Snap Back to Reality

by matttbastard

Hey, remember when US VP Joe Biden was counted among the leading Democratic voices that supported militaristic nation-building in the Middle East/Central-South Asia back in the day?

Good times.

Now?

Well, not so much, thanks to the corruption-laden clusterfuck in Afghanistan:

Nothing shook [Biden’s] faith quite as much as what you might call the Karzai dinners. The first occurred in February 2008, during a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan that Biden took with fellow senators John Kerry and Chuck Hagel. Dining on platters of rice and lamb at the heavily fortified presidential palace in Kabul, Biden and his colleagues grilled Karzai about reports of corruption and the growing opium trade in the country, which the president disingenuously denied. An increasingly impatient Biden challenged Karzai’s assertions until he lost his temper. Biden finally stood up and threw down his napkin, declaring, “This meeting is over,” before he marched out of the room with Hagel and Kerry. It was a similar story nearly a year later. As Obama prepared to assume the presidency in January, he dispatched Biden on a regional fact-finding trip. Again Biden dined with Karzai, and, again, the meeting was contentious. Reiterating his prior complaints about corruption, Biden warned Karzai that the Bush administration’s kid-glove treatment was over; the new team would demand more of him.

Biden’s revised view of Karzai was pivotal. Whereas he had once felt that, with sufficient U.S. support, Afghanistan could be stabilized, now he wasn’t so sure. “He’s aware that a basic rule of counterinsurgency is that you need a reliable local partner,” says one person who has worked with Biden in the past. The trip also left Biden wondering about the clarity of America’s mission. At the White House, he told colleagues that “if you asked ten different U.S. officials in that country what their mission was, you’d get ten different answers,” according to a senior White House aide.

Welcome to reality, Joe. Hopefully he can make the following point, as articulated byDDay, perfectly clear to the CiC:

Obama has a responsibility, not to rubber-stamp the views of Washington hawks and counter-insurgency lovers, but to outline the best possible policy for the future. I don’t see how committing 100,000-plus troops to Afghanistan for five years or more, to defend an illegitimate government, to fight an invisible enemy, fits with that mandate.

Now if only the veep would learn how to use ‘literally’ in proper context.

Related: Must-watch interview with former British Foreign Service operative and Afghanistan expert Rory Stewart, director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Stewart contends Obama’s options are politically limited when it comes to refusing Gen. McChrystal’s immediate demand for more troops — but that the situation on the ground also means that any escalation in US forces will turn out to be a one-time only occurance.

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NY Times: 300 Afghan Women Protest ‘Rape Law’

by mattbastard

This is probably the most inspiring and heroic thing I’ve read about in ages:

The young women stepped off the bus and moved toward the protest march just beginning on the other side of the street when they were spotted by a mob of men.

“Get out of here, you whores!” the men shouted. “Get out!”

The women scattered as the men moved in.

“We want our rights!” one of the women shouted, turning to face them. “We want equality!”

The women ran to the bus and dove inside as it rumbled away, with the men smashing the taillights and banging on the sides.

“Whores!”

But the march continued anyway. About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape.

It was an extraordinary scene. Women are mostly illiterate in this impoverished country, and they do not, generally speaking, enjoy anything near the freedom accorded to men. But there they were, most of them young, many in jeans, defying a threatening crowd and calling out slogans heavy with meaning.

[…]

The women who protested Wednesday began their demonstration with what appeared to be a deliberately provocative act. They gathered in front of the School of the Last Prophet, a madrasa run by Ayatollah Asif Mohsini, the country’s most powerful Shiite cleric. He and the scholars around him played an important role in the drafting of the new law.

“We are here to campaign for our rights,” one woman said into a loudspeaker. Then the women held their banners aloft and began to chant.

The reaction was immediate. Hundreds of students from the madrasa, most but not all of them men, poured into the streets to confront the demonstrators.

“Death to the enemies of Islam!” the counterdemonstrators cried, encircling the women. “We want Islamic law!”

The women stared ahead and kept walking.

A phalanx of police officers, some of them women, held the crowds apart.

As Spackerman (h/t) rhetorically asks, “What have you done recently that’s half as brave?”

