Thursday, March 30, 2006

Afghanistan the forgotten "liberation"

Afghan Christian Convert Granted Political Asylum in Italy
In other news, Abdul Rahman, the Afghan citizen who faced a possible death sentence for converting to Christianity has arrived in Italy, where he's been granted political asylum. Rahman was arrested two weeks ago. Under Afghanistan’s laws no one has the right to contravene Islam.

That's from Democracy Now! today. Now Afghanistan's supposed to be a "win," remember? We're supposed to have "liberated" there. Forget the fact that we've let warlords control the country and that women are no better off than they were before Bully Boy's war (despite Laura Bush delivering a radio address on the need to liberate the women -- can you imagine how Rush and the right wing gang would have tarred and feathered Hillary Clinton for delivering a readio address like that). Just focus on the fact that there's no freedom of religion unless you consider freedom of religion to mean that you are free to practice a Muslim religion as much as you want.

He was put on trial and "safety" for him means escaping to Italy. Now do we still want to pretend that we "liberated" anything or anyone in Afghanistan?

There was an NPR reporter, a woman, who left NPR and decided to try to help in Afghanistan. She was interviewed by David Brancaccio when the program was still NOW with Bill Moyers. (And when it was still an hour long.) Things weren't going great then. (Moyers left the show by January 2005). And you think they've gotten better?

Her name is Sarah Chayes. Here's some of what she said on the October 24, 2003 broadcast:

CHAYES: It does technically, but there's a lot of autonomy in these provinces. Largely because frankly the leaders or the rulers of these provinces were chosen to be the proxy to drive the Taliban out of Kandahar. Sorry… to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan.
Because it's not just Kandahar that's under this sort of war-lord rule. It's also Herat in the west, and it's, you know, it's basically each region has its local strong man. And these people obtained a lot of weapons and a lot of money, largely from the United States.
Which was fair enough. In other words, we were not going to go in massively on the ground in Afghanistan the way we did in Iraq. And so we needed people to do it for us. And these were people who had been opposed to the Taliban, so why not go with them?
The problem was that this massive influx of arms and money to these guys gave them a kind of… it rooted them. It anchored them. And what's happened now is that they report nominally to Kabul. But very little in fact.
That's one side of the security situation. The other side of the security situation is a visible resurgence of Taliban activity. And this has been happening very… again, I don't feel in danger in Kandahar. I don't… it's not on the surface of it now very grave as far as I'm concerned.
But it's the pattern that I'm starting to feel to be a bit worrisome. Which is that there was sort of nothing for the first six months after the Taliban defeat. Then you started to see in, for example, across the border in Pakistan you started seeing Taliban showing themselves very openly in the streets with their classic clothing and all that kind of thing.
It was clearly a trial balloon to see what the reaction would be. And there was actually no reaction. And then the next phase was sermons against… in mosques against the U.S. Presidents, against the central government in Afghanistan. Against girls going to school, things like that. There were letters left in mosques and schools in Afghanistan.

That was in 2003. Things haven't gotten better. But this is supposed to be a "success."

Here's what Christian Parenti wrote recently in Christian Parenti's "Afghanistan: The Other War:"

Only ninety-eight US troops died in Afghanistan last year; but the ratio of US casualties to overall troop levels makes Afghanistan as dangerous as Iraq. While Iraq's violent disintegration dominates the headlines, Bush touts Afghanistan as a success. During his recent visit, the President told Afghans that their country was "inspiring demand their freedom."
But many features of the political landscape here are not so inspiring--for example, the deteriorating security situation. Taliban attacks are up; their tactics have become more aggressive and nihilistic. They have detonated at least twenty-three suicide bombs in the past six months, killing foreign and Afghan troops, a Canadian diplomat, local police and in some cases crowds of civilians. Kidnapping is on the rise. American contractors are being targeted. Some 200 schools have been burned or closed down. And Lieut. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the senior American military officer here, expects the violence to get worse over the spring and summer.

And this week saw the death of a Canadian soldier and an American. C.I. noted it yesterday:

The scene of Bully Boy's other "liberation" still hasn't seen "democracy" but it does continue to see violence: in Kandahar a Canadian soldier, an American solider and eight Afghan soldiers were killed. (The name of the Canadian is Robert Costall -- only name released -- who was twenty-two.) Three Canadian soldiers were also wounded. And veterans of the Vietnam war have joined with others to insist that the United States "take responsibility for victims of the Agent Orange defoliant used by the U.S. military."

I included the Agent Orange sentence because I think that's important but as soon as I read over the copy and paste, I started thinking it was also fitting. We don't follow up on anything. We've denied Agent Orange and we deny what's going on Afghanistan. I'm not sure if I should write "we." Obviously, I'm largely speaking of the administration (which isn't "we" -- I never gave my approval for faith-based funding or for illegal wars or for anything the administration has done) but it's true that "we" also includes the people. And if we demanded that the government be accountable for its actions, they'd have to.

It's all "the other war" unless it's Tom Brokaw getting misty-eyed for "The Great Generation."
We don't think about it, we don't care. You can throw in WWI as well. Tom Brokaw didn't think they were the greatest generation. And with Bully Boy saying "global war on terror" all the time, I've started to realize he really means WWIII.

Katrina vanden Heuvel doesn't want people making comparisons to Hitler and others of his ilk. I like her but I don't work for The Nation and I'll write whatever want, thanks for the suggestion.
Now Hitler's considered to have started WWII. There's dispute about Pearl Harbor (which leads to the US entering) but I think a lot of people would say it was Hitler's actions that set WWII into motion. (If not, e-mail me and gripe.) Who's put the "global war on terror" into motion? Bully Boy.

He didn't want to prosecute terrorism, he wanted a war. He's said it plenty of times, "I'm a war time president." So if he wants a "global war" -- what is that but another world war? "Globe" equals "war."

I remember a city council meeting that a number (a large number) of us attended. And a pastor (not my preacher) spoke in front of it. This was in 2003, a few months after the invasion. He said Bully Boy was acting like Hitler by lying us into war and this White man, at least in his fifties, starts crying. In public. And he's a city council member. And he starts going, "Don't you say that! Don't you say that! Don't you compare our president to Hitler! Don't you say he lied us into war."

Okay, with the Downing Street Memo and this week's memo, I think a lot of us can say, "He lied us into war" and if that causes someone to burst into tears, too bad for them.

But I really don't like Katrina vanden Heuvel telling people what comparisons are "good" or "bad." Maybe it works that way in the White world but she's not speaking for all cultures and she's sure not speaking for the African-American culture around me.

It's like when that creep Bernie wanted to lecture Kayne West about what to say and how to say. African-Americans don't need Whites telling them how to speak. If it irritates you, don't listen. But outside of the conservatives ones, I doubt there was any confusion about what Kayne West meant in the African-American community.

We're still fighting for our rights and we don't need a White person, trying to be helpful or not, telling us how to talk. Maybe it's not that we don't know how to speak, maybe it's that your not the intended audience?

There are cultural differences and a lot of "helpful advice" often seems like a White person is trying to tell us how to speak. It's like when the Katrina victims were testifying to Congress and that White man butted in on the African-American woman and started saying, "Don't you use concentration camps!" She's a grown woman. She can use any damn term she wants to. That was so disrespectful.

It offends White ears? Too bad. If James Brown had polled "I'm Black and I'm Proud" to White audiences, he never would have used it in a song.

You don't want to use a phrase, don't use it. You don't want to make a comparison, don't make it. But quit thinking that Kanye West is talking to you just because you saw him on the TV. A lot of people grasped what he was saying, people of all color, that some New Republic pushing, "War Got Your Tonuge?" silenced White guy didn't get it is his own problem.

And I don't think Harry Belafonte made a mistake comparing Bully Boy to Hitler. I'm proud he said it. Katrina vanden Heuvel listed that as a one of her no-no examples. I'm sorry it was a no-no for her. But in the real world, in African-American circles, we got it. We understood what he was saying. And a lot of us, including me, got it.

It's like when Aretha Franklin sang it "Sock it to me" in "Respect" and when Richard Nixon said "Sock it to me" on Laugh-In. It didn't mean the same thing. There was a racial context. And I really didn't appreciate Katrina vanden Heuvel including Harry Belafonte on her list.

I'm glad she's against the war. But African-Americans were against it in large numbers before it started and that's remained consisentent. We didn't need the mainstream media to report a little of the truth (finally) to form our opinions. We didn't need "tastemakers" with their carefully chosen words telling us how to speak or advising us of what was going on.

Next time Katrina vanden Heuvel wants to make a list of suggestions, she should focus on people of her class, her race, her education background. (I won't say her gender because she doesn't spend a lot of time writing about gender.) Leave the African-Americans and Native Americans off the list of examples and understand that although I respect you, I don't need a White person telling me how to speak or what comparisons to make.

She really offended me by putting Harry Belafonte on her list. As far as I know, The Nation has only one African-American who regularly writes for the magazine, Patricia J. Williamson. So maybe she thinks African-Americans don't read The Nation? If that's the case, we do. If that's not the case, before she tries to put words in our mouths, she might want to consider putting us in the magazine itself in something other than a "Remember Brown v. Board of Education" special issue. I see a lot of Whites writing for the magazine. I don't see a lot of non-whites. I'm assuming Liza Featherstone is Native American based upon her name and that might be a mistake on my part. But I see Featherstone and Williams and that's really it.

Instead of telling everyone how to speak, that time might be better spent trying to make the magazine more representative of how all of us, from various backgrounds speak.

I didn't realize how offended I was by that column until now.

I think it's because I don't think she was trying to offend to anyone. I think she was trying to offer some inspiration and she does that in many of her columns. But I'm serious on this, if you've got a beef with the way people are talking, stick to your own kind. Don't write suggestions for everyone. Not when everyone is represented equally in your magazine. In fact, if it weren't for the Jewish writers, the magazine would probably be overwhelming WASP.

I'd just intended to write about Afghanistan and have no idea how I even got into this topic. I think it was Bully Boy's "global war." That's a world war. WWIII on terrorism, but it's still a world war. We don't have gas chambers. We do have a government that tortures. We do have a government that rounded up people after 9-11 and it was the dark skinned people, not the ones who looked like Katrina vanden Heuvel.

She's spoken out against torture and I know she gets it and then some. But just because she doesn't make the connections other people make doesn't make them wrong. And it may go to the fact that she's writing from her own perspective while attempting to make universal statements.

I'll stop here because I've been trying to rush tonight because Mike wants to note my post. C.I.'s been asking if everyone's doing their part to note at least one other site each day. I called C.I. and said it was very nice (and C.I. notes me all the time) but that I was doing fine. But C.I. wants to be sure that everyone has a chance to be noted. (And C.I. noted Kat twice this morning. Kat said C.I. asked her not to post her review at The Common Ills until she knew she'd have time to blog at her site too because that way people clicking on her name in the review would see something new.)

I just called C.I. even though I know this is a crazy time. I said I had some strong criticism of Katrina vanden Heuvel. C.I. goes, "And?" Which made me laugh. I said, "Well I didn't want to post it if it was going to make you or the community uncomfortable." C.I. said, "Post it. Your opinion matters. If someone disagrees, they disagree. But you need to share your thoughts or there's no point in writing anything." I said, "Well, you noted you disagreed with her column but I'm going into why I disagree with it." C.I. said, "That's fine. There's nothing wrong with that. She wrote her point of view and you're allowed to write your point of view. That's how free speech works. I'll make a point to note your entry tonight or tomorrow morning depending upon how time goes."

I appreicate C.I.'s support. And feel more than a little foolish for wondering if I'd get it. I know from Wally and Mike that one of the sites C.I.'s concerned about getting attention is mine. Trina's and Seth's are two others. C.I.'s never been anything but supportive and that's probably why I did worry. Like most of the community, I do like Katrina vanden Heuvel's writing. I think she's smart and often inspirational. But I think that was a really bad idea. If you have a problem with that, write me and don't gripe to C.I. Visitor or member, take it up with me. (I know, especially visitors, usually go running to C.I. and I don't want to cause a headache for C.I. Especially after last weekend's marathon, never ending session at The Third Estate Sunday Review.)

Let me add that you should check out Rebecca's "iraq in crisis and chaos - the us continuing the occupation will destroy the country" and Elaine's "Peace comes from being able to contribute the best we have" because they are both making strong points. Also Betty's posting a new chapter tonight. (It may be up already.)

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