Monday, May 31, 2010

Dorronsoro's recommendation: Sue for Peace

In These Times has published an adaptation from Gilles Dorronsoro's April 2010 report "Afghanistan: Searching for Political Agreement," originally published on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace website.* Dorronsoro's experience and knowledge of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is so superior that his opinion needs to be taken with the utmost seriousness. This is not good news, but can we find anyone with better understanding of the situation on the ground? It is never wise to ignore wisdom.
I wish he were wrong... RLC

The Case for Negotiations Dealing with the Taliban is unsavory--but this war cannot be won.
By Gilles DorronsoroMay 24, 2010

The coalition's strategy in Afghanistan is at an impasse. The renewed efforts undertaken since the summer of 2009 have failed to temper the guerrilla war. A few tactical successes are possible, but this war cannot be won. The coalition cannot defeat the Taliban as long as Pakistan continues to offer them sanctuary. And increasing resources to wage the war is not an option. The costs of continuing the war--to use Ambassador Karl Eikenberry's expression in the leaked telegram to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton--are "astronomical."

The entire U.S. strategy revolves around a swift Afghanization of the conflict, yet the coalition's Afghan partner is weaker than it was a year ago. The state's presence in the provinces has declined sharply and the legitimacy of President Hamid Karzai's government is contested.

As a result of the massive fraud in the August 2009 presidential elections, the government has no popular legitimacy, and the legislative elections slated for fall 2010 will probably undermine the political system even further because fraud is inevitable. It is unlikely that the Afghan regime will ever be able to assume responsibility for its own security.

As a result, the coalition faces an endless war accompanied by an intolerable loss of life and treasure. A less costly alternative would be to negotiate a broad agreement with the Taliban leadership to form a national unity government, with guarantees against al Qaeda's return to Afghanistan. But even if such negotiations might occur, they hold no guarantee of success.

Yet the cost of their failure is negligible compared with the potential gain: a relatively swift way out of the crisis that preserves the coalition's essential interests. *Time* is not on the coalition's side. The United States should contact Taliban leaders as soon as possible rather than waiting for the situation to deteriorate further.

In pursuit of a losing strategy

The Taliban cannot be defeated militarily because the border with Pakistan is and will remain open for the insurgents. The Pakistani army, which refuses to launch an offensive against the Afghan Taliban, has never considered taking action against the Taliban leadership based in Pakistan. The February arrest of acting Taliban military commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is probably a sign that the Pakistani military wants more control over the insurgency to prepare for the negotiation process.

What's more, the insurgency is now nationwide and cannot be contained by counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in two or three southern provinces. The COIN strategy cannot succeed because of the immense resources it requires. In a marginal, strategically unimportant district such as Marjah, the coalition would have to keep thousands of troops for years to prevent the Taliban's return. To replicate such strategy, even in one province, would overstretch the U.S. military.

In addition to COIN, military strategists think they can quickly weaken the Taliban through the creation of militias, the co-opting of Taliban groups and targeted assassinations. These policies will not strengthen the Afghan government's legitimacy or influence; to the contrary, they are destroying the Karzai government's credibility. The effects of this strategy are irreversible, and with the acceleration of political fragmentation, the coalition is faced with the prospect of a collapse of Afghan institutions.

The Karzai government is unlikely to engage in institutional reform, given that it is increasingly dependent on the networks that ensured its fraudulent re-election. Consequently, the coalition is having more and more trouble influencing Karzai. The weakness of the central political institutions means that the development of the army and the police force--the coalition's priorities--is occurring in a vacuum. Transferring security responsibilities to our Afghan partner will probably not be possible in the foreseeable future.

Afghans perceive their representative institutions as illegitimate. Between 10 percent and 15 percent of Afghan voters are believed to have supported Karzai during the 2009 presidential elections. All indications point to a high level of cynicism among the people and their rejection of the government; in fact, they massively refrained from voting even in places where security was reasonably good.

The legislative elections scheduled for September 2010 will further erode faith in the political system. The lack of security makes it impossible to hold credible elections in at least half of Afghanistan. And in February 2010, Karzai seized control of the ECC (Electoral Complaints Commission); there is no longer an independent institution to validate the process.

