Incalculable: The human cost of NATO’s war on Afghanistan

by Kathy Kelly

Bodies of children killed by US-Nato bombing

Recent polls suggest that while a majority of U.S. people disapprove of the war in Afghanistan, many on grounds of its horrible economic cost, only 3% took the war into account when voting in the 2010 midterm elections.  The issue of the economy weighed heavily on voters, but the war and its cost, though clear to them and clearly related to the economy in their thinking, was a far less pressing concern.

U.S. people, if they do read or hear of it, may be shocked at the apparent unconcern of the crews of two U.S. helicopter gunships, which attacked and killed nine children on a mountainside in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, shooting them “one after another” this past Tuesday March 1st.  (“The helicopters hovered over us, scanned us and we saw a green flash from the helicopters. Then they flew back high up, and in a second round they hovered over us and started shooting.” (NYT 3/2/11)).

Four of the boys were seven years old; three were eight, one was nine and the oldest was twelve.  “The children were gathering wood under a tree in the mountains near a village in the district,” said Noorullah Noori, a member of the local development council in Manogai district. “I myself was involved in the burial,” Noori said. “Yesterday we buried them.” (AP, March 2, 2011)  General Petraeus has acknowledged, and apologized for, the tragedy.

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A thrilling excerpt from the new Tom Clancy novel

PULSE is proud to present this excerpt from Brain-Dead or Alive, the new novel created by Tom Clancy’s Op-Center, written in collaboration with Gen. Tony Zinni (Ret.), Gen. Charles Horner (Ret.), Gen. Fred Franks (Ret.), and Chase Madar.

Neocon Poet Laureate Tom Clancy

It was a dark and stormy night in McLean, Virginia.

Former CIA director and ex-president Vernon Manley Babbitt sat at his dining-room table flanked by his most trusted compadres, who in many adventures past had defended the American way of life against nuclear terrorists, Islamic fanatics, and unarmed folk singers. Their next mission might be the most dangerous yet.

V. Manley Babbitt and his secret team called themselves the BFD, and their existence was so classified no one knew what the initials stood for. The BFD was licensed to do anything, from waterboarding the president’s mother to parking in handicapped spots, and with the safety of millions at stake, they often did. Babbitt surveyed his companions, tried and true, around the table.

First there was X, a man without an identity. Nobody knew X’s real name. Was it maybe just X? That kind of head-fake would have been vintage X! No one even knew what X looked like, not even X’s wife, because he always wore a brown paper bag on his head. He had ex-Special Ops written all over him, but not on the paper bag, which usually bore the logo of the retail chain where his wife had done the previous day’s shopping.

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The Trials of Bradley Manning: A Defense

For the past seven months, US Army Private First Class Manning has been held in solitary confinement in the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. Twenty-five thousand other Americans are also in prolonged solitary confinement, but the conditions of Manning’s pre-trial detention have been sufficiently brutal for the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture to announce an investigation.

Pfc. Manning is alleged to have obtained documents, both classified and unclassified, from the Department of Defense and the State Department via the Internet and provided them to WikiLeaks.  (That “alleged” is important because the federal informant who fingered Manning, Adrian Lamo, is a felon convicted of computer-hacking crimes. He was also involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution in the month before he levelled his accusation.  All of this makes him a less than reliable witness.)  At any rate, the records allegedly downloaded by Manning revealed clear instances of war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, widespread torture committed by the Iraqi authorities with the full knowledge of the U.S. military, previously unknown estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. military checkpoints, and the massive Iraqi civilian death toll caused by the American invasion.

For bringing to light this critical but long-suppressed information, Pfc. Manning has been treated not as a whistleblower, but as a criminal and a spy.  He is charged with violating not only Army regulations but also the Espionage Act of 1917, making him the fifth American to be charged under the act for leaking classified documents to the media.  A court-martial will likely be convened in the spring or summer.

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US, the Arab Revolt and al-Qaida

M. Shahid Alam

On December 24 2004, I wrote an essay, “America and Islam,” for which I received much heat from Zionist and right-wing bloggers in the United States.

The article made the point that the leaders of al-Qaida believe that they have to carry their war to the home ground of the ‘far enemy’ – the United States, Israel and Western powers – in order to free the Muslim world from foreign domination. This anyone can verify from the numerous communiqués of al-Qaida.

To say this is not to endorse the terrorist methods that al-Qaida employs. This was my moral position then: and it is my moral position now. At the same time, we should not shrink from recognizing that the total wars waged by many states, including the United States, since WWII differ from the methods of al-Qaida only in the infinitely greater scale of the destruction they wreak upon civilians.

The article made another critical point. It argued that al-Qaida, in some measure, reflects the political and moral failings of Muslim societies. If Muslims had shown more spine in resisting local tyrannies through non-violent means, their courage would have scotched the violent extremism of groups like al-Qaida.

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Pakistan: A Deficit of Dignity

M. Shahid Alam

Pakistan’s rulers and ruling elites may well be thinking that the wave of people’s indignation that started in Tunisia and is now working its way through Egypt, Jordan and Yemen will never reach them. Perhaps, they are telling each other, ‘We are safe: we are a democracy.’

The Arabs who are pouring into the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen are not protesting only against their dictatorships. Simultaneously, they are also protesting against governments that have sold their dignity and bartered the honor of their country. Nearly, all the Arab rulers are self-castrated eunuchs in the courts of foreign powers, who have turned their own countries into police states, and who jail, maim, torture and kill their own people to please their masters.

The Arabs are venting their anger against elites who have stymied their energies by turning their societies into prisons. In complicity with foreign powers, these elites have ruled by fear, blocking the forward movement of their people because this movement collides with the imperialist ambitions of Israel and the United States.

It is true that Pakistan has had ‘elected’ governments alternating with military dictatorships. Increasingly, however, these governments, whether civilian or military, have differed little from each other. The priority for both is to keep their power and US-doled perks by doing the bidding of the United States and Israel.

Starting in the early 1990s, Pakistan hurriedly embraced the neoliberal paradigm that emanated from Washington. Hastily, successive ministers of finance and privatization – all of them IMF appointees – went about dismantling Pakistan’s industries, selling off for a song its state-owned enterprises, and empowering Pakistan’s elites to engage in unchecked consumerism.

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People Power in the Middle East

M. Shahid Alam

From his weekly perch at CNN, Fareed Zakaria, speculated last Sunday (or the Sunday before) whether George Bush could take credit for the events that were unfolding in Tunisia, whether this was the late fruit of the neoconservative project to bring ‘democracy’ to the Middle East.

It is quite extraordinary watching Zakaria – a Muslim born and raised in India, and scion of a leading political family – mimic with such facility the language of America’s ruling classes, and show scarce a trace of empathy for the world’s oppressed, despite his propinquity to them by reason of history and geography. He does have a bias for India, but here too he only shows a concern for India’s strategic interests, not the interests of its subjugated classes, minorities and ethnicities. This I offer only as an aside about how easy it is for members of the upper classes in countries like India, Pakistan or Egypt to slip into an American skin whenever that dissimulation offers greater personal advantages.

As a cover for deepening US control over the Middle East – here is the latest civilizing mission for you – the neoconservatives in the Bush administration argued that the Islamic world produces ‘terrorists’ because it lives under autocracies. To solve the ‘terrorist’ problem, therefore, the US would have to bring democracy to the Middle East. This demagoguery only reveals the bankruptcy of America’s political class. It is a shame when the President of the United States and his neoconservative puppet-masters peddle such absurdities without being greeted by squeals of laughter – and shouted down as hypocritical, as farcical.

Who has been the leading ally and sponsor these past decades of nearly all the despotisms in the Middle East – those of royal pedigree and others seeking to become royalties?

Regardless, the real plan of United States failed miserably. It was dispatched to its grave by a people’s resistance in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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Pakistan: Between Drones and Deus

Yesterday I appeared on Dori Smith’s excellent Talk Nation Radio, which runs on Pacifica, to discuss the situation in Pakistan. Among other things I discussed the devastation wrought by the US drone war, the folly of seeking military solutions for political problems, the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, and the murder of Salman Taseer.

To date there have been 215 drone attacks, including 3 on 1 January 2011 in North Waziristan which killed 19 people. In 2010, there were 116 strikes, over twice as many as in 2009. The total deaths from the drones number over two thousand. According to reports in  The News and Dawn about 98 percent of the victims are civilians, a figure confirmed by David Kilcullen, the former senior advisor on counterinsurgency to Gen. David Petraeus. According to the Brookings Institution the drones kill at a ratio of  1 militant for every 10 civilians. According to Frontier Constabulary men I spoke to last year, the drones once in a while do get their targets but their victims are largely civilians.

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The Iraq War Logs: Torture and Complicity

It is the largest classified military leak in history. Released by WikiLeaks, the 391,832 reports (‘The Iraq War Logs‘) document the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army. Each is a ‘SIGACT’ or Significant Action in the war. They detail events as seen and heard by the US military troops on the ground in Iraq and are the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout.

The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 ‘civilians’; 23,984 ‘enemy’ (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 ‘host nation’ (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 ‘friendly’ (coalition forces). The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths.That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six year period.

For the past ten weeks Al Jazeera has had complete access to those files. As part of its forthcoming coverage, Al Jazeera reveals how the US military gave a secret order not to investigate torture by Iraqi authorities discovered by American troops.

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