Why the rise of fascism is again the issue

By John Pilger
johnpilger.com
26 February 2015

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The recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism. Continue reading “Why the rise of fascism is again the issue”

Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?

Abu-Lughod, Lila. Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others.?American Anthropologist September, 2002 Vol.104(3): 783-790.

The main concern of the article is to determine if Muslim women do actually need saving. The focus is on the mandatory wearing of the veil, or burqa. The author discusses many groups that maintain that the Muslim women do need saving from the oppression that binds them to wear the burqa. The author also maintains that anthropologists, among others, should not be overly culturally relativistic but that they should recognize and respect cultural differences. Do those same petitioners that try and save the Muslim women also try and save the African women from genital mutilation or the Indian women from dowry deaths? No, they do not because they have been taught not to judge cultures based upon their own.

The basic argument of the author is that there should not be so much focus on the burqa, but on the other mandates that the women are forced to oblige. The burqa is not an imposition. The author states that should the women be released from this mandate, they would most likely choose another form of headcovering to wear. A headcovering is the appropriate form of dress for their community. The burqa symbolizes a woman’s modesty and respectability and provides protection from strange men in the public sphere. A burqa is a symbol of a “good woman” who is able to stay at home, not working outside with the public. The author refers to the burqa as a kind of “mobile home” in that the women would be in the “inviolable space of their homes, even though moving in the public realm”.

The author described the burqa and the practice of wearing one in Afghanistan and other Muslim societies. She also noted that the Taliban did not invent the burqa but they did impose the wearing of one on all women as being “religiously appropriate.” The author presented her arguments in a clear manner but also admits that she is not an expert on Afghanistan

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Brotherhood of bombs

Pakistan’s war?Insight?By Mohammad Shehzad

A report on the changing organization and loyalties of the Pakistani Taliban


Hakimullah Mehsud is the emir of Pakistan’s biggest terrorist group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. He is also wanted by the US for murdering seven Americans on December 30, 2009 at a CIA base in Khost, and the failed bombing of Times Square in New York City on May 1, 2010. Washington and Islamabad have announced a bounty of $5m and Rs50m on his head. But the chief of the country’s biggest religious party – Jamaat-e-Islami – says he does not exist. Continue reading “Brotherhood of bombs”

Afghanistan Chronicles, Part 6:

?Near Ground Zero and in Af-Pak Region, Two Labyrinths

Friday, 30 March 2012 10:17By Suzanne Bauman, Jim Burroughs,?Truthout?| News Analysis

Ground Zero
Ground Zero in New York City. (Photo:?Karen Blumberg / Flickr)The endless war on terror in South Asia – with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, the United States, Great Britain, Russia, India, France, Germany, Spain, all players -? must seem like a senseless maze to the people forced to live with daily random violence in this region. In the United States, too many Americans have emotional yet uninformed responses: either “Kill our enemies before they kill us,” or “Get out of Afghanistan now.” The history of this region is more important than ever to study, as daily headlines inflame both sides without leading to solutions. Continue reading “Afghanistan Chronicles, Part 6:”

Marines Urinating on Dead Taliban: How Low Will We Go?

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Huffington Post Posted: 1/13/12 11:45 AM ET
I haven’t fully digested the disgusting news that U.S. Marines have been caught on video urinating on dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, so this post is not offered as a coherent think-piece. But what is there to think about, anyway? What is there to say, really, except that there’s absolutely no excuse? No excuse for the policy makers and officers, but neither is there one for the brutalized young perpetrators. Their lowly enlisted status doesn’t excuse them; we should offer them compassion, but not absolution, for the guilt they carry. The next time I’m in a U.S. airport and the passengers break out in applause when the gate agent or flight attendant congratulates “our men and women in uniform,” I’ll remember this incident.

In keeping with its maddening, self-regarding role as the American Pravda, a hand-wringing New York Times “analysis” worries that “the images could incite anti-American sentiment at a particularly delicate moment in the decade-old Afghan war.” Well, how could they not have that effect? And why shouldn’t they? Continue reading “Marines Urinating on Dead Taliban: How Low Will We Go?”

The Burka Ban – 1

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Europe’s Open-face Democracy

By Rahnuma Ahmed

France bans full-face veils in public. Women wearing the niqab cannot enter government buildings, public transport, streets and markets. Burkas are not “welcome” on French soil, says Sarkozy. It is a sign of women’s “subservience,” it undermines France’s secular tradition.?The Spanish parliament is debating a proposal. Burkas are hardly compatible with “human dignity,” says the justice minister. Barcelona bans burkas and niqabs from government buildings. They hinder personal identification. Full-face veil banned in Belgium. Streets, gardens, all buildings accessed by members of the public are no-go areas for women wearing the niqab.
It’s now or never, everything on hold till I finish my manuscript, no columns, no calls, no visitors, I thought as I furiously tapped away at the keyboard, barely scanned newspaper headlines, refused to download e-zines and newsletters, felt embarassed at repeatedly telling Zaman (deputy editor, New Age) as he nabbed me on g-chat, rahnuma’pa, how much longer? hmm, maybe a few more weeks?…but still, somehow, news of the burka ban gathering momentum in European countries seeped through, into my self-enforced confinement.
Less than a week after Belgium passed its law, an Italian woman was fined $650 for wearing a burka under a 1975 law, which prohibits people from covering their faces in public. Amsterdam and Utrecht propose cutting social security benefits to unemployed women who wear the burka. A German lawmaker calls for a complete ban on full-face burkas all over Europe.?Veiled women irritate her, she says; she cannot judge them for who they are, what their intentions are. It’s a “massive attack on the rights of women. It is a mobile prison.” Eight out of 16 federal states in Germany have already banned female schoolteachers from wearing the headscarf. If the burka is not banned, threatens the Freedom Party of Netherlands, it’ll not join the minority coalition government. The burqa and the niqab have no place in our society, says the Danish prime minister. Denmark is an “open, democratic society where we look at the person to whom we are talking.”
There is talk of banning the burqa beyond Europe’s borders too, in what were once white-settler colonies, and now, sovereign states. Quebec’s immigration minister says, “If you want to integrate into Quebec society, here are our values. We want to see your face,” as its premier pushes a bill banning any sort of full-face veil. If passed, women will be denied receiving or applying for government services, including non-emergency medicine and day care. An Australian blogger, appreciative of senator Cory Bernardi’s recent call for an Aussie ban on full-face veiling writes, if the burqa and niqab are accepted, if they are normalised and legitimised, what do we teach Australian girls? That they shouldn’t be proud to show their face and have a voice in society? “That women?s rights are [not] inalienable and worth fighting for, except where gender oppression is religiously or culturally endorsed?”
The mind works in curious ways. For some reason I am reminded of Laura Bush and Cherie Blair. Of Mrs Bush’s unprecedented radio broadcast to rally support against the Taliban; she was the first wife of a US president to deliver the whole of the weekly address (November 1, 2001), expressing profound sorrow and deepest sympathies for the women of Afghanistan. “Life under the Taliban is so hard and repressive, even small displays of joy are outlawed?children aren’t allowed to fly kites; their mothers face beatings for laughing out loud. Women cannot work outside the home, or even leave their homes by themselves.” Two days later, the wife of the former British prime minister joined in the commiseration. The Taliban regime, Mrs Blair informed us, is repressive, cruel and joyless. The human rights of women and girls within Afghanistan “have been denied, people have been executed in football stadiums in front of cheering crowds, girls have had to be educated in secret.” Britain needs to “help them free that spirit and give them their voice back, so they can create the better Afghanistan we all want to see.”
