US Good Cop, Israel Bad Cop

US-supplied Israeli Cluster Munitions.  Photo by HRW.In its bombing of Lebanon last summer, the Israeli military liberally sprinkled the notoriously deadly cluster bombs throughout populated areas. The funny thing is, the United States is now saying that “Israel violated American prohibitions” on the use of the weapons “against populated areas.” Why is the Bush administration showing such concern over Israel’s use of US-supplied weapons, even suggesting sanctions?[1]

The bombs, each of which spreads 88 submunitions over a large area, are nearly always used to terrorize civilian populations, since their imprecision makes them hard to target. Furthermore, their up to 14% failure rate turns 12/88 of them into future landmines when fleeing civilians return to a war-strewn area. So the weapons are universally condemned by human rights groups.

I don’t believe the critique of Israel is serious. Washington itself uses cluster munitions all the time. In fact all its major recent military operations – the US/NATO attack on the former Yugoslavia, the US invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iraq war – featured civilian deaths due to cluster bombs. According to Human Rights Watch,

the use of cluster munitions in populated areas in Iraq caused more civilian casualties than any other factor in the U.S.-led coalition’s conduct of major military operations in March and April 2003, killing and wounding more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians. Roughly a quarter of the 500 civilian deaths caused by NATO bombing in the 1999 Yugoslavia war were also due to cluster munitions.[2]

It is likely there won’t be any real action against Israel other than the current “preliminary finding” that Israel “may have violated” US law. The New York Times says, “Any sanctions against Israel would be an extraordinary move by the Bush administration, a strong backer of Israel, and several officials said they expected little further action, if any, on the matter.”

Still, even a pretend-critique of Israel’s conduct of the war is more than usual, and I’m not exactly sure where this is coming from. It’s possible that there are a few elements of the Administration that don’t agree with what has been standard US policy for decades, namely using Israel as a tool of US foreign policy in the Middle East and backing Israel without question when it behaves brutally (like its mentor).

Or maybe this is just the standard “good cop/bad cop” routine, where the scary Israeli military (which would be nothing without Washington’s support) is counterbalanced by a more reasonable US State Department to try to coerce the Lebanese people into accepting US stewardship. Clearly, Washington sees the current turmoil in Lebanon between its friends in the government and the extremely popular Hizbollah and other Shiite movements as a test of its ability to trump Iran as the biggest influence in Lebanon. According to the Associated Press, “[Prime Minister Faoud] Saniora stands between the West and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants trying to bring down his government.” The recent Western donor’s conference that pledged $7.6 Billion for Saniora’s government “had an urgent tone, with some diplomats and leaders hoping to give Saniora tangible bargaining power in his power struggle with Hezbollah.”[3]

So maybe this tepid and hypocritical “outcry” against Israeli brutalities is another attempt to persuade the Lebanese people that George W. Bush is On Their Side.

US Causes its own Problems in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is in a horrible state, by any measure. From the increasing power of fundamentalist extremist groups, to rising poverty, rising opium exports, a rising number of suicide and other attacks on foreign troops or Afghan government infrastructure, the people of Afghanistan will not see relief any time soon. More and more international criticism is rightly blaming the foreign troops supposedly there to help build a safer, secure country.

Billions of dollars are being spent on more foreign troops to do so-called peacekeeping under NATO or to hunt terrorists under the US’s Operation Enduring Freedom. This only worsens the situation. According to the Senlis Council, an Afghan/European think tank, “Operation Enduring Freedom and the related militaristic counter-narcotics policies are significant contributors to the current state of war in Kandahar and the other southern provinces” where the Taliban are the strongest. Really, the NATO “peacekeeping” mission that is painted as something different from the hunt for anti-US elements is really not that different, since there’s “no peace to keep,” according to Senlis.[1]

The Council points to three main issues contributing to the anti-US and anti-Karzai insurgency: poverty, drugs, and insecurity. All of these are being responded to by the US in such a way as to worsen the situation.

On poverty “little has been achieved” since the US toppled the Taliban in 2001. This is because little has been done, and an extremely tiny proportion of foreign money has been spent on programs for the poor of Afghanistan. Since “[t]he basic needs of the local population are not being met” the predictable consequence is that “the population is giving its support back to the Taliban and other local power-holders.”

On Drugs, the US tactic of choice has been forced eradication. Senlis states that, “this ineffective counter-narcotics policy…has intensified the local power games.” Since warlords and Taliban factions allow the cultivation of poppies by poor farmers, many Afghans are shifting their support back to such groups.

On Security, “the current state of war has been triggered by the very interventions which were intended to counteract the Taliban and Al Qaeda.” These interventions have featured an “aggressive international military presence” and “lack of respect and understanding for the local communities.” International military responses to insurgent attacks are “largely ineffective,” and appear to lack “any learning process.” These tactics “have in fact exacerbated the dynamics (in particular the support of the Taliban in [Kandahar] province) that initially brought the international community to Kandhahar.”

There is no sign that the US or its protege Hamid Karzai are changing their approach. The international troops are still conducting hunts for so-called terrorists, which the New York Times calls “a disastrous approach to counterinsurgency warfare.”[2] And Karzai continues to give carrots to extremists and warlords (appointing them to cabinet, to the justice ministry, the parliament, allowing the reinstatement of the Commission on the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue), but doing nothing to combat the very dire crisis of poverty, inadequate health care, insecurity, and poor access to education. It’s hard to blame him, since it’s only the Afghan people who want him to deal with these problems, and they have no money. The people with the real power in Washington, London, Ottawa, and at the UN, who can actually support the solutions financially, the ones who should put vast sums of money into programs for the people that go beyond helping run elections, instead tell Karzai the military campaign (of which there is “no end in sight”) is extending his authority.[3] If they had any brains they would realize that it is precisely this “support” that is causing his increasingly bad reputation with his people.[4]

Funds should be diverted away from the military buildup, and the US, UK, Canada, and their allies should stop using their troops against the Afghan people. It’s time to repay Afghans for all the suffering they’ve endured in the name of fighting the West’s battles against “communism” in the 1980s and “terrorism” in the 1990s and 2000s.

OK to offend Muslims, not USA

Luckovich Cartoon

Guess what? It’s okay for Danish Christians to print racist anti-Muslim cartoons, but cartoons critical of well-documented US torture are “a disgrace” and require an apology. Mike Luckovich’s 22 June political cartoon in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (reprinted above) depicts an American torturer, giving lessons in “torture etiquette” to an Al Qaeda torturer. According to the newspaper’s public editor Angela Tuck, the cartoon resulted in a powerful “backlash,” with 90% of 18,000 readers disapproving of the piece in an online poll. Tuck all but apologized for the publication of the cartoon, saying it was “ill-timed,” since it was published alongside photos of the mangled remains of two US servicemembers who had been tortured and killed in Iraq. Luckovich himself apparently “believes now that allowing some distance between the murders of Tucker and Menchaca [the mutilated US soldiers] and the cartoon’s publication would have been better.” [1]

One reader wrote in to the Cumberland Times of Maryland/West Virginia, which also carried the Luckovich piece, saying the paper’s editorial staff has “reached a new low.”

I believe in freedom of the press, but I also believe that it comes with a responsibility to print the truth, and also to maintain some measure of character, class, and dignity…[W]e have more than our share of families who currently have loved ones “in harm’s way” still fighting, as all of those other veterans have done down through history, to protect the rights of you and your staff to be mouth breathing, drooling, idiots whenever you choose. What a disgrace! You should all be ashamed. When you guys awake from your collective moronic stupor, you owe all of us an apology. [2]

An advertiser to the Journal-Constitution, the Mercedes-Benz dealership RBM of Atlanta, printed a full page ad apologizing for Luckovich’s cartoon. The ad reads in part:

To Our Clients: We are sorry!

While we strongly affirm the right of free speech, the June 22, 2006 Mike Luckovich cartoon depicting the U.S. as torturers on par with Al-Qaida was very offensive to us. Moreover, to publish this cartoon directly above the pictures of the two brave men who gave their lives, willingly, and were tortured and mutilated in service to their country (and each of us) is unacceptable.[3]

The Hawaii Reporter published an op-ed by Jeff Emmanuel that finds “revolting” the “hinting at moral equivalence between the U.S. and bloodthirsty terrorists.” Emmanuel considers this “another shot in the mainstream media’s seemingly unending battle to blur the moral line between America and the brutal, barbaric enemy we are facing.” According to him, “America DOES NOT torture prisoners, and America DOES NOT target civilians; no nation in history has been more of a global force for good than America.” [4]

Remember the Western pontifications in favor of the free speech rights of newspapers that wanted to publish the Jyllands-Posten anti-Muslim cartoons, one of which shows the Prophet with a bomb for a turban? [5] Some considered those cartoons racist, since they painted all Muslims as terrorists [6]

Many commentators thought the cartoons deserved to be printed, and many publishers did so, simply to make a point about freedom of speech, or because the cartoons were “news.” The Hawaii Reporter published an op-ed by Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Institute, that described a “fear of criticizing Islam,” and expressed contempt for governments that took offense at the cartoons. According to Ghate, governments should instead “defend our freedom of speech by force,” because “an individual’s freedom of speech is sacrosanct, no matter who screams offense at his ideas.”[7] Ghate rightly criticized the death threats that were issued by ultra-conservative clerics and others, but his disdain seemed to encompass all Muslims who demonstrated against the cartoons, as if nonviolent protest was not also covered by free speech rights.

The two cartoon controversies are not equivalent. Here are some significant differences:

  1. Some of the anti-Muslim cartoons are racist, painting an entire group of people with a negative stereotype; the Luckovich cartoon could only be said to generalize US military policy
  2. The anti-Muslim cartoons were drawn by non-Muslims, outside of the criticized community; Luckovich is a member of the society he is criticizing
  3. The anti-Muslim cartoons, being racist, are by definition false; the truth of the Luckovich cartoon is at least worth debating

I think point 3 is important. The Jyllands-Posten cartoons were not designed to inspire debate on the merits of violent resistance (for example), only to insult Muslims. Luckovich’s cartoon, on the other hand, should be debated. Does the US torture prisoners? Is it any better than Al Qaeda in that regard? Emmanuel’s claim that “no nation in history has been more of a global force for good” is an attempt to stifle the debate that the people of this country need to have about the role of the US in the world. His statement that “America does not torture prisoners” hurts his credibility and calls into question the rest of his argument against the printing of Luckovich’s cartoon.[8]

Proxy Soldiers of Soccer

Soccer Ball with Hammer and Sickle At the risk of alienating over half of the planet, I’d like to state my distaste for the wave of football fervor that has overtaken the small part of the world with which I am familiar, and most likely much of the rest of humanity as well.

Imagine my surprise to find that people with otherwise reasonable political analyses extolling the political significance of soccer. I want to emphasize that, despite my own personal dislike for sports, I do not believe there is anything wrong with people enjoying watching great athletes compete, or doing it themselves. But hearing that the political side to football extends beyond its corporate ownership is too much. (I urge readers to check out Daniel Gross’ “The Capitalism of Soccer” for an interesting analysis of how the business of European soccer is much more capitalist than US-style football.[1] )

Toronto-based Simon Black wrote “A Socialist’s Guide to the World Cup”[2] , in which he states that, “In many countries, soccer is a terrain of political and ideological struggle like the media or the education system.” He goes on to give examples of how current political issues in a given country or pair of countries make the soccer games more relevant. For example, Black mentions the powerful psychological boost a football victory against a colonizer can give the people of a colonized country:

[A]nytime a former colony goes up against its colonizer, far more than just a game is at stake.

Long independent, the nations of Togo, Trinidad and Angola will face their colonizers in the first round of World Cup 2006. Both soccer minnows, a victory for Togo or Trinidad will set off waves of celebration in the home country.

Yet the Angola versus Portugal match is arguably the most exciting and politically stimulating of the first round. Angola waged a brutal struggle for independence against Portuguese rule (and later against U.S. and South African influence) gaining independence in 1975. Angolans will be hoping their team rises above the favoured Portuguese in a game that will be charged with political symbolism.

Does this mean that, if the former colony loses the soccer game, the colonizer was somehow justified? Soccer players must be under a lot of pressure, having to live up to all the expectations of fans expecting them to fight for a socialist/fascist/anti-colonial cause. Why should a bunch of athletes playing a game be forced to represent anything but themselves and their teammates?

I guess I just don’t get it. There is always going to be something irrational and consciously inexplicable about enjoying games, or any form of “impractical” human activity like music, or surfing the web. There is no need to rationalize it politically. Not everything we do or enjoy has to be “politically positive,” does it? It seems like leftists who endorse the political interpretation of soccer are playing out their fantasies using other people as “cannon fodder” since they feel powerless against their political enemies under ordinary circumstances. The soccer team becomes a sort of proxy to fight one’s battles. Unfortunately the battle is not going to change anything. I hate to break it to football fans: after the soccer game, the world will still be the same as it was before the game.

Linknotes:

  1. Slate
  2. Rabble

Central Asia Pipeline Cold War Heats Up

I really admire Stephen Colbert; he used his comic license to make a laughing-stock out of the Bush administration and the mostly compliant press, its stupidity, and its hypocrisy.[1] Unfortunately, we don’t need a Colbert to get comedy out of the US government.

Kazakhstan Map

For example, take Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent visit to the former Soviet Union. At one point in his trip, he lambasted Russia for using hydrocarbon resources as “tools of intimidation or blackmail.”[2] Cheney also said he had a problem with Russia “resist[ing] the development of strong democracies” and backsliding on its own democratic development.

The next day he visited Kazakhstan to promote an oil pipeline route to Western Europe that bypasses Russia, a scheme the Financial Times calls one of many “counters in a geopolitical chess game playing out between the US, Russia and China for control over one of the world’s last undeveloped oil and gas basins.”[3] Glen Howard of the Jamestown Foundation told the FT that Cheney’s visit amounted to “planting a big American flag in central Asia. We are flexing our muscles a little bit.” Russia intimidates and blackmails, America plants flags and flexes muscles.

In Kazakhstan, Cheney reiterated his critique of Russia’s oil policy and (lack of) commitment to democracy, standing next to President Nazarbayev, a man who won 90 per cent of the vote in December elections. According to the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), “the election did not meet a number of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections.” The OSCE report on the elections cited a number of problems, including “undue involvement of the authorities in the election campaign, undue restrictions on campaigning, cases of harassment of campaign staff and an atmosphere of intimidation.”[4] Kazakhstan was described in the US State Department’s 2006 Human Rights Report as a country that places “severe limits on citizens’ rights to change their government,”[5]

But the country has strong US backing, and is therefore, by definition, a “democracy.” Cheney expressed his “admiration for what has transpired here in Kazakhstan over the last 15 years. Both in terms of economic development, as well as political development.”[6] Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher explained that Kazakhstan was important because it “is emerging as a world leader in oil and gas production.” It is a country in which “U.S. companies have invested heavily … and would like to do more.”[7]

The best the media could do in response was sadly regret the fact that Cheney’s human rights claims wouldn’t be taken seriously. The International Herald Tribune lamented:

There was a time when a strong statement from Washington in support of human rights and democratic behavior carried real authority. But of late the human-rights record of this U.S. administration has seriously eroded its moral authority, and Cheney is closely associated with some of its most offensive policies.[8]

The IHT agreed with everything Cheney said about Russia, but worried that “spearing Russia while flirting with its even more undemocratic neighbors does confuse the message, to put it mildly, especially when done by a vice president closely identified with oil interests.” In other words, it was OK to hypocritically criticize Russia, but not by Cheney while in Kazakhstan. I agree that the exact combination of overlapping hypocrisies was more farcical than anything Colbert could have written, but I despise this IHT sentiment.

Someone please remind me when Washington ever “carried real authority” when it came to human rights.

The United States of Failure

Failed States Global Index What is a “failed state”? I never liked the label, since it is usually used to ostracize poor defenseless countries and provide excuses to invade them. But a recent Fund for Peace/Foreign Policy study suggests that some people are beginning to apply the label a bit more universally.

According to the study,

a failing state is one in which the government does not have effective control of its territory, is not perceived as legitimate by a significant portion of its population, does not provide domestic security or basic public services to its citizens, and lacks a monopoly on the use of force. [1]

In the 2006 ranking, some might be surprised to find, the US was actually ranked 18th from the bottom (“bottom” meaning least-failing state, in this case Norway). That is, the country that supposedly “promotes democracy” in “failed states” was considered to be in worse shape than Chile, Singapore, or Ireland. According to the study, a lot of this had to do with the US government response to Hurricane Katrina.

…Hurricane Katrina exposed gaping holes in the country’s disaster preparedness. Viewers around the world watched in astonishment last August and September as the world’s superpower left thousands of its citizens stranded for days.[2]

But Katrina can’t be the whole story, since the report also cited “Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines,” i.e., the huge wealth gap, “Mounting Demographic Pressures,” perhaps due to the influx of labor from across the border, and “widespread” human rights violations.

The study of course doesn’t go far enough, failing to comment on the fact that the United States, in addition to failing its own people, has been spreading state failure around the world, or at least contributing decisively to it. In the top ten failing states are Iraq (4th), Haiti (8th), Pakistan (9th), and Afghanistan (10th).[3] Two of these countries were invaded and occupied by US forces after 9/11 and endured a US-sponsored “regime change,” one is an ongoing victim of US “democracy promotion,” and the other is a longtime US ally against “terrorism.”

Many of us recall that the “failed state” label was often invoked when US policymakers needed a justification for intervention in the 1990s and after 9/11. I noticed it a lot around the invasion of Afghanistan. While the current situation in Afghanistan is not completely a product of post-9/11 US policy, many of the armed warlords and drug lords – who control much of the land and fill the parliament, making it difficult for the pseudo-democratic government to have any control – are a product of CIA programs of the 1980s and early 1990s. These same programs contributed to the rise of fundamentalism in bordering Pakistan, the CIA’s primary ally in building the Afghan resistance. Some of today’s major “state failures,” if they can be called that, are Washington’s.

The May 1 Demonstrations

Los Angeles Immigrant Boycott Morning March, Photo by S. Kolhatkar

It had to be seen to be believed. There were at least half a million people on the streets in downtown Los Angeles on Monday. It was the biggest demonstration I’ve ever been to. The United States is certainly not used to such a degree of mobilization these days.

The first thing that strikes someone like me who may have missed the 60s and the 80s, (heck, I didn’t go to my first demonstration until the late 90s), is that the people marching are mostly families. These are people who realize that their lives and the lives of their loved ones depend on what they’re doing.

Los Angeles Immigrant Boycott Afternoon March, Photo by J. Ingalls

The second thing that struck me was the breadth of the politics of the people present. The majority of the people there were fighting for basic rights and dignity, an end to criminalization of the undocumented worker. To judge by their signs and proud US flag-waving, most didn’t go beyond the extremist Sensenbrenner bill (which would make undocumented workers felons) in their criticisms of the US government.[1]

At the same time, some did. And when you’re talking half a million people, “some” amounts to tens of thousands. This was especially true at the more radical morning march, organized as a boycott, or general strike (the evening march was intended to be less controversial, less threatening to those in power). There were people calling for general amnesty for all undocumented workers. There were Latinos who made the point that their ancestors on the continent (and in many cases in California) pre-dated most of the ancestors of current white US citizens. For someone used to seeing a few thousands of marginalized people at a demonstration, it was refreshing to see such a broad spectrum finding common cause.

The tenor of the movement is certainly “mainstream.” Its core demands have not yet seriously challenged US power, even though the simple act of getting people on the streets in such large numbers demonstrated that the movement is potentially a powerful force in national politics. In fact, the demands of some of the people there (such as the “guest worker” program promoted in the Kennedy/McCain bill[2] are favorable to US elites. Those calling for something more do not yet seem to represent the mainstream of the movement, although we certainly could see a radicalization in the future. My guess is right now, this movement is pretty representative of the spectrum of political views in the Latino immigrant community, like any real democratic movement should be.

My Grandmother

Me and Grandma Rose Sarkisian

I’ve been out of touch for over a month now, so I apologize to those who might have been interested in my thoughts on current events. My grandmother who I was very close to became very sick and then passed away on April 2. I was in Boston helping to take care of her and being with the family and helping with funeral arrangements for a little over two weeks at the end of March and beginning of April. After that, I just didn’t have the courage to write about anything in a public forum like this.

I was lucky enough to be allowed to say some words at her wake. Encapsulating her significance to me and saying it to the extended family really helped me begin to come to terms with her death, although the process is by no means over.

My grandmother was my mother’s mother, so her Italian heritage and Armenian last name (my mother’s father was Armenian) don’t show up in my Anglo-sounding last name. She had been through a lot in her life. She grew up in the Great Depression, worked in a factory in World War II, and raised four kids in the 1950s and 1960s after my grandfather died of cancer in 1957. Her second husband was by all accounts physically abusive to her and she left him in the early 1970s when I was a couple years old. She worked at a drycleaners up until 1983, when she retired at age 70. Despite her hardships, for the 37 years I’d known her (she was 92 when she died) she was the most generous and kind woman I had ever known. She was humble, in both her attitude and financially. Her real wealth was her family and friends, who loved her dearly. Even though she lived alone, she saw or spoke to her children or grandchildren every day, and spent hours a day in the TV room with her fellow tenants at her apartment.

My grandmother had two traits which I think may have had an influence on my own behavior. First, she demanded personal independence. After two heart attacks she insisted on living alone in her apartment. Even in the last year of her life, after she broke her hip and had it replaced last summer, she was adamant that she would walk again and move back into her apartment, which she finally did a couple of months ago, although the last months in and out of hospitals were not easy. Secondly, she couldn’t resist someone in need. Despite the fact that she was living off Social Security in government-subsidized housing, she donated to multiple charities when moved by their appeals, which happened often.

I didn’t mean to write so much about Grandma, since this is a “personal” subject and does not fall under “political analysis.” I was actually going to write about the May 1 immigrant boycott in Los Angeles. But then I started thinking of the families surrounding me and filling the streets yesterday, and it reminded me of my own immigrant roots, reminded me that both my grandmother and grandfather (on my mother’s side) were children of immigrant parents like these LA residents. My wife is an immigrant; so many of my friends are immigrants. Sometimes I have to think hard to understand why this issue is so controversial.

Thoughts on Being a Man

It’s International Women’s Day 2006 and men still get a free ride. Women still do most of the world’s work, and much of the most important, most difficult work is done by women, at great cost to themselves. So many men who could use their privelege to work in solidarity with women and push their societies towards more justice remain silent, speak diplomatically, or conform to expectations. At the same time I am amazed at how many women take chances and speak out.

Malalai Joya in Los Angeles
I was lucky to spend some time with Malalai Joya (pictured here), who is in the US for a few weeks on a speaking tour. She is the only person in Afghanistan’s Parliament who is willing to speak the truth about her warlord colleagues. She has had her life threatened time and again, but she refuses to back down or compromise. My partner Sonali Kolhatkar and I met her in her office in Farah, Afghanistan in February 2005, and again in Los Angeles for the beginning of her US tour, which Sonali organized. Her bravery and tenacity and integrity are only matched by her courtesy and humility. Few men anywhere have done what Malalai Joya has done. She says she does her work on behalf of the silenced majority of Afghanistan. When asked why she ran for Parliament, Malalai said,

it was not really my decision. Hundreds of people from Farah and other provinces continuously insisted that I run for Parliament. I was intending to decline from running because I believe that the Parliament will never bring anything positive for the nation. But my supporters kept saying “your voice at the Loya Jirga gave us a hope that there is at least one who understands our suffering. Now we want you once again to be the voice of voiceless at Parliament.” I couldn’t help but accept the honor to be the voice of my oppressed nation in a Parliament dominated by criminal warlords.

I will feel satisfied if I succeed in exposing the real nature of the current parliament and informing the Afghan people from within the Parliament that the criminals sitting here make laws for the benefit of the rich, the drug traffickers, warlords, and high level bureaucrats, and against the aspirations of the down-trodden masses.[1]

In all my years as a man I have not really challenged my own privelege in a serious way. I allow myself the luxury of being a scientist, following up my curiosity with respect to nature. As a man I had the privelege to receive training and encouragement to follow that career in the first place. I write about political issues in my spare time “when I get the chance.” I have the freedom to decide when and how to do so. Meanwhile my wife, an immigrant and woman of color, produces a radio program every day, putting herself on the front lines with her words, bringing radical voices to the airwaves and bringing an activist message to audiences around the country. Like most men, I play it safe; like a surprising number of women, she takes chances. Sometimes I feel ashamed – a constructive emotion if it provokes action.

International Women’s Day should be a day to reflect on our roles in perpetuating male privelege, and looking for ways to join women’s movements in an effort to end it.

Pakistan Drives Thousands from Homes for US

People Flee Miran Shah - Photo by Inam Khan, AP About ten thousand ethnic Pashtuns were forced to leave their homes when Pakistani forces attacked the village of Miran Shah in North Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan. Over 100 have been killed, labeled “militants” by the press, although opposition parliamentarian Imran Khan described the operation as a “massacre of our citizens” by “indiscriminate force.” The operation began two days before President Bush visited Pakistan, and continued throughout his trip, “fueling speculation Pakistan was flexing its military muscle in the border regions to signal its commitment to the U.S.-led war on terrorism.”[1]

Mohammed Anwar, a resident who fled the fighting, told AP, “We were waiting for the day. It was fighting all night and we feared that we might be hit by fire from a helicopter.”[2] Noor Nawaz, another villager, said, “People are extremely scared. Nobody has slept. Children were crying.”[3]

Bashirullah Khan of Associated Press described the scene:

On Sunday, Miran Shah’s streets and bazaars were empty. Smoke billowed from a bank building hit by an artillery shell. Another shell tore a hole in the home of a doctor who lived on the premises of a state-run hospital. Shells also pocked the side of the hospital. Both sides were using mortars and other heavy weapons, and it wasn’t known who hit the buildings.[4]

Col. Jim Yonts praised the Pakistani action. “We see this as a very positive move. This issue in Waziristan is an example that they are fighting the war on terrorism.”[5] The government attacks were made with “US-built Cobra gunships,” according to the Taipei Times.[6]
With the new US-Pakistan “Strategic Partnership” we can look forward to more government strikes against villages and internal displacements of this kind.[7]

As the fighting went on, the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan traded public insults regarding how to fight the “war on terror.”[8] Hamid Karzai’s government in Kabul claims that the semiautonomous tribal belt that is officially part of Pakistan is where anti-US and anti-Karzai forces have their “safe haven.” Pervez Musharraf’s government in Islamabad responds that Karzai’s intelligence is faulty and recommends fencing the border regions to stop militants from crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan.[9] Both in their way are playing a game of showing to their benefactor in Washington that they are “doing something” about terrorism, but Karzai’s claims are closer to the truth. The Miran Shah fighting underscores this.

An escalating series of suicide and other attacks against Afghan government activities and support forces, including US and other foreign troops, has originated from the border regions throughout 2005 and into 2006. It is an open secret that the Pakistani government, with US support, has encouraged (or in more recent years turned a blind eye to) the rise in fundamentalism in its semiautonomous tribal belt, to support military operations in Afghanistan. Such operations backed the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and then kept the Taliban regime well stocked in the 1990s.

Nothing seriously has changed since the fall of the Taliban in Kabul. In fact, according to Asia Times, North Waziristan has been declared an “Islamic State” by the Taliban, who are extremely powerful, and even somewhat popular in that region.

By taking control of virtually all of Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan, the Taliban have gained a significant base from which to wage their resistance against US-led forces in Afghanistan. At the same time, the development solidifies the anti-US resistance groups in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, which will now fight under a single strategy.[10]

The ordinary people of the region are as usual caught in the middle. Maulana Abdul Malik, a cleric and member of parliament from neighboring South Waziristan, told the Washington Post, “Scores of innocent civilians have been killed to earn a medal from America. This campaign will turn every tribesman into an anti-Musharraf and anti-U.S. militant.”[11]