Aside from fraud and corruption, Karzai's lack of legitimacy is linked to his presumed lack of autonomy vis-à-vis the coalition. Internal U.S. Army studies, and the experiences of numerous journalists and researchers indicate that a majority of the population in combat zones now considers the foreign forces as occupiers. Military operations are polarizing the population against foreign forces and further weakening Karzai's regime, which appears irreparably unpopular and illegitimate. The coalition is perceived as the main provider of *insecurity*. Villagers do not want to see the establishment of coalition outposts that can bring only bombings and IEDs.

Furthermore, the coalition is hurt by the dependence of Karzai on his local allies, who generally oppose the coalition's objectives. The coalition is also undermined when the Afghan government aggressively distances itself from the coalition when civilians are killed by "friendly fire."

The failed Karzai government

The government in Kabul is now too weak to reassert control over the periphery of the country. As a result, the coalition is increasingly dependent on local strongmen who it helped put in place or with whom it has worked.

The weakening of the Afghan regime is very bad news for the coalition, which is promoting Afghanization in order to reduce its own investment. It is hard to build a military that is independent of the institutional network that constitutes the state. Problems such as ethnic tensions, local and national corruption, and the lack of a clear purpose make it hard to motivate soldiers and officers.

The coalition should recognize that an autonomous Afghan army is a very distant goal. The coalition's large offensive to "clear" Taliban territory will not work, because the Afghan army and the police are not ready. If the coalition tries to secure Taliban territory on a long-term basis, it will overstretch itself and casualties will increase significantly.

Modest objectives would be more realistic. Most observers recognize the impossibility of a military solution. Nonetheless, different arguments have been put forward to reject negotiations. First, the coalition needs more time. Reinforcements are not yet fully in place, so talk of failure is premature. Second, experts such as Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid explain that the Taliban have reached the height of their influence, implying that the coalition would be in a stronger position in the future.

One can counter that the coalition should begin negotiations now while it still has the means to exert military pressure. There is nothing to indicate that the Taliban are going to slow their advance. They are pursuing a strategy that includes expanding their influence in the cities. And nothing indicates that the Karzai regime won't be even weaker a year from now.

>From this perspective, the Afghan surge will have had the same result as all troop increases since 2003: a deterioration of security. Consequently, marginal military gains for the coalition in the next 18 months are the exact equivalent of a strategic defeat. Hence the need for a negotiated settlement.

But negotiations with Taliban leaders can be undertaken only if the Pakistani army agrees to act as a broker. Without Pakistan, there will be no solution in Afghanistan. Official negotiations must also include the Karzai regime and international guarantees preventing the return of radical groups to Afghanistan.

Along with negotiations, it is important to increase areas of cooperation with the insurgence. A ceasefire must therefore be observed during the negotiation process. The reduction in violence could help demobilize the Taliban and distance them from the radical groups currently in Pakistan, such as al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. Likewise, aid must be demilitarized and NGOs must be permitted to negotiate directly with the Taliban in order to work in the regions under their control.

The privatization of security (reliance on militias, deals with individual tribes and private companies) is also dangerous. These groups will be difficult to control in the event of an agreement and are currently weakening Afghan institutions. The United States should immediately stop funding militias, which is counterproductive in the long term, and immediately bring an end to the proliferation of these armed groups.

Nothing guarantees that negotiations--if agreed to by the Taliban--will succeed. Furthermore, the regime that such negotiation will establish will be unstable for months, perhaps even years. But if the negotiations succeed, they will enable the formation of a national unity government in Kabul, a new constitution negotiated during a Loya Jirga, and both internal and international guarantees to prevent the return of al Qaeda.

Given the current impasse in which the coalition finds itself, such an outcome is the best that the United States can hope for.