Twenty-two months after the US-led invasion there were no signs of an Afghanistan that was less hard and less repressive for its women and children. Linda S Heard wrote, millions of Afghan women and children continue to face major health and nutrition problems with maternal and infant mortality among “the worst in the world.” Gunmen commit human rights abuses and warlords have been “propelled into power by the US and its coalition partners after the Taliban fell in 2001.”
But surely a decade on, the spirits of Afghan women are now free? Girls are now receiving education? A better Afghanistan is being created? Malalai Joya, the youngest Afghan to be elected member of parliament (2005-2007) says, the current situation is a disaster. People suffer from extreme insecurity, many have stopped sending their children to school, especially girls for fear that they might be raped or killed. The most pressing problems are cultivation and trafficking of drugs and narcotics (the opium industry is “solely designed by the US,” its annual production during the Taliban regime was 185 metric tons, it has now magnified to 8,500 tons annually), 50% unemployment and severe poverty which forces some parents to sell their children for $10 for a piece of bread, appalling corruption (the present Afghan government is “the most corrupt in our whole history”), and the installation of war criminals and terrorists into power through fraudulent elections (a “dirty game” played by the US and NATO). Needless to add, Joya is hardly sighted in the mainstream western media.
In some cities women’s conditions have slightly improved since the Taliban regime. But the situation was far better in the 1960s, says Joya, when Afghan women had more rights. Rapes, abductions, murders, violence, and forced marriages are increasing at an alarming rate. Women’s suicide rate is climbing in many provinces. “Afghanistan still faces a women’s rights catastrophe. Every aspect of life in Afghanistan today is tragic.” We are sandwiched between two enemies, the Taliban on one side and the US/NATO forces and their warlord friends on the other. The policy of the US government and its allies is to foster warlords and criminals, to marginalise and put pressure on progressive and democratic movements and individuals “out of fear that the latter will mobilise Afghan people against the occupation forces.”
And who were among America’s coalition partners in Operation Enduring Freedom, in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which invaded and occupied Afghanistan in 2001? Among NATO countries, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain. Among non-NATO ones, Australia and Sweden.
They are still there (NATO update Oct 2010).
Do the rulers of these European nations?visionaries of open-faced democracy?have the courage to face up to the facts, as enumerated by Malalai Joya? Hardly. They’d have to face up to other facts then: that the invasion was an obvious breach of international law, having not been authorised by the UN Security Council. That Afghanistan was not involved in the events of 9/11. That if the US government’s account is to be believed, 15 of the 19 alleged hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, so why invade Afghanistan? That the Afghan government did not refuse to extradite Osama bin Laden, their offer was subject to conditions, which was unacceptable to the US administration. That the latter had not only supported the “Islamic terror network,” it was instrumental in installing the Taliban government (1995-96). That the politicians who arranged it, supported it, are liable to be tried as war criminals. And that, is quite a lot of facing up to do.
President Obama has escalated the war in Afghanistan by sending 34,000 more troops; he has extended it to Pakistan by expanding the CIA-led killer drone campaign, because al-Qaeda?who had, according to Bush, committed “faceless” and “cowardly” acts?now operates in the border areas. But drone pilots do not `show’ their face. They are `hidden’ tens of thousands of miles away from the so-called battlefield, `concealed’ behind computer screens and remote audio-feed. There are no means of `identifying’ them personally.

A raid in progress. Afghan women still can't laugh out loud ? Perry Kretz (Der Stern)

Killed by "faceless" Predator drone operators. Dead children can't fly kites either. AFP Getty Images

But we too, would like to see their faces. We would like to see the face that’s doing the killing. Occupying forces are not `welcome’ either. Not on Afghan soil, nor on Iraq’s soil. For they bring with them a `massive attack’ on the rights of women, they make women and children prisoners in their own land. Their veil of rhetoric hides their `intentions.’
But may be `concealment’ is essential so that they can’t prosecuted for murder under the domestic law of the country in which they conduct targeted killings? May be they need to `hide’ their faces to avoid being prosecuted for violations of applicable US law??According to a news report, The Year of the Drone Strike, 2009, netted 5 actual militant leaders, killed 700 innocent civilians. What do these faceless killers teach us, the global public? That no face-saving gestures of European rulers can conceal their complicity in war crimes in Afghanistan (and Iraq)?
Ernest Hemingway had said, We must take away their planes, their automatic weapons, their tanks, their artillery and teach them dignity (For Whom the Bell Tolls). Dignity? Do those who are `subservient’ to America’s military and economic interests, have any?
concluding instalment next week..
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Power from the barrel of a lens

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By Satish Sharma

Forget about the power that, according to Mao, flows from the Barrels of Guns!
A lot more power actually flows through the matte black barrels of lenses. Camera lenses! And this is a power that flows a lot more silently and, most of the time, it works it magic very subtly.
Very rarely do pictures explode on the media scene like the now infamous cover picture on the August 9th issue of Time magazine. Very rarely do pictures present us with such a questionable and ?teachable? moment about photography and its political uses. Rarely do photographs become such a powerful peg for discussions that go on and on. Discussions that need to go on because we have to understand, dissect and discuss the spaces that photography occupies in contemporary society. Spaces that are hardly any different from the times when photography was a medium controlled by the political and secret department of a British colonial government. Photography, we have to remember, was invented at a time when colonialism was at its height and became a major player in the colonial game. Something that British army cadets, who were to be posted in the colonies, were specially taught and equipped for.

Images of Afghanistan by Mohammad Qayoumi (prior to CIA intervention and Russian invasion).

The physical campus of Kabul University, pictured here, does not look very different today. But the people do. In the 1950s and '60s, students wore Western-style clothing; young men and women interacted relatively freely. Today, women cover their heads and much of their bodies, even in Kabul. A half-century later, men and women inhabit much more separate worlds. ??Mohammad Qayoumi

In the 1950s and '60s, women were able to pursue professional careers in fields such as medicine. Today, schools that educate women are a target for violence, even more so than five or six years ago. ? Mohammad Qayoumi

The central government of Afghanistan once oversaw various rural development programs, including one, pictured here, that sent nurses in jeeps to remote villages to inoculate residents from such diseases as cholera. Now, security concerns alone make such an effort nearly impossible. Government nurses, as well as U.N. and NGO medical workers, are regular targets for insurgent groups that merely want to create disorder and terror in society. ??Mohammad Qayoumi

Photography is a powerful language, a valuable voice of authority for authorities. One has to understand how it is used. A ?Writing with Light?- Photo Graphy is becoming more powerful than any other human language. It is more than just the world?s first universally understood language, one that needs no translators and appears to have no word language limitations because it is a technology driven by newer and newer technologies which give it a reach and power that no language ever had.
The endless flow of camera constructed pictures is, today, increasingly constructing our social and political landscape. Constructing us, actually, by manipulating the mental spaces that we live in. Defining our Drishti – our perception and very sense of self ! There are, after all, more photographs shot every year than there are bricks in the world. And photography, in its different, camera lens based, avatars (film and television, for example) is what makes us what we are -who we are manufactured to be.
Cameras construct our worlds in ways that word oriented languages did not because the visual language they present us with is perceived to have credibility, a veracity and a connection to objective truth that words did not. Pictures are becoming the bricks that construct our contemporary, increasingly visual world. A world that can no longer just ban the making of pictures as it once did or tried to do. A world in which technologies drive the move away from the word driven and language riven cultures towards vast visual information landscapes that are increasingly becoming part of a real, war driven, information wars . Wars that are, says the Project for a New American Century, about Full Spectrum Domination.
Domination that is blatant about not allowing any challenges ??military, economic or cultural?. Domination that seeks ?control of all international commons including Space and Cyberspace, Culture not excluded? and is driven by never ending wars that see whole societies as a battlefield. A battlefield where – in the language of the US Marines? ?Fourth generation Warfare? ? ? the action will occur concurrently- throughout all participants depth , including their society as a cultural and not just as physical entity?. Special Human Terrain teams now work alongside the American Armed Forces. These anthropologists, ethnographers etc are uniformed cultural warriors. They are, very problematically, working in battlefields to understand and subvert cultures and peoples. Humanity is now a terrain to be controlled.
It is against this background of militrarised information and cultural control that one needs to look at the Time magazine cover. It was its founder, after all, who first projected the idea of the 20th century as ?An American Centrury?. Henry Luce founded a media empire to project his agenda. Time, Fortune, Life and even the March of Time film series served to mediate his synarchist ideas of corporate control of political power. That he was a member of Yale university?s secretive Skull and Bones society like so many other American leaders, only adds to ones suspicions of hidden agendas.
Continue reading “Power from the barrel of a lens”

The Face That Launched a Thousand Drones?

