the irony is that
The budget deficit for 2007-08 was targeted at 4% of GDP but has actually turned out to be about 8%. The balance of payments deficit is also about 8% of GDP, the highest ever in our history. Forex reserves have fallen from a high of US$16.5 billion in October 2007 to about US$11 billion today, despite being recently bolstered by a combination of
First, we need a full fledged working government in
Second, the government should stop dragging its feet on all the unpopular economic decisions that need to be taken to straighten out the fundamentals of the economy. This means abolishing general subsidies on fuel and food while creating specific ones for the poorest sections of society. It also means re-creating an economic environment that is friendly towards both domestic and international investors.
Third, the government must tackle the war on terror seriously without worrying about any popular backlash. The fact is that this war is now
Mr Asif Zardari’s laid-back approach is creating public disquiet. Problems have mounted because difficult decisions were postponed and controversial solutions swept under the carpet. ….
July 4-10, 2008 - Vol. XX, No. 20
For most Indian and Western observers yesterday's suicidal terror attack on the Indian embassy in
For one thing,
While there is an undeniable appeal to this sort of logic for many, from the official Pakistani point of view, it would have been extremely counter-productive to indirectly antagonize
On the other hand, we could choose to make an exception in this case, by looking beyond the usual Pakistani scapegoat for culpability, and examine the past behavior of the Pakistan-based militant groups such as Laskhar -e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad who have in recent years attempted to provoke direct India-Pakistan conflict to further their own narrow agendas. The most notable instance in which this terrorist strategy nearly succeeded was in the aftermath of the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament that led to military mobilization by both sides along the border and came very close to resulting in the world's first nuclear exchange.
The Pakistani military - whatever disagreeable factions it may consist of - does not, as a unified institution in anyway prefer to push itself further away from the West and thereby reward Indian interests. It can be counted on to make the pragmatic choices that need to be made in the interests of defending the Pakistani homeland as well its own self-preservation. However, the destructive logic of
Accordingly, these pro-Kashmir jihadi groups reject as "selling out" any concessions
The difficulties of negotiating
Still, yesterday's denunciations against
Monday, July 07, 2008
The intelligence elements of Pakistan have over and over again demonstrated their close engagement with the Islamist elements within Pakistan as well as those whose ambitions reach outside -- the Taliban, who are trying to re-take Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda whose agendas are more focused on states elsewhere, the Arab world, and (for some of them) the Central Asian states (mainly Uzbekistan, it is said, and Xingjiang, China) -- so that those of us who have lost all respect for the regime are immediately inclined to blame rogue elements in Pakistan.
The Pakistani people deserve better than the self-serving figures who claim to be representing the people while they bilk the system in their own interest. Among those figures, notably, are the top generals of the army who still are fighting a war with India, and embarrassing themselves.
And what can we make of the immediate denial of involvement by the Taliban? That group is also not a single organized body but a congeries of groups whose concerns presumably vary. That they deny involvement might in fact represent, again, how much the Pakistani elements operate outside of the Taliban network.
[click here for the New York Times article on the event]
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
The report that Jalaluddin Haqqani has challenged Mullah Muhammad Omar’s leadership of the Taliban (published by the Kabul Press and Payman Daily, discussed by Waliullah Rahmani in Terroism Focus, Volume 5, Issue 25 (July 1, 2008)) suggests that the Taliban are not as united as they have been, or at least have seemed to be. At an earlier time, when the authority of Mullah Muhammad Omar was being threatened, he had the temerity to grasp the sacred cloak of Muhammad and put it on, an act that risked the wrath of God if he was not worthy. This was the time when loyalists declared him Emir of the Umma. He appears not to have been seriously challenged since.
So Jalaluddin Haqqani’s demand for a change in leadership of the Taliban is significant. I was struck by Rahmani’s note that Haqqani was “little influenced by the religious and political thought of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s and early 1990s.” Indeed, the Taliban are themselves not really an “Afghan” movement, infused as they have been by so many non-traditional influences: the ideas of the Wahhabi-biased madrassas of Pakistan, the Pakistan military (whose interest in Islamism is entirely opportunistic), Osama Bin Laden’s “Arab Afghans” whose concerns are animated by quarrels with the leadership of some of the Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, mainly), and others (such as, it is said, Uzbeks and Uighurs, who can have little interest in Middle Eastern affairs). Haqqani is still essentially a Pushtun – an authentic Pushtun nationalist. He claims to have consulted many other Taliban commanders, presumably other Pushtun nationalists like himself. So the Taliban are animated by various concerns, not all of them of equal importance to everyone -- and this seems to be a factor in Haqqani's challenge.
In a sense, none of this is a huge surprise: it was only a few days ago that a former Taliban figure revealed that he was being pressed by Pakistanis in military dress to participate in the insurgency. But it is important for revealing – again – that the Taliban are not as spontaneous a movement as they appear to be. They are in part animated by various non-Pushtun interests: notably, Islamists from the Arab world, and (again it is evident!) intelligence agents of the
Click on the title to see the original article.