*This essay was adapted from Gilles Dorronsoro's April 2010 report "Afghanistan: Searching for Political Agreement," which can be read on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace website.*
*Gilles Dorronsoro*, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is the author of *Revolution Unending: Afghanistan 1979 to the Present

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pakistanis critique their own society

I wish I could say better things about Pakistan. The people of the country deserve better. The one thing that seems so crucial and obvious -- but is discussed far too little -- is that the war in Afghanistan will never end if Pakistan cannot desist from nourishing the Afghan Taliban who are trying to unseat the current regime in Afghanistan. That, in turn, is unlikely to happen unless the Pakistanis find a way to re-configure their country into a much more stable society, resolving some of the many internal contradictions in its essential structure.
Actually, what some Pakistanis have to say reveals the issues as starkly as anyone from the outside could. I pray for the Pakistanis to come to terms with themselves, for some of the elements in that country that are deliberately tolerated by those in power [which is to say the army] are at war with the rest. Nothing reveals more grotesquely how intense the war is than the attack on the two mosques that took place this week. And no statements can reveal more pungently how conflicted this country is than the statements I reproduce below. The first is by Najam Sethi who has earned his right to respect, having already been imprisoned and misrepresented by his government merely for saying in India what he had said publicly in Pakistan. The second is by a woman who replied to his comment. Their comments speak for themselves. Note that they appeared in the Muslim magazine Islamic Ideology. RLC

Islamic Ideology 28 May 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com
PAKISTANI state and society is Pakistan’s own worst enemy
By Najam Sethi
May 28, 2010
PAKISTANI state and society is Pakistan’s own worst enemy. Consider. Fauzia Wahab, a PPP spokesperson, is in the dock because of remarks she made in the context of explaining why President Asif Zardari enjoyed constitutional immunity and could not be dragged before the courts. Sections of the media and mullahs argue that if Hazrat Umar could present himself before a Qazi court in the seventh century and be held accountable, why should a mere mortal like Mr Zardari enjoy immunity from prosecution today? Ms Wahab’s rejoinder was that modern democratic societies are governed by constitutions or social contracts between the state and people and that no such set of rules or laws defined state relations during the time of Hazrat Umar! But this, say her detractors, amounts to “blasphemy” because society was governed in accordance with the provisions of the Holy Quran at that time and there is no more comprehensive or sufficient “constitution” for governing Muslims than the Holy Quran. Accordingly, mullahs have been provoked to issue fatwas against Ms Wahab and at least one offended citizen has moved the courts to order the police to register a case of “blasphemy” against her.
There are obvious ironies here. Pakistan is an “Islamic state”, says Pakistan’s constitution as amended by General Zia ul Haq in the 1980s, and anything “repugnant to Islam” in it must be weeded out. The quest for “Islamising” Pakistan’s constitution, which led to the introduction of an omnibus clause defining “blasphemy”, has been going on since the dictator’s time, not just via the provincial high courts and supreme court but also via special institutions created for this purpose by the dictator, namely the Federal Shariat Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology and the Islamic Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court.
IT is strange then that the clause relating to presidential immunity should have been allowed to prevail in the constitution despite ten additional amendments to the constitution spread over half a dozen governments in the last thirty years. Indeed, the most pervasive 18th constitutional amendment enacted only a month ago by an unprecedented all- parties consensus studiously ignores this, despite a clause by clause pruning of the constitution for eighteen months by a parliamentary committee which led to a change in 105 clauses of the constitution.
Ms Wahab’s critics, it may also be noted, are among those who are in the forefront of the political struggle to empower the judiciary to become “more supreme” than parliament which is supposed to be supreme. No less significantly, they are also leading the political movement to “get Zardari” by hook or by crook. The irony here is that they want modern judges in Pakistan to appoint themselves and be totally independent of parliament or the executive, a sentiment that is outrageously at odds with “Islamic” practice during the time of the Caliphs when Qazis were appointed and removed by the “Islamic” executive authority! (Even today, the executive appoints judges in all countries that claim to be Islamic states, eg Saudi Arabia, Libya, etc) Indeed, these are the very groups which are agitating against the 18th amendment’s clause that seeks to introduce a judicial plus parliamentary commission to oversee the appointment of judges to the high court’s and supreme court.
The second issue which is agitating “Islamic” minds in Pakistan is a Facebook competition to draw images of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). The Lahore High Court has ordered the government to block a page on Facebook that has outraged Muslims. But officials are inclined to be more loyal-than- the king.
Therefore, in the guise of protecting the diverse sentiments of Muslims globally, they have blocked over 1000 sites, including Youtube, Flickr and Wikipedia, etc., which seemingly offend for one reason or another.
Ironically, though, the global Muslim response to Facebook does not reflect the same religious intensity as in Pakistan.
Where Pakistani Muslims are agitating on the streets, in parliament and on the internet, for religious reasons, certain Islamic states that claim to be custodians or guardians of Islam like Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran have been more inclined to censor political comment on the internet.
Iran, in fact, blocked Facebook in the run-up to the country’s presidential elections last year to stop supporters of the reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi from using the site for his political campaign.
Libya, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and Egypt have also banned internet sites mostly to block political dissent. TURKEY doesn’t like Youtube because there are anti-Mustafa Kamal Ataturk videos hosted on it! In short, politics and religion continue to be combined in various ways in the Muslim world to quell political or religious dissent at home or abroad.
Unfortunately, Pakistan seems more prone to hurt itself than other Muslim states by constantly veering between democracy and dictatorship, religious extremism and moderation, global partnership and international isolation. “Jihad” is the norm in one decade, “Enlightened moderation” is up for grabs in another.
One day, the Taliban are fellow Muslims with whom peace deals must be signed; another day, they are terrorists against whom a bloody war must be waged. One day, American aid is self-righteously rejected; another day Pakistan is demanding a US-backed Marshal Plan. Today, the Holy Quran is being cited to deny President Zardari immunity from prosecution but the “basic structure of the Constitution” is being cited to stop modern day Qazis (judges) from being appointed or sacked by the Executive as in the days of Islamic yore.
Such hypocrisy and double standards in the name of religion cannot sustain, let alone nourish, modern nation-building.
The writer is Editor of The Friday Times
Source: Mail Today