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By Anne Holmes


The much talked about August 9 Time magazine cover, unabashed in its aim to shore up support for the war effort in Afghanistan, has left many still shaking their heads in disbelief at such brazen exploitation of a woman?s suffering. It?s not the first time the plight of Afghan women has been used to manipulate public opinion. It?s a narrative we have become so accustomed to since the 2001 invasion, that many of my most intelligent female friends did not recognize it for the subversive emotional blackmail that it is. More important, they said, was the attention it brought to women?s issues. Well, let us talk about those issues in earnest, then.
The picture, by South African photographer Jodi Bieber, shows an 18-year old woman by the name of Bibi Aisha. Her story is tragic, and all too common in places like Afghanistan. Married off at a young age, she was beaten regularly by her in-laws and forced to sleep in the stable among the animals. Aisha decided to flee, but women wandering around on their own don?t go unnoticed in Afghanistan, and before long, she ended up in a prison in Kandahar. While not officially a crime, running away is often treated as such and can receive hefty sentences; in this case three years. But her father found her, and took her back to her in-laws. Her punishment for disgracing the family was decreed: her husband, A Taliban?according to some accounts, should cut off her nose and ears. She was left for dead in the mountains of Oruzgan. As a testament to her fighter spirit, she managed to drag herself to her father?s house, who took her to a US Army hospital where she was cared for until they turned her over to a shelter in Kabul. This was 2009.
After an article about her ordeal appeared in the?Daily Beast in December of last year, the Grossman Burn Foundation in California offered to perform reconstructive surgery on her this past spring, long before her face appeared on Time?s cover. She arrived in the US to begin treatment last week, just as her portrait appeared on newsstands amid the media frenzy surrounding the recent release of some 76,900 classified Afghan war documents. Perfect timing.
Aisha?s story will have a happy ending. America will have done right by her. She will get her nose back and hopefully go on to live a perfectly normal life far away from her abusers. It?s a heart-warming story. But what about the remaining 15 million Afghan women, nearly 90% of whom it is estimated suffer from some form of domestic abuse, and moreover, what does this have to do with America?s war?
Most people will never read the accompanying?article in Time magazine. They will only see the disturbing gaze of a mutilated woman and the message scrawled beneath it ?What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan,? question mark excluded. Most will never examine the mechanisms within them that bring about the deep emotional response. Subliminal advertisers know all too well that a powerful image can make a target audience ignore the caption, all the while absorbing it subconsciously, reducing them to zombie-like consumers ready to do whatever the ad tells them to: buy this car, try this diet, sell your house, dye your hair, get a new phone, support our war. Using emotional triggers like scantily clad women in ads that sell anything from watches to hair-loss treatment, have proven effective time and time again. A strong image can be a thousand times more powerful than the words that accompany it, but words can manipulate the message of an image in far more virulent ways. The photograph alone is subject to interpretation. But in this case, the two combined, we are being sent a clear message that tells us this is what will happen?if we leave Afghanistan. Who among us wants this to happen to another Afghan woman? Guilt is the precise emotional response that makes us suddenly feel that being against the war is somehow a travesty.
Setting aside the obvious (that this is what is happening?now,?today, on?our watch) how can Time editor Rick Stengel be so sure of the future? ?I think we answer questions. I don?t think we ask them,? Mr. Stengel said in an interview with Katie Couric when she pointed out the missing question mark at the end of the headline. It?s one thing to draw conclusions about questions that can actually be answered, like is there undeniable evidence that Bernie Madoff cheated lots of people out of money? It is another to predict the future of a foreign country at war, something analysts, historians and military advisors have been unable to do since time immemorial.
Mr. Stengel?explained his editorial choice in the first pages of the magazine as follows: ?What you see in these pictures and our story is something that you cannot find in those 91,000 documents,? he said, referring to the recent release of leaked classified papers titledThe Afghan War Diaries by whistleblower website Wikileaks. The White House has been struggling desperately to convince the public that we can?t leave Afghanistan amid the fallout following the leak, a trove of documents that reveal the true horrors of the war campaign on the ground, and it seems Mr. Stengel decided to play steward to the Pentagon and help sway public opinion.
In his chosen message, two points of absurdity emerge: when in the history of mankind has a war ever been fought in the name of women?s rights, and how can one justify the murder and mutilation of thousands of innocents in the name of eradicating domestic abuse, never mind the fact that the Pentagon has no vested interest in the said cause. Countries don?t spend billions of dollars to mobilize troops to liberate women from the chains of institutionalized misogyny.
Why then, should we believe that saving the Aishas of Afghanistan is a just cause for war? It?s a narrative we have heard periodically for nine years, though never when it stood to benefit the women in question. In the lead up to the war, we were shown images of Afghan women being beaten and executed by the Taliban at Kabul?s infamous soccer stadium. Stories in the press abounded about the terrible living conditions of women under the Taliban, pulling on the heart strings of the typically more pacifist female demographic, and yet, nary a member of congress brought the matter to the floor prior to 2001. If it was really a just cause for mounting a full-scale invasion, it begs the most conspicuous question: why have we not done so in other parts of the world where our sisters are suffering too?
It?s the same ludicrous line we?ve been fed about wars in the name of democracy and freedom. We went in to Iraq to liberate the people from a terrible dictator. What we ended up doing is ?liberating? well over 4 million people of life, limb, or home, ripping the country asunder, ushering in extremist factions that made some of the once secular nation?s women dress in the code of Hijab or wear a Burqa for the first time in their lives.
So why have we heard this line about the women every time proponents of the war seem to be dwindling? Because it works. Look no further for evidence than a recently leaked?CIA document in March of this year, drawn up after the Dutch decided to pull out of the war. Amid fears that Germany and France, who supply the third and fourth largest contingents to Afghanistan, might follow suit, it suggests pushing stories about abused Afghan women to drum up support for the war:

Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] role in combating the Taliban because of women?s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive scepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission.

But women in Afghanistan suffer abuse at the hands of Talibs and non-Talibs alike. It?s a social problem, not a Taliban problem. Of course, ousting the Taliban did women a favour in many regards. They regained suffrage, for one. Yes, today women nearly fill the 25% quota for parliamentary seats, and education is no longer officially forbidden. But how many women really benefit from the new constitution? What is written on paper is rarely applied in practice for the vast majority of women, particularly those living in rural areas, which represent about 77% of the population.
According to a?recent survey by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), ?more than 87 percent of all women suffer from domestic abuse, making the country one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman.? That is today. Are we to believe that 100% of women were being abused under the Taliban, or will be if they return to power? Is that meagre 13% of violence-free women really the result of the ISAF mission?
In 2007 I did a?story on Afghan women who self-immolate. They are so desperate that, one day, something compels them to douse themselves with petrol and strike a match. I listened to their stories with unease. They were beaten, raped, used as prostitutes, molested and enslaved; all by husbands, fathers, cousins, uncles, brothers, or in-laws. Not one of them was from Taliban territory. Though it?s impossible to get a real sense of the numbers, most agree that the phenomenon is on the rise, and yet, we are meant to believe that the war effort is making progress on the front of women?s rights.
Oppression and brutality against women are not endemic to the Taliban alone in Afghanistan. Last year, President Karzai, in a bid to gain votes from the country?s Shia minority (roughly 19%) passed a controversial new law curtailing women?s rights. The Shiite Personal Status Law (SPSL), allows a man to deny his wife food if she does not submit to his sexual will, gives custody of children to fathers and grandfathers, and requires a woman to get permission from her family to work or to travel outside the home without a male escort. ?It also, in effect, enables a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying ?blood money?,? says Human Rights Watch.
It?s worth noting that the Taliban are Sunni, not Shia, and that the US-backed president has enacted a law for the non-Taliban sector of society, rolling back rights for women that were written into the constitution. Before the elections, the?Times Online reported that ?the United States and Britain [were] opposed to any strong public protest [against the law] because they fear[ed] that speaking out could disrupt [the] election.?? The bill was pushed through parliament in February of 2009 and came into effect in July of last year. Afghan women fumed, while US and UK leaders stood by, and where was Time?s cover advocating for women?s rights then? Here are the covers they ran in February 2009.