Related: In an interview with Afghan women’s rights activist Soraya Pakzad, Jean MacKenzie puts the  controversy surrounding the Afghan ‘rape law’ in context:

The reality is that no Afghan woman, Shi’ia or Sunni, has the right to object to her husband’s advances. The international outcry, while well meaning, misses the point: It is not a single law that is the problem, it is the overall status of women.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

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Obama on Afghan Marital Rape Law: Fighting Terror Trumps Women’s Rights

by matttbastard

While holding a press conference the NATO summit in France, Obama was just asked a tough question from Fox News’ Major Garrett (I know, even a stopped clock is right twice a day) regarding the absolutely disgusting Afghan marital rape law and what steps the US intended to take (if any).

Obama sputtered out some mealy mouthed diplo-speak about how the law is “abhorrent” and that  “the views of the administration have been and will be communicated to the Karzai government.”

Not satisfied with this non-response, Garrett followed up, asking for clarity.

The subsequent statement from the POTUS absolutely floored me:

“We have stated very clearly that we object to this law. But I want everybody to understand that our focus is to defeat al Qaeda… .” [statement clarified based on transcript–mb]

Excuse me?!

Ok, reality check time.

Canada’s government? It sucks. Big time.

And yet Parliament is publicly putting pressure on the Afghan government to roll back this despicable proposed legislation (even if the Harpercons could be a bit more muscular in expressing their ‘deep concerns’).

President Barack Obama? He basically said that the war effort trumps human–women’s–rights–in other words, “screw the wimminz, our primary interest is rootin’ out terrorism!” Yeah–the amoral influence of Brzezinski on the Obama admin’s foreign policy (to paraphrase, “winning the war on terror is more important in the long run that a few violated women”) is definitely shining through like a lighthouse beacon.

Update: Video and transcript of the exchange, courtesy Think Progress:

Q Thank you, Mr. President, and good afternoon. I’d like to ask you about a law that’s recently been passed in Afghanistan that affects the 10 percent of the Shia population there. A summary of it says it negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage, and restricts a woman’s right to leave the home. The United Nations Development Fund for Women says this legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband. I’d like your assessment of this law, number one. Number two, will you condition future troop movements of the U.S. to Afghanistan on the basis of this law being retracted or rewritten? And if not, sir, what about the character of this law ought to motivate U.S. forces to fight and possibly die in Afghanistan?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, this was actually a topic of conversation among all the allies. And in our communication — communiqué, you will see that we specifically state that part of this comprehensive approach is encouraging the respect of human rights. I think this law is abhorrent. Certainly the views of the administration have been, and will be, communicated to the Karzai government. And we think that it is very important for us to be sensitive to local culture, but we also think that there are certain basic principles that all nations should uphold, and respect for women and respect for their freedom and integrity is an important principle.

Now, I just want to remind people, though, why our troops are fighting, because I think the notion that you laid out, Major, was that our troops might be less motivated. Our troops are highly motivated to protect the United States, just as troops from NATO are highly motivated to protect their own individual countries and NATO allies collectively. So we want to do everything we can to encourage and promote rule of law, human rights, the education of women and girls in Afghanistan, economic development, infrastructure development, but I also want people to understand that the first reason we are there is to root out al Qaeda so that they cannot attack members of the Alliance.

Now, I don’t — those two things aren’t contradictory, I think they’re complementary. And that’s what’s reflected in the communiqué.

Q But do you object to the law –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We have stated very clearly that we object to this law. But I want everybody to understand that our focus is to defeat al Qaeda and ensure that they do not have safe havens from which they can launch attacks against the Alliance.

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PSA: Re-instate Malalai Joya — May 21st Day of Action

by matttbastard

Via The Canadian Peace Alliance:

Reinstate Malalai Joya!

On May 21 there will be an international day of action in support of suspended Afghan MP Malalai Joya. Joya was suspended for speaking out about the record of human rights abuses by members of the warlord dominated Afghan Parliament.

The Canadian Peace Alliance is calling on members and supporters to organize events or to send letters demanding that that Joya be re-instated to the Afghan Parliament. We are also calling on the government of Canada to immediately call for her to be re-instated to the parliament to which she was duly elected.