date 29 May 2010 04:01
Subject: Harassment by personnel of different intelligence agencies
Respected sir,
I am a citizen of Lahore a social and peace activist, founder of Institute for Peace and Secular Studies. As such I have been involved in numerous social and right based activities for the last fifteen years. My activities involve peace initiative with our neighbours particularly India and additionally involved in campaign against various injustices prevalent in our society regarding minorities, women, poor and the underprivileged. For reasons that I cannot fathom these lawful activities have led to my constant harassment by the intelligence agencies of the country.
Following my protests against the horrors of Shantinagar massacre in 1999, my visits to India as part of people to people peace initiatives and visits of some Indian delegates to my home, I have been constantly harassed by various intelligence agencies.
I have been taken to various police station, forcibly picked up from the Lahore Press Club by the intelligence personnel to be later dropped outside their office near the Lahore Zoo, constantly threatened on the phone through “private caller ID” and harassed through regular visits to my home. Additionally my mobile phone and contact diary have been stolen. What is more depressing is that these agencies always ask the same questions’ who is you husband and provide us the detail of your family? ’Why are you interested in peace with India since India is our enemy’, ‘What is the source of your funding?’
I am a law abiding citizen of Pakistan with no links to any religious organization or a political party, and I work for the benefit of the people of my land within my constitutional rights and nothing to hide from anyone. If intelligence agencies have an issue with what I do, I appeal to you to kindly instruct all security agencies to carry out formal investigation where I should be permitted to answer all allegations, suspicions and question. This is my basic right and i request you to ensure it should not be denied.
Over the last few weeks I have found intelligence personnel stationed outside my house they have often sought entry into my house which I have not allowed without demanding the proof of their identity. Three officials have shown me their identity cards purportedly issued by the ISI, IB and the special branch. Sadly their manner of interrogation has always been impolite, menacing and threatening.
I urge you to please examine the following possibilities
• Are these officials harassing me under instructions from their seniors, or
• Is it possible that the higher authorities have nothing to do with the harassment of a woman who is a peace and human right activist and these officials are acting at their own .
In view of the above I appeal to you to look into my complaint and order these personal to refrain, from interfering with my right, and harassment, those found guilty for transgressing their powers and acting outside the law should be suitably punished under the law.
I should like to make it clear that if the intelligence personnel do not stop festering me I shall have no option but to take this grave personal issue to the superior courts.
Please note Since I have been harassed to the extent that I have begun to fear not only for my personal life, but the life of my children as well .I have deposited copies of my petition with my lawyer and human rights organizations so that they may take appropriate action in case something untoward happens.
Hope my submission will receive your sympathetic and immediate attention.
Mani, Germany

Monday, May 24, 2010

A railroad through Afghanistan? The first signs.

Bloomberg's report on plans to build a railway from the border town of Hairatan to Mazar-e Sharif is real news because the improved transport facilities will cheapen and speed up the movement of goods into Afghanistan. Could this be the beginning of a new railroad through Afghanistan? It has been a concept ever since the nineteenth century.

Afghan Railway to Draw Taliban Fire as It Boosts Economy, NATO Bloomberg By Eltaf Najafizada and James Rupert May 5, 2010 Workers are laying track across north Afghanistan~Rs rolling grassland for the country~Rs first rail line, a project that will boost the economy, supply NATO troops and become a target for Taliban bombs.

The railway, being built by Uzbekistan's state railroad, will run 75 kilometers (45 miles) from the Uzbek border to the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, said Craig Steffensen, Kabul-based Afghanistan country director for the Asian Development Bank, who has inspected the work.

The line, to be completed this year, will more than double shipments of fuels, food grains, consumer goods and construction materials through a border crossing that handles half of the country~Rs imports, the bank says.

"Railroads can reduce our isolation," said Hamidullah Farooqi, a Kabul University economics professor and former transport minister, in a phone interview. "This is just the first line for a network that we hope can turn our country into a new trade route. That is what we need to create stability."

More than a century after Afghan monarch Amir Abdurrahman banned rail lines as potential invasion routes, physical isolation and war have left Afghanistan the second-least developed of 182 countries measured by the United Nations' Human Development Index.

The line not only will help develop the north, which holds most of the country's known gas, oil and coal, it is the first step in linking Central Asia to seaports in Iran, Steffensen said.

Needing Pakistan

The link to Uzbekistan and onward to Kazakhstan and Russia also will reduce the dependence of Afghanistan and of U.S.-led NATO forces on Pakistan, where local Taliban have hijacked or burned trucks carrying U.S. military supplies.

The railway will connect to a new U.S. supply network from the north and so "will be particularly helpful in bringing goods into the country for our needs," said U.S. Colonel Wayne Shanks, a spokesman in Kabul for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization~Rs International Security Assistance Force.

Thus the Taliban plan to strike, said movement spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a mobile-phone interview. "If NATO uses this railroad to import their supplies we will attack them 100 percent, and we'll block the railroad," he said.

That may be difficult. The rail line passes west of the Pashtun districts in the north that the Taliban, a movement of ethnic Pashtuns, recently have taken over.

Ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks who live nearer the line are "not sympathetic," to the Taliban, said Zabi Wahab, a native of the region who is the business development manager at the Dubai- based Kefayat Group.

First Step

The Manila-based Asian Development Bank is paying $165 million, 97 percent of the line's cost, because "this is the first step of a development that will benefit the whole region" of Central Asia, Steffensen said in a telephone interview. The Afghan government is paying another $5 million.

More rail construction may follow. A separate line partly built by Iran into Afghanistan's northwest, plus two projects being studied by China and the development bank, could give north Afghanistan the shortest rail link yet from Central Asia to Iranian seaports, and the first standard-gauge line from the Pacific Ocean to Europe, said Steffensen and Farooqi.

A standard-gauge route would eliminate the need for trans-Asian trains to stop at the Chinese-Kazakh border and in Eastern Europe to change their wheel assemblies to fit the broader ex-Soviet rail gauge.

Beijing-based Metallurgical Corp. of China Ltd. agreed to help build a railway to export ore in 2007 when it won the license for Afghanistan~Rs biggest copper mine. Afghan and Chinese officials have discussed a route north through Tajikistan to western China, Farooqi said.

Oil and Gas

Reports show Afghanistan has more than 150 million barrels of oil reserves and more than 4.5 trillion cubic feet of gas, the U.S. Geological Survey says.

The first Afghan rail line may turn Mazar-e-Sharif, a city of more than 300,000 people, into an Afghan transport hub, promoting business development in the north that "is crucial to Afghanistan~Rs economic development and stabilization," said Anne Benjaminson, an economic officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Companies suffer as much as a month's delay in getting rail shipments transferred to trucks at the northern Afghan border town of Hairaton. Uzbekistan "often closes the border for two weeks at a time, saying it is because of congestion at Hairaton," said Wahab in a phone interview.