Central to the debate about the message the Time cover sends, is the question are we really making progress for women ? and if so, why should we believe that a good reason to continue fighting? While many people were moved by the cover, some things just don?t add up. After nine years of war, the public has grown wary of these kinds of media stunts. We are not so dumb anymore. The Bush years are over. Challenging our leaders is no longer tantamount to a capital offence. Not ?supporting the troops? is no longer suggestive of treason, since so many of them are returning home to join the growing anti-war movement. Support for the war has plunged to an all-time low (36%). Too many US soldiers have committed suicide or come home suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People are starting to feel uncomfortable about the number of Afghan civilian casualties, which sadly should have been an issue long ago, but what the Wikileaks documents show us is that the army has been cooking the numbers. All those deaths of ?enemy combatants? were in reality far too often civilians. Such facts Americans are not happy to learn. The truth is coming out, though the editors of Time, like the Pentagon, obviously want to deflect our attention from it by shoving our faces in another gruesome reality that somehow makes even the staunchest pacifist wonder if maybe we?should soldier on.
In my discussions with friends about the cover, I was amazed how many educated, sharp women couldn?t see how they were being manipulated. Many felt it was much more important to shed light on the plight of women, and missed the absurdity of the message attached to it. Some of them were Iranian expats, for whom the subject of women?s rights is all too close to home. But then I asked, what if Time magazine were to run a cover like this one?

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IMPERIAL COWARDICE: Remote control killing in Pakistan

by?Rahnuma Ahmed

  • WAR is, said Major General Smedley Butler, twice-recipient of the Medal of Honour (1914, 1915), ?a racket?. He had seen it from close(st) quarters and had turned into an outspoken critic of the US military-industrial complex. Describing what his life?s efforts had been devoted to, he wrote:??I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents? (War is a Racket, 1935).
  •  Piloting a drone requires much less talent or experience than piloting a real plane. It is more like doing well in ?a video game?

    Piloting a drone requires much less talent or experience than piloting a real plane. It is more like doing well in ?a video game?

    If Smedley Butler was living, he?d probably have agreed with Peter Ustinov the playwright, who said recently, ?Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.?

  • If passions do not rage to transform hostilities into outright war, ?false flag? operations may be staged. The Japanese did not ?sneakily? attack Pearl Harbour. Their encryption codes had been broken and Washington knew what was going to happen. But the US president decided to withhold the information from his commanders at Pearl Harbour. One hundred and sixty-three American soldiers were killed, 396 wounded, 6 tank landing ships sank. Why? Roosevelt, so the story goes, wanted a piece of the war pie.
  • More recently, Iraq?s WMD myth was manufactured, packaged and presented. Aided by the Clinton administration?s deliberate sabotaging of UN weapons inspection in Iraq, it created the predictable western outrage needed to justify George Bush?s invasion of Iraq.The September 11 Twin Tower attacks have been dubbed the ?New? Pearl Harbour by the leader of the 9/11 Truth Movement, David Ray Griffin. The questions raised by the movement which remain unanswered in the government appointed committee report, speak of, at its best, the criminal negligence of the Bush administration; at its worst, complicity.
  • Obama?s expansion of push button execution
    IN HIS recent West Point speech, US president Barack Obama announced his decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, to fight al-Qaeda which had attacked the US on September 11th (in the words of Bush, it was a ?faceless? and ?cowardly? act), and is now operating in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Even though al-Qaeda?s members are now, according to James Jones, his national security adviser, as few as 100).
    What Obama did not mention was another decision that was taken to ?parallel? the troop surge in Afghanistan: an expansion in the CIA-led killer drone campaign in Pakistan. An act which will lead to more drone strikes against militants. More US spies in Pakistan. An increased CIA budget for its operations. And thereby, more of what critics term, ?push-button? executions. A state of affairs where the US administration is, Guantanamo-style, judge, jury, executioner ? all in one. These executions, or targeted assassinations, or extrajudicial killings are not executions, or targeted assassinations, or extrajudicial killings. The war on terror has changed all that. Terrorists are no longer criminals. They are combatants. Killing them is part of warfare. And the globe is the battlefield.
    In a recent New Yorker magazine article and in several interviews, Jane Mayer who has extensively researched on Predator drones informs us, there are two drone programmes, one is part of the US military-run programme, the other, is run by the CIA. The former, she says, is carried out transparently. There are after-action reports, there is a chain of command. But the CIA?s drone campaign is a ?secret targeted-killing program?, one that is executed in places where the US is not at war. ?It?s a whole new frontier in the use of force.? We don?t know, she says, who is on the target list? How do you get on the list? Can you get off the list? Who makes the list? And, eerily, Where is the battlefield? Where does the battlefield end?
    President Obama had promised ?change?, and there has been change in the drone attacks. In its first ten months his administration carried out as many drone attacks as did the Bush administration in its last three years. Drone strikes are a new hot favourite in US ruling circles for not ?risking a single American soldier on the ground? (Reuters), and less collateral damage than from an F-16. CIA director Leon E Panetta has called them ?the only game in town.? But reliable information on casualties is difficult to assess since the Zardari government does not allow anyone, neither journalists, nor aid groups into the area. According to a recently released New America study, ?Since 2006, our analysis indicates, 82 U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have killed between 750 and 1,000 people. Among them were about 20 leaders of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and allied groups, all of whom have been killed since January 2008.? The rest of those killed? Footsoldiers in the militant organisations, or civilians.
    Piloting a drone requires much less talent or experience than piloting a real plane. It is more like doing well in ?a video game?, and is work that has been outsourced by the CIA to civilians, to those who are not even US government employees. While sitting at CIA headquarters in Langley (Virginia), a drone pilot can view and hone in on a target tens of thousands of miles away. Someone like, for instance, Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban leader in Pakistan, who was killed in a drone assassination on August 5th this year. Live video feed captured by the infrared camera of an undetected Predator drone hovering two miles away had relayed close-up footage of Mehsud reclining on the rooftop of his father-in-law?s house, in Zanghara (South Waziristan), on a hot summer night. The CIA remotely launched two Hellfire missiles from the Predator. ?After the dust cloud dissipated, all that remained of Mehsud was a detached torso. Eleven others died: his wife, his father-in-law, his mother-in-law, a lieutenant, and seven bodyguards.?
    But Mehsud ? targeted and assassinated to elicit the Zardari government?s support for these incursions into Pakistan?s sovereignty ? had not been an easy shoot. Mayer tells us, success came only after 16 strikes had been carried out over a period of 14 months, killing a total of 538 persons, of whom 200-300 were bystanders.
    But who cares for native deaths? The less the (American) body bags, the less the (American) blood spilled, the more likely the public acceptance of war. As for the drone pilots, as former congressperson for New York, James Walsh (R) had said ecstatically, it allows them to be ?literally fighting a war in Iraq and at the end of their shift be playing with their kids in Camillus.?
    And, why not? Who says ?gangster capitalism? contradicts with Western family values?
    ?Everything is permitted?

    HONOUR and war are said to be inseparable.
    I think, no longer. Virtual war is cowardly. For, as John Berger reminds us, there has never been a war in which disparity?the inequality of firepower?has been greater. On the one hand, satellite surveillance night and day, B52s, Tomahawk missiles, cluster bombs, shells with depleted uranium, computerised weapons. And increasingly, one sees the American dream materialise, a ?no-contact war?. On the other, sandbags, elderly men brandishing the pistols of their youth, wearing torn shirts and sneakers, armed with a few Kalashnikovs.
    What courage does the American warrior show through pushing his joystick while sitting in Langley? Should not the Medal of Honour be disbanded? Or better still, re-named Medal of Cowardice? For remote-control killings? Killings best-described in George Bush?s words, as ?faceless? acts?
  • And what about those who decide? Those who push the bigger joystick? In Shakespeare?s plays, says Stephen Greenblatt, the ruler serves as a model and a test case. ?If his actions go unpunished, then, to paraphrase Dostoevsky, everything is permitted.?
    Has everything already become permitted? For, as Macbeth had said, ?I am in blood; stepp?d insofar that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as to go o?er.?
    First published in New Age on 7th December 2009