Thursday, June 03, 2010

Conflicted feelings about our "friends"

I've said plenty about how conflicted Pakistan is, and in fact, how conflicted the Muslim world is but it turns out that as I reflect on the situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, places I care about and worry about, I am no less confused and conflicted myself. From one point of view, I support the war in Afghanistan/ Pakistan; I think it matters plenty [and I will soon present something about that]. But at the same time I grieve for the ways that the peoples and governments of these countries tolerate and even encourage the abuse of their own populations, abuses that are simply inexcusable.

So here is the other side of my view:

These countries as currently constituted are allowing and cultivating policies that makes support for them unpalatable. The United States and its NATO allies are investing heavily in a war in Afghanistan and Pakistan while the governments of these two countries demonstrate repeatedly an inability to defend and protect conventions of behavior that are taken to be essential and fundamental in the United States and Europe.

This is what we have heard in the news in recent days.
• Afghan Girls as young as 13 have been forced into marriage, and when they have run away even the police turn them back. Two of them were not only forced to return but flogged when brought back.
“Disguised in boys’ clothes, the girls, ages 13 and 14, had been fleeing for two days along rutted roads and over mountain passes to escape their illegal, forced marriages to much older men, and now they had made it to relatively liberal Herat Province. Instead, the police officer spotted them as girls, ignored their pleas and promptly sent them back to their remote village in Ghor Province. There they were publicly and viciously flogged for daring to run away from their husbands.”

• There is a new social ferment in Kabul over the publication of a video showing some Afghans who have been meeting secretly in Christian worship. Students at the university have been demonstrating, calling for these people to be killed. A member of Parliament declared,
"Those Afghans that appeared in this video film should be executed in public, the house should order the attorney general and the NDS (intelligence agency) to arrest these Afghans and execute them."
Popular sentiment on the street, according to live television interviews, agrees. [Rah-e Nejat, June 2, 2010; International Christian Concern, June 2, 2010]

• The Pakistan government has been cultivating radical Islamist groups who are fighting the American and Nato soldiers in Afghanistan. Now that it is clear even to the Pakistanis that those Islamists are bent on overturning the Pakistani government the government lacks the commitment and possibly the means to restrain them. The great surprise is how long it has taken for them even to admit what they have been doing to their "friends" [the US/Nato] and to themselves.
“Days after one of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan, a senior Pakistani official declared in a surprising public admission that extremist groups were entrenched in the southern portion of the nation’s most populous province, underscoring the growing threats to the state. … The statements by the interior minister, Rehman Malik, after the killing of more than 80 people at two mosques last week here in Lahore, were exceptional because few Pakistani politicians have acknowledged so explicitly the deep roots of militancy in Pakistan. They also highlighted the seeming impotence of the civilian government to root out the militant groups, even in Punjab Province, providing a troubling recognition that decades of state policy to nurture extremism had come home to roost in the very heart of the country.”

This is what our troops are risking life and limb for.

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