An Afghan nomad kisses his young daughter while watching his herd in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan. In southern Helmand province, one of Afghanistan’s deadliest battlefields, angry residents say 11 years of war has brought them widespread insecurity. They say they are too afraid to go out after dark because of marauding bands of thieves and during the day corrupt police and government officials bully them into paying bribes. Development that was promised hasn’t materialized and the Taliban’s rule is often said to be preferred. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
So remember that time everyone was in a frenzy over Afghan protesters overreacting after an alleged “isolated” Quran burning with “no malicious intent”?
First female village chief in Afghanistan defies gender roles
In a male-dominated society that has for years been controlled by the ultra-conservative Taliban, the emergence of the first female village chief took everyone by surprise.
After being ridiculed by male villagers for wanting to occupy political office, Zarifa Qazizadah, the mother of 15 children, managed to become the mayor of Naw Abad, a village in the northern Balkh province.
Qazizadah’s political ambition started in 2004 when she told her mocking fellow villagers that she wanted to represent them and promised to supply Naw Abad with electricity.
“I am telling the men in my village that if they have any problems, I will talk to the government on their behalf and in case of any trouble at night, I will carry my gun and come to your houses to solve the problem,” she said.
Qazizadah added that she is willing to be disguised as a man and drive a motorcycle in the middle of the night if this will enable her to help her people.
She lost the 2004 elections but kept her promise as far as connecting the village to electricity is concerned. Two years later, the same men who ridiculed Qazizadah asked her to run for head of the village and she finally succeeded.
Currently, Qazizadah’s priority is guarding the electricity supply in Naw Abad and making sure there are no power thefts in the neighborhood.
“I cannot allow this to happen,” she said. “It is against the law.”
Qazizadah also kept her promise about handling problems that occur at night – she dons men’s clothes, gets on her motorcycle, and heads to where the trouble is. According to her, disguise is better in a conservative society that would be shocked to see a woman on a motorcycle late at night.
Qazizadah also uses her own field tractor to tow cars that break down in the middle of the road or get stuck in the mud.
“She does things men are incapable of,” said Mulawi Sayed Mohamed, one of the villagers.
Reopening Nato supply: Pakistan's Justification for a $5,000 fee per container
ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan and the United States make some headway in bilateral talks, Islamabad’s demand for $5,000 per container for transporting goods to Afghanistan through its territory remains the biggest stumbling block.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has ruled out paying Pakistan this amount, but officials familiar with the talks say Islamabad’s demand is “neither irrational nor out of the blue.”
The supplies made to Isaf and Nato forces stationed in Afghanistan have ruined Pakistan’s road infrastructure over the last nine years of cooperation, they added.
The infrastructure was used for eight years without paying any charges. In the ninth year, the US started paying a nominal handling fee of $220 per container to National Logistic Cell – the army’s logistics arm, officials said. Terming Pakistan’s demand as “extortion,” Senator John McCain, a former Republican presidential aspirant, had claimed that the US was paying $250 per container to Pakistan.
The US can’t just continue to not acknowledge the cost its wars have on other countries and expect unconditional support without anything in return.
Roads in Pakistan can withstand ten years of normal traffic, but a single NATO container causes the damage of 1500-2000 cars. This has resulted in $1.6 billion worth of damage to Pakistan’s infrastructure, not to mention the costs incurred from scanning, inspection and examination of the supplies, environmental impact, and port services. Also worth noting: the alternate route would cost double the amount Pakistan is asking.
Afghan villagers pray over the grave of one of the 16 victims killed in a shooting rampage in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province, on March 24, 2012. Mohammad Wazir has trouble even drinking water now, because it reminds him of the last time he saw his 7-year-old daughter. He had asked his wife for a drink but his daughter insisted on fetching it. Now his daughter Masooma is dead, killed along with 10 other members of his family in a shooting rampage attributed to a U.S. soldier. The soldier faces the death penalty but Wazir and his neighbors say they feel irreparably broken. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)
From The Atlantic’s March 2012 collection of images from Afghanistan.
"They guaranteed no civilians would be killed again, but we don’t believe them any more."-Haji Mehboob, an elderly resident of Kandahar who found three of his family members wounded after the recent shooting spree in Afghanistan. Six years ago, a US bombing that killed several Taliban members also killed at least 50 civilians.
This absence of perspective reveals the cultural ignorance that has turned recent US foreign interventions into political catastrophes. I, too, come from an Abrahamic religion, Judaism, which shares strong roots with Islam. In both faiths, sacred texts are treated as if they are, in a sense, living beings. Jews, too, give them “burials’ when they are too old to use, and treat them ritualistically while they are “alive,” using silver pointers to avoid profaning them with human hands, dressing them in velvet jackets, and kissing them when they fall to the ground.
Burning a conquered people’s sacred texts sends an unmistakable message: you can do anything to these people. As Heinrich Heine put it, referring to the Spanish Inquisition‘s burning of the Koran, “Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings.” Jews understand that very well: from the Inquisition to Cossack massacres to Kristallnacht, the aggressors destroyed Torahs as a logical and well-understood precursor to destroying Jews.
The third blind spot is almost too painful to bear having to address – which, on a charitable interpretation, might explain why not one mainstream US media report has done so: the burnings were not carried out on some street in Kabul, but at Bagram. That is, Korans were burned at a US facility that meets the dictionary definition of a concentration camp." -Naomi Wolf, America’s Islamic Blind Spots
A displaced Afghan boy from Helmand province stands in a refugee camp in Kabul, on February 7, 2012. A new report by Amnesty International says that every day hundreds of Afghans join the ranks of half a million displaced by fighting and natural disaster. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)
Oh, those barbaric brown people, murdering our heroic soldiers over burnt pieces of paper! We shouldn’t have to apologize for their ignorance; I’m so sick of having to bend over backwards for these people who are always trying to kill us.
Comments like these always pop up after Quran burnings. And I don’t know if it stems from willful arrogance or actual ignorance, but I just can’t wrap my head around that frame of mind.
If you’re sick of people who supposedly have a desire to destroy us, imagine how sick you’d be if you were a civilian in one of the countries that has suffered from our appalling foreign policy over the last century… perhaps in one of 50 in which we have attempted to overthrow governments, or one of the 20 in which we have attempted to suppress populist or nationalist movements, or in one of the 69 in which we have dropped bombs.
Consider the fact that we’ve killed at least 288,000 Muslims over the last 30 years alone. And that’s an unbelievably conservative estimate; the vast majority put the number at well over one million. That means for every American life lost, we’ve killed 100 Muslims in other countries.
And to those who, in response to Quran burnings, say so what, it’s just a book, that’s beside the point. Our opinions as privileged Americans are irrelevant. The fact that we don’t place as much importance on a book doesn’t matter.
What matters is that these Qurans were important to the people whose country we are occupying — the same people whose families we’re killing, whose homes we’re destroying, and whose nation we’re shattering. And if we can’t even show one ounce of respect for what they hold dearest, something so sacred to them that they cleanse themselves before touching, then I don’t understand why we’re so surprised when terror plots show up on our shores.
U.S. drones targeting rescuers and mourners
Assertions that US drone strikes have sometimes targeted funerals and wedding parties are old news, but this excellent piece by Glenn Greenwald adds concrete evidence to the mix. It centers around a new amply documented report that demonstrates the use of American tactics which are almost certainly war crimes, and it’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time.
On December 30 of last year, ABC News reported on a 16-year-old Pakistani boy, Tariq Khan, who was killed with his 12-year-old cousin when a car in which he was riding was hit with a missile fired by a U.S. drone. As I noted at the time, the report contained this extraordinary passage buried in the middle:
Asked for documentation of Tariq and Waheed’s deaths, Akbar did not provide pictures of the missile strike scene. Virtually none exist, since drones often target people who show up at the scene of an attack.
What made that sentence so amazing was that it basically amounts to a report that the U.S. first kills people with drones, then fires on the rescuers and others who arrive at the scene where the new corpses and injured victims lie.
In a just-released, richly documented report, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, on behalf of the Sunday Times, documents that this is exactly what the U.S. is doing — and worse:
The CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals, an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times has revealed.
The findings are published just days after President Obama claimed that the drone campaign in Pakistan was a “targeted, focused effort” that “has not caused a huge number of civilian casualties”… .
A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.
Although the drone attacks were started under the Bush administration in 2004, they have been stepped up enormously under Obama.
There have been 260 attacks by unmanned Predators or Reapers in Pakistan by Obama’s administration – averaging one every four days. (more)
Afghan children play on a frozen lake in Kabul, on January 18, 2012. The heavy snowfalls that have blanketed large parts of Afghanistan, killing at least 20 people, could end a long-running drought that last summer threatened millions of people with severe food shortages, government and aid officials said. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani)