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After the Latest U.S. Airstrike, Can Anyone Wonder Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us? May 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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In the eyes of the children whose families die in U.S. led wars, the Americans are the terrorists.

Posted by Liliana Segura, AlterNet at 2:23 PM on May 8, 2009.

About a half-hour north of Jalalabad, the children along the road change. No waving. No smiling. No thumbs up. No screaming for candy. Only serious stares and empty eyes!

I have seen this in Iraq, and it’s deeply uncomfortable until you get used to it — if you get used to it. Children by nature are friendly, when they’re unfriendly it’s because their parents, possibly their extended family, maybe their whole community is worse than unfriendly. And the change can be fast, in the next village, yet most of the time the change comes slow. But you have to be looking. Otherwise you look up and the smiling and enthusiastic little ones are suddenly frosty and distant little ones.

— Embedded journalist in Farah Afghanistan, March 2009

 This was written during a four-day convoy ride with the Regional Corps Advisory Command of the U.S. Marines. The author, a Vietnam vet who says he has traveled to 109 countries — including multiple trips to Afghanistan — and “reported from more than a dozen wars,” has no doubt seen his share of action. But reading it this week, days after a U.S. airstrike killed up to 130 people in Farah, Afghanistan, including 13 members of the same family, this quote from an journalist embedded with soldiers in a warzone that is escalating at this moment, is chilling.

It is a glimpse into the black and white logic that gave birth to the “War on Terror,” where there is a “good” side and a “bad” side, and as long as we know where the bad guys are, perpetual war against an entire people is justifiable. Thus, if a child stares coldly at U.S. military convoys, it must be because their “parents, possibly their extended family, maybe their whole community(!)” is comprised of terrorists. Thus by the unfortunate accident of lineage and geography, they too must be terrorist in the making themselves.

Is it too obvious a point that the “frosty and distant” children who stare at U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan might do so not because “their parents, possibly their extended family, maybe their whole community is worse than unfriendly” but because “their parents, possibly their extended family, maybe their whole community” were recently slaughtered by the U.S. military, like those killed this week in Farah?

Even in the face of an official apology from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reports that villagers collected “two tractor trailers full of pieces of human bodies” and remarks from Afghan president Hamid Karzai that the U.S. forces must operate from a “higher platform of morality,” the Pentagon has tried to claim that the civilian victims of this week’s deadly airstrikes in Farah were actually killed by the Taliban, who staged the massacre in order to pin the blame on the U.S. For those who see the fight against the Taliban as a battle of good versus evil, this might seem plausible.

But six years into the bloody war on Iraq, almost eight years into the war in Afghanistan, five years after the release of the photographs of torture at Abu Ghraib, weeks after the release of the grisly CIA torture memos, and one day after a U.S. soldier was found guilty of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, then killing her family it is hard to imagine that people around the world still have much faith in the infallibility — let alone moral superiority — of the U.S. military, even over the murderous Taliban. As more civilians die by U.S. hands in the escalating war on Afghanistan — including children and their families — the less convicing such cynical claims and cover-ups will be.

 

Liliana Segura is a staff writer and editor of AlterNet’s Rights and Liberties and War on Iraq Special Coverage.

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Half a million flee Swat valley as Pakistan faces months of fighting May 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Pakistan, War.
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Prime Minister appeals for unity amid growing anxiety over spread of militants

pakistani refugeesDANIEL BEREHULAK/GETTY IMAGES Pakistani refugees fleeing fighting in Swat, Bunerand Lower Dir queue for rations in a relief camp at Mardan yesterday

By Andrew Buncombe, Asia correspondent

www.independent.co.uk, May 9, 2009

Up to 500,000 terrified residents of Pakistan’s Swat valley have fled or else are desperately trying to leave as the military steps up an operation using fighter jets and helicopter gunships to “eliminate” Taliban fighters.

 As the military intensified what may be its most determined operation to date against militant extremists, the UN said 200,000 people had already arrived in safe areas in the past few days while another 300,000 were on the move or were poised to leave.

The escalation of the operation came after Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yousaf Gilani, made a public appeal for unity. In a televised address on Thursday evening, Mr Gilani said: “I appeal to the people of Pakistan to support the government and army at this crucial time. We pledge to eliminate the elements who have destroyed the peace and calm of the nation and wanted to take Pakistan hostage at gunpoint.”

The struggle to drive the Taliban from Swat comes amid intense pressure from the US and deepening anxiety in Pakistan about the spread of the militants to areas no more than 60 miles from Islamabad. The government had initially hoped to bring an end to two years of violence in the former tourist haven by signing a controversial peace deal which saw it agree to the establishment of sharia law in the valley and in neighbouring areas. However,the ceasefire appeared to encourage Taliban militias and their fighters slipped into the adjacent area of Buner.

Last night a military spokesman, Major-General Athar Abbas, told a Pakistani television channel: “To a rough estimate there are between 4,000 to 5,000 militants present in Swat. We are looking forward to the return of the writ of the state.”

Yet the operation – which the military says had already killed scores of militants – could yet present Pakistan with one of its greatest humanitarian challenges. In Geneva, Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said there was now a “massive displacement in north-west Pakistan”.

He added: “The provincial government estimates between 150,000 to 200,000 people have already arrived in safer areas of North West Frontier Province [NWFP] over the last few days, with another 300,000 already on the move or about to move. Those fleeing the latest escalation of hostilities … join another 555,000 previously displaced Pakistanis who had fled their homes in the tribal areas and NWFP since August 2008. The new arrivals are going to place huge additional pressure on resources.”

What also remains unclear is exactly what the military will have to do to clear and secure the Swat valley and how long that might take. While the Taliban may be outnumbered, the offensive is far from one-sided. “They are putting up very stiff resistance, there is no doubt. I don’t think this is going to go away very quickly. It will be weeks, if not months,” said General Talat Masood, a former military officer turned analyst. “But it’s not just about pushing them back. The military then have to hold the territory and then set in place the administrative structure that will give people confidence to return.”

The military operations are taking place in three districts over some 400 square miles. Much of the fighting has been in the city of Mingora, home to 360,000 people before the insurgency. Among those who remain, some have said they had been prevented from leaving by the Taliban who may to use them as human shields.