The case of Malalai Joya speaks volumes about the nature of the new Afghan government, currently being supported by more than 2500 Canadian soldiers. She is a tireless defender of women’s rights and has organized a grassroots movement for peace and democracy in Afghanistan. That movement which can lay the foundation for real democratic development is being silenced by the Afghan state.

Please take the time to fax or e-mail a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier, the Afghan ambassador to Canada, Omar Samad, and the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and demand that they re-instate Malalai Joya.

Step 1
Cut and paste the following e-mails into the address line: pm@pm.gc.ca , maxime.bernier@international.gc.cacontact@afghanemb-canada.net , president@afghanistangov.org

Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
pm@pm.gc.ca
Fax: 613-941-6900

Foreign Minister, Maxime Bernier:
maxime.bernier@international.gc.ca
Fax: (613) 996 3443

Afghan Ambassador Omar Samad:
contact@afghanemb-canada.net
Fax: 613-563-4962

Afghan President Hamid Karzai:
president@afghanistangov.org

Step 2
Include some background information in your letter or refer to the articles listed below.

Background Information:

Joya has been a thorn in the side of the NATO-supported government by being an outspoken critic of the human rights abuses of the warlords that dominate  the parliament of Afghanistan. In the elections of May 2005, more than 60 per cent of those elected to parliament were from known warlord groups, many of whom are responsible for war crimes committed during the civil war from 1992 to 1996. An international campaign to have the warlords held to account  failed when the parliament decided to offer immunity for all past war crimes.

Joya has been threatened and attacked for her stance. In 2006, President  Hamid Karzai cut her security funding, proving that women’s rights are not a concern for his government despite assertions to the contrary from the  Government of Canada.

In an interview with the Guardian, Joya said: “When I speak in parliament they threaten me. In May they beat me by throwing bottles of water at me and they shouted, ‘Take her and rape her.’ These men who are in power, never have they apologized for their crimes that they committed in the wars, and now, with the support of the US, they continue with their crimes in a different way. That is why there is no fundamental change in the situation of women.”

Even before her suspension, Malalai Joya faced censorship, abuse and constant threats including assassination attempts because she spoke the truth about the situation in her country. She denounced the overwhelming control of warlords, drug lords and war criminals in the Afghan government backed by the US and NATO. She spoke up for real democracy and women’s rights, for disarmament, for the warlords to be brought to justice, and for peace in her country. For this, she has been silenced, and the governments of the NATO countries currently occupying Afghanistan have maintained a shameful silence.

For more information on Malalai Joya: http://malalaijoya.com

Read the Human Rights Watch statement about Malalai Joya’s suspension
http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2007/05/23/afghan15995.htm

Recent Headlines:

‘Corruption eats away at Afghan government’
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080502.afghan03/BNStory/International/home

‘Ousted female Afghan lawmaker fighting to return to parliament
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/04/05/asia/AS-GEN-Afghan-Lawmaker-Ousted.php

‘Despite Taliban’s fall, Afghanistan faces familiar troubles’
http://www.projo.com/education/content/AFGHAN_SPEAKER_03-19-08_QG9E9TJ_v98.372f652.html

‘Canada should change its policy on Afghanistan’
http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2008/03/03/malalai-joya-canada-should-change-its-policy-on-afghanistan.html

Step 3
Send your e-mail or fax.

Step 4
Sign the on-line petition for Malalai Joya: http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/ReinstateMalalaiJoya

Please take video and photos of your event and send them to Malalai Joya’s defense committee at mj[at]malalaijoya.com.

To have your May 21 action listed, email Friends of Malalai Joya – Canada at malalai.joya[at]yahoo.ca.

Please let us know about your efforts by cc’ing the Canadian Peace Alliance cpa@web.ca

Canadian Peace Alliance- www.acp-cpa.cacpa@web.ca – 416-588-5555

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Still Vigorously Committed to our Commitments

by matttbastard

bev-oda-cake.jpg

Uncompensated Jos Louis pitchwoman Bev Oda appears to be auditioning for a feature role in the next installment of Fern’s “Women and Girls” series:

Carole MacNeil: Okay, some people see this move [sentencing Afghan journalism student Sayed Pervez Kambaksh to death, purportedly for downloading an essay on women’s rights] as part of a pattern of clawing back democracy and clawing back human rights in Afghanistan, how do you see it?

