A Senseless War of Libration

The war in Afghanistan has never made any sense. From the bombing of Mazar-e-Sharif in November, 2001 to the droning of children chasing birds in 2013; it’s been one homicidal debacle after the other. On top of that, none of the strategic objectives have been achieved.

The warlords and Taliban still control much of the countryside, the reconstruction effort has been a complete farce, women are no safer today than they were when the invasion was first launched, and the central government is a comical Potemkin regime riddled with corruption and incompetence.

Oh yeah, and the dirt-poor country now produces 90 percent of the world’s opium. The only area of commerce in which post-invasion Afghanistan excels is the production of illicit narcotics. Is it any wonder why the American people are sick of the whole damn thing and want to get out now?

And then there’s the people who have to pay for the conflict, like the soldiers who carry the scars for the rest of their lives, and oftentimes kill themselves to escape the relentless mental darkness that war creates.

The AP reports that US military suicides have surged to the highest level ever recorded:

“Pentagon figures obtained Monday by The Associated Press show that the 349 suicides among active-duty troops last year were up from 301 the year before and exceeded the Pentagon’s own internal projection of 325. . . . Last year’s total is the highest since the Pentagon began closely tracking suicides in 2001. It exceeds the 295 Americans who died in Afghanistan last year, by the AP’s count.” (‘US Military Suicides Exceed Combat Deaths’, The Buzz)

American wars have precipitated an epidemic of suicides in the military. These costs don’t appear on the Pentagon’s balance sheet, but they’re devastating just the same. Politicians in the US always talk about US combat troops with the greatest respect, but when these same soldiers return from active duty they are treated like garbage and can’t even get the help they need for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other brain-related trauma. (Like Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI) It’s a disgrace.

Then there’s the Afghan people, whose suffering is even greater than the troops. More than 200,000 civilians have been killed in the war despite the fact that the US “doesn’t do body counts.”

Also, according to Malalai Joya, former member of the Afghan parliament and author of the book ‘A Woman Among Warlords’, the US occupation has made matters worse because there is “more bloodshed, more crimes, more human rights violations, more looting of our resources and changing of our country into Mafia state … Around two million Afghans are addicted (to opium), most of them are women and children … And according to UNIFEM, Afghanistan is the worst place in the world to be a woman.”

So all the talk about liberating women was pure gibberish, just like the nonsense about establishing a ‘western-style democracy’. US war planners wanted to establish forward-bases in Eurasia to contain Russia and China, to be a main player in oil and natural gas extraction, and to spread US hegemony to this century’s most dynamic ‘growth centre’.

To that end, the US plans to maintain a significant presence in Afghanistan, including large numbers of combat forces, lethal high-tech weaponry, intel operatives, private contractors, and at least 4 military bases presumably on oil transit lines. The US is not leaving Afghanistan. It’s merely abandoning the pretense that its motives are altruistic.

By: Mike Whitney

Advertisements

I Am Not A Terrorist

My story revolves around love. A love that is forbidden and discouraged in a part of the world that is now India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan have a tension-filled history, complete with wars and mutual distrust.

While so-called ‘nationalists’ boast about the emotional and physical carnage, people like me – who dare to love the ‘enemy’ across the border and who want each country to admit its mistakes, – are termed as traitors.

After migrating to the US from Pakistan, I was awestruck by the equality and justice offered by this great land. I wasn’t known by my religion, cast or origin, but by my name, and my citizenship – American.

On a fall day in 2009, I received the letter I had been waiting for, from Whistling Woods, a film school near Mumbai. They had accepted me as a student for their Film Directing course. I was overjoyed. Filmmaking had always been my passion and after getting financially settled, I wanted to learn filmmaking at a place that had bred legends of cinema – Mumbai.

Off I headed to Travisa, the visa processing company, with my visa application and US passport. There were other Americans there as well, who were told to come pick their visas the same day or the next.

But when it came to me, the clerk looked at my passport and told me to step aside. Strange, I thought. After a short wait, I was told that I could not apply for an India visa on my US passport. “Sorry? I am a US citizen and that’s my country’s passport,” I said. “You are accepting the same passports of others”.

“No sir,” he replied. “You were born in Pakistan and in the eyes of the Indian government you are a Pakistani national, not a US citizen.” “How can you have different processes for nationals of the same country with the same passports?” I asked, shocked.

His reply shattered me further. “Sir, India does not allow us to accept US passports from US citizens born in Pakistan, unless they first renounce their Pakistan citizenship”.

“But I am a US national, and it is my right to be recognised and travel as one!”

“Sorry, you cannot apply for an India visa with this passport”.

A moment of truth and pain for me. My US passport, which looked exactly like any other US passport, was suddenly different due to my origin. I realised that as soon as the Indian government reads the word Pakistan on my passport, my name becomes David Headley for them. I don’t exist as a US citizen any more. Instead, I am equated with the dreaded criminal who ruthlessly created a web of deception and ran a criminal operation that ended in the tragic day of 26/11 in Mumbai. I become a terrorist suspect who cannot be allowed the freedom of travel in India that comes with a US passport.

I wondered whether they’d made this rule in error. Could it be changed if I called and informed the US Department of State about it? After all, weren’t they meant to facilitate travel by US citizens and ensure the protection of our rights in foreign territory? There are visa reciprocity agreements with foreign nations. How can India treat some US citizens (like me) differently than other US citizens given that the agreements between US and India do not exclude Indian or US nationals based on their ethnicity or origin?

After working through the maze of departments within the DOS, I was finally routed to the American Citizen Services and India Desk. They asked me to email them the details, which I did, expecting a quick resolution. Surely the all-powerful Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton would get Consular Affairs to immediately ask India to not discriminate against US citizens based on their origin and treat all Americans uniformly for visa applications?

My dream was short-lived. American Citizen Services told me that India has a right to deny my visa – to which I replied, of course, that that was not the problem. I would accept a denial on my US passport if I was put through the same process as any British, Irish, Italian, Arabic or other origin US citizen. As a US national, I wanted equality, and to be able to travel as a US national without my origin playing any part in that. It is the state department’s job to ensure that US citizens are not discriminated against. And yet, they told me: “We cannot make India look at you as an American”.

And there it was, the reality. I felt like an adopted child whose parents had just told him that they couldn’t stand up for him and make others see him as their son.

India rightfully took a stern stand against China’s discrimination against Indian citizens. In an interview to the ANI, External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna said, “It has come to the notice of the government of India that China is issuing different visas to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We are taking up the issue with the Chinese government,” he said. “We will tell them that visa related issue should be uniform, there should not be any discrimination among the Indian nationals while issuing visas.”

And yet, while implementing this origin-based visa rule on US citizens, India itself was engaged in the same kind of discrimination as China that it had protested against.

It is now 2013. The Indian government still views me, along with half a million other US citizens of Pakistani origin, as terrorists, as if we are all David Headley. The Indian government sees him as representing us – Headley, who wasn’t even born in Pakistan.

Collective punishment is deep rooted in the governing dynamics of India and Pakistan. Take any police case registered there; the police always raid the house of the accused and arrest all innocent relatives to pressurise the absconder. It is disheartening to see such counterproductive tactics making their way into the arena of international affairs. Suave, educated Indian diplomats being made to advance foreign policy as if they were local policemen.

Punishing all Pakistan-origin people for one person’s crime resolves nothing except walling off India’s vibrant society from the world. Thousands of Pakistani-origin US nationals have visited India, without ever being accused or found guilty of harming India in any way. Yet those thousands of goodwill ambassadors are all seen as David Headleys.

Even those who renounce their Pakistan citizenship, or are born US citizens to Pakistani origin parents or even grandparents, have to undergo a different visa process than other US nationals and are rarely issued visas with durations that are reserved for US nationals. The US State Department has never stood publicly with half a million US nationals of Pakistani origin.

India and the US are signing agreements of trade and other developmental programmes that exclude US citizens like me. Will other countries now follow suit and start their own policies of discriminating against some US citizens because of their origin? The state department is doing nothing to stop that fear from being a reality. Its strength is now a ‘mighty myth’ for citizens like us.

India, the world’s largest democracy, must realise that this policy effectively halts the revolution of a changed mindset between India and Pakistan. It only helps terror mongers. Mahatma Gandhi, who ignited the freedom movement by refusing to let the British discriminate against him in a train in South Africa, would not approve of this policy.

In the end, a plea to the Indian government: please welcome visa applicants of Pakistan origin. Realise that our mere will to visit your country is a defeat of hate mongers and terrorists. Read my name as a well-wisher of India who wants to visit you bearing nothing but prayers of love, peace and prosperity and is ready to provide you all the details needed to prove his legitimacy of travel.

By: Salman Nouman, a businessman based in Dubai and the USA.

Mother

A little boy and his mother were crossing a river.

Mother, “Please, hold my hand.”

Son, “No Mom, you hold my hand.”

Mother, “Whats the difference ?”

Son, “If I hold your hand and some thing happens, chances are that I may let your hand go but if you hold my hand, I know for sure, you will never let my hand go

The Real Threat to Peace

There you go again, Mr. Netanyahu. At the United Nations and on several TV shows during his visit to the U.S. Netanyahu has been repeating his mantra: Iran is an existential threat to Israel and Israel is ready to attack it alone if Iran continues to develop its nuclear program. Never mind that Israel has the backing of the United States and is vastly superior to Iran because of its possession of nuclear weapons.

Speaking about Israel’s policy towards Iran Netanyahu said, “What is important is to convey to them, especially after the election, that the policy will not change…And [it] should be backed up with ratcheted sanctions. You should ratchet up the sanctions and make it clear to Iran that they won’t get away with it. And if sanctions don’t work, they have to know that you’ll be prepared to take military action – that’s the only thing that will get their attention.”

Paradoxically, while Netanyahu was repeating his known aggressive opinion on how to deal with the Iranians, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Tokyo that it would be “diplomatic malpractice” not to pursue all options before taking military action to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. President Barak Obama reiterated this point of view when he told Netanyahu that the Western powers had to “test” diplomacy with Iran.

Despite Netanyahu’s aggressive rhetoric, the Iranians reason that if Israel has an estimated arsenal of 200 to 400 nuclear weapons and has carried out aggressive actions against their neighbors (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan) why couldn’t they develop their own nuclear program? It is still to be determined if the Iranian nuclear program is planned for aggressive purposes. In addition, the Iranians say, they haven’t attacked any of their neighbors in more than 200 years.

Prodded by Netanyahu and the pro-Israel neo-cons in the U.S. government, and contrary to the opinion of most countries, the United States and its European allies have imposed brutal sanctions on Iran that have affected the Iranian people more than its leadership, and have intensified a public health crisis in the country. Those sanctions, rather than daunting the Iranians, have intensified them in their resolve to pursue their nuclear program.

In addition, both in 2009 and in 2012, the United Nations passed a resolution calling on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to submit to inspections on its alleged possession of nuclear arms. Israel refused to sign that treaty. Iran, by contrast, is a signatory of the treaty.

President Obama has repeatedly indicated the danger represented by nuclear weapons falling into terrorists’ hands, thus suggesting the need to curb Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon. However, both Pakistan and North Korea, with considerable more unstable regimes, represent a far more serious danger in that regard, and they have not been subjected to the kind of hostility that the Iranian government has been.

As Mr. Netanyahu insists that Iran is edging up to the red line on its nuclear development, Mr. Rohani has stated that he is in favor of continuing negotiations to resolve his country’s nuclear dispute with the West. At the same time, however, Mr. Rohani is defending this country’s right to pursue peaceful development of a civil nuclear energy program.

Despite his clams about his concern for peace, Mr. Netanyahu’s actions betray his lofty words. He has ordered the lethal attack against thousands of civilians –many of them women and children- in Gaza as well as the uninterrupted building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. Both actions have been strongly condemned by the international community.

Through diplomacy and common interest Iran’s new leadership now offers the opportunity to change a paradigm geared for war for one geared for peaceful coexistence. Rather than using belligerent language, this should be a logical next step in bringing peace to that troubled region.

Dr. Cesar Chelala, an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.