Trade at Hairaton is expected this year to reach 40,000 tons a month, Steffensen said. The greater efficiency of the railroad may boost demand for haulage across the border to 5,000 tons per day, according to the development bank.

Rail Bed

In northwest Afghanistan, Iran has built two-thirds of a 190-kilometer rail bed from the Iranian town of Khaf to the northwestern Afghan city of Herat. The Afghan government is seeking funds to build the rest, deputy public works minister Ahmad Shah Waheed said.

The development bank is funding technical surveys for a line of more than 700 kilometers (430 miles) to connect the two Afghan spurs under construction. That would offer the five, landlocked Central Asian countries -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which have a combined Malaysia-sized GDP of $187 billion-- their most direct trade route to Iran~Rs Gulf or Indian Ocean ports.

To contact the reporters on this story: Eltaf Najafizada in Kabul in Kabul at; James Rupert in New Delhi at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The terrifying threat of authenticity

Those in power would like everyone to hold ideas that they hold -- or at least claim to hold them. It is commonplace for governments to speak as if their representations of truth are indeed unproblematic. In fact, they fear and resent authentic witnessing and authentic expressions of opinion that conflict with those they promote. They are so terrified of it that they have often taken extreme measures to control it.

Clifford Levy reports that a Russian editor who was pressed to affirm that a beating he received by the police when caught participating in a demonstration was his own fault. That his beating was publicly reported was hugely threatening to the Russian establishment. Or so we surmise, for after being beaten the committee formed to investigate [only after the New York Times reported the beating] pressed him to take the blame for it. The only problem was that he recorded the six hour interrogation by the committee. See the whole article:

Good journalistic reporting -- which like all human endeavors can never be perfect or complete -- is costly and precious. Without it there can be no just society, no serious democracy. It will always be threatened.

Public claims contrary to those promoted by the power elite have always been a threat, and suppressed brutally. It goes back even to biblical times. This was Jeremiah's problem: For opposing the policies of the rulers of his time, advocating conciliation with the Babylonians rather than rebellion, he was threatened, put in stocks, and imprisoned in a well; and his book was burned.

It's an old game.

One source: "It's over" in Iran. Is it over for good?

Stephen Kinzer of Global Post reports [5/17/2010] that the mood in Iran is that the popular revolt against the government has lost steam and may be "over" as one person told him. Click on the title above for the original article, but here are some of the things that people told him when he went to Iran:

“All the interesting people I know are in jail,”

“I am very reluctant to put you in touch with people,” ...

“I am not worried about you at all; it is people who visit you that may be put in jeopardy. I am not being paranoid, it is just that the place has become very unpredictable. I cannot figure out the logic of who they pick up and why.”

“We don't like the government, but we cannot change it,” ... “They punish us when we protest. People are afraid.”

“Thirty-five percent of Iranians like this government and Ahmadinejad, ... “Twenty-five percent are against. The rest don't care."

“We can't do anything,” ... “If we do something, the police come and put us in jail. It is very tight here.”

“There are so many limitations on us — on our dress, our relations with boyfriends, our chances to have fun together,” ... . “We want to take off our head scarves, but it's not possible. All we can do is live and stay quiet.”

“I voted, but I don't believe my vote was counted,” ... “Many who voted last time won't vote next time. I'm one of them.”

“Intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan has brought nothing but death and suffering,” ... “We don't want that. Above all, we want to preserve peace in our country. We would rather live under a regime we don't like than one that is placed in power by foreigners.”

“What worries us is Pakistan,” ... “We don't have anything like the Taliban or Al Qaeda in Iran. Crazy fanatics are not going to take power here, but in Pakistan it could happen any day. We can't understand why the Americans allowed Pakistan to become a nuclear power but are so upset about Iran.”

“Nobody can prevent us from having democracy in our country,” .... “It is our wish and our right. But it will take time. You cannot change a very strong government in a few months.”

These statements reflect the diverse views of people Kinzer met by chance, but they reveal some of the sentiments in place now after a year of demonstrations and brutal government crackdowns. As Kinzer notes, government brutality pays, as it has for generations past. That of course says nothing about the human yearnings for something more, something more authentically just. So the world waits . . .

Some of us perversely insist that it will indeed come. . . .