Bev Oda: Well, no, I totally disagree. I think we’ve made great strides in providing greater rights to the ah, afghan people. We’ve enabled certainly in the area for women Afghanistan the women previously had no rights. They had no rights under the law. They had no right to human rights. They had no right to education. They had no right to employment. They had no right to mobility outside of their home unescorted. They had no rights to take part in a democratic process or to take part in their government.

Bev Oda: Today we see women and girls going to school. We see them out, being employed. We see them taking part in the economic world of Afghanistan. We see them actually voting in the election and 23 per cent of them are now members of their parliament.

Carole MacNeil: I was talking to Adina Neyazi who is the founder of the Afghan Women’s Organization. She used to be a lecturer in Kabul and she’s worked in some of the underground schools and what not during the time of the Taliban. And she says, you know, that in many cases what the government’s are doing is a showcase really. That, you know, every 30 minutes an Afghan women dies, 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate. She said there are still forced marriages. She said sometimes these kids are going to school and they get acid thrown in their faces, that the schools are under attack constantly. So she says that the status of women in Afghanistan – and I talked to the brother of the gentlemen who’s been scheduled or sentenced to execution, and he said the status of women in Afghanistan is terrible—

Bev Oda: Well, we agree that there’s so much more to do. We’ve made great strides so far. We have a lot more to do, we’ve ah, that’s why we are enhancing our program. We’re gonna be looking at new programs to address violence against women. We’re continue support civil society group there that are working on behalf of the afghan women. But the fact is is that they have made great strides, they know that ah…I was there myself, I saw girls walking to school, I met women who have their own stalls in the bazaars who are now engaging and making a living for themselves. They’re taking literacy courses and the better educated they become….so we are making great strides but there is a lot more to do and that’s why this government believes we have to stay in Afghanistan to complete the work-job we started.

Carole MacNeil: How concerned are you that the rights of women in Afghanistan are not a priority of the Karzai government? That, as it makes deals with the warlords to share power, that the rights of women will be the first thing to go.

Bev Oda: Well, you know, I think the thing is, I disagree. The rights of the women are a part of the Karzai government’s strategy and plans that’s why they have a minister for women within their government. That’s why the local (inaudible) the, include women. The local councils. Many of the local council’s have women participating there. The Karzai government, as I indicated has many women who are not only ministers but are representative of the government. So, I disagree with you. I believe and I know that there are actually looking forward to celebrating the international women’s day along with the other countries around the world.

Carole MacNeil: Um, Ms. Oda, just one final question the, ah, this case with the journalist just downloading a document that suggests women be equal to men and then you know the most prominent female MP Malalai Joya being suspended for criticising her male collegues. I mean, what does that say to you?

Bev Oda: It suggests that there’s still more work to be done and that’s why we continue to work with the people in Afghanistan as well as the government in Afghanistan. We express our concerns when it’s justified. We do it vigorously. And at the same time we’re working with the women at the grassroots, in their communities and their villages, and I’m also working with the minister for women in Afghanistan so we’re working on all fronts.

Carole MacNeil: Um, what does vigorously mean, compared to non-vigorously?

Bev Oda: Well, it means that as you know Afghanistan is one of this government’s primary missions that we’re addressing and we understand that we have made a commitment and you have to be ah, focused on that commitment, you have to be committed to the commitment and that’s why we want to ensure that we have a full public debate about our Afghan mission because there is success being achieved and we know that we can move the betterment of the lives for Afghan people even further.

“Committed to the commitment”–buh?! Apparently the Minister of International Cooperation still “can’t say whether they’re right or they’re wrong”, nor much of anything that might deviate from the Stephen Harper Party’s vain ‘stay the course’ script. Would someone explain to me how she’s managed to score multiple cabinet appointments (rhetorical question, natch)?

Sweet Jesus, I hate Bev Oda (and her little cakes, too).

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers