Tag Archives: Pakistan

Pity the children


drone-childrenThe outpouring of grief over the Sandy Hook shootings continues. That one nation, if not the whole world, can express such pain and grief over the murders of these twenty children speaks to us of our innate human capacity for empathy and compassion.

Some pointed out the obvious almost as soon as it happened, but it didn’t seem right. After all, the horror of one act of brutality does not detract from the horror of another. To mourn the dreadful loss of one group of people takes nothing away from the suffering of another.

And yet the frenzy of national soul-searching continues unabated. So, amid the endless replays of interviews with sobbing parents, the minute cross-examination of media-sick residents, the near-nationwide outrage and demands that Something Must Be Done, can we pause to remember that hundreds of children have been murdered by US drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

And can we demand that here, too, Something Must Be Done?

Vote for Malala . . .

. . . for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, here. The actions and courage of this single 14-year old girl may change the world.

Who are we really? Part I

Today, Nicholas Kristof suggests we indulge in a feel-good fantasy when we describe who we are. He starts with a quiz – identify the country:

It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country . . . Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.

This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t even imaginable, and criminals are never coddled.

The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution.  . . .citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.

So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it’s Pakistan. . .

This sounds like where today’s Republican Party want to take us.

. . . as America has become more unequal, as we cut off government lifelines to the neediest Americans, as half of states plan to cut spending on higher education this year, let’s be clear about our direction . . .

MENA – odd way of saying it

A post by Orhan and the discussion in comments reminded me this morning that the denominator “Middle East North Africa”  seems to have linguistically replaced our old friend, the ever volatile “Middle East”.  And I’m reminded too that another old ‘friend’, the war in Afghanistan is happening  further to the east of that area close to Pakistan (and thus India and the slow simmering rivalry over Kashmir).

This AfPak, India, Kashmir nexus is something we no longer even mention. And yet, and yet . . . a failure of the government in Pakistan probably presents as much if not more danger to us as MENA.

So let’s remind ourselves that in the midst of all that, today is the 198th day of the tenth year of our war in Afghanistan. (And we’re now in our eighth year in Iraq.)

Richard Holbrooke and Scotty

I just heard that Ambassador Richard Holbrook has died. You can read all about him pretty much anywhere – one of the giants in contemporary American foreign policy. It’s a big loss for all of us.

But it’s a particular loss for my nephew (in-law) – a bright, enthusiastic, gifted young man who works at the State Department where his beat is Afghanistan / Pakistan. And where Richard Holbrooke mentored him from the beginning.  He’s  traveled to Af/Pak, met some of the people I can only read about, and actually knows some people whose books I read! An accomplished kid of whom we’re all proud.

Tomorrow, Scotty is to become a father for the second time. But tonight, he has lost a friend. That’s a lot at once when you’re young. So I’ll be thinking of Scotty tonight.

TUESDAY UPDATE:  Happy to report that Scott and my neice have just become the proud parents of Charlotte – 20 inches, 7 pounds, black hair (black hair??? they’ve are, respectively, blond and redheaded!) All is well with the world.

The Tenth Year: welcome Pakistan!

C-Span this morning tells me my calendar is off by two days, and that in fact it is today that is the first day of the tenth year of the War in Afghanistan.

Here’s a little something from the Wall Street Journal front page:

Pakistan Agency Urges Taliban to Fight

Members of Pakistan’s spy agency are pressing Taliban field commanders to fight the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, some U.S. officials and Afghan militants say, a development that undercuts a key element of the Pentagon’s strategy for ending the war.

The Pakistani spy agency, the ISI, has always been the power behind the Taliban, at least since the 1980’s. To understand how it all began, there’s not a better book than Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars.

More rain, more mudslides coming

We are very fortunate. Below, a satellite image from yesterday of the Swat Valley in Pakistan. 20 Million people are affected (and this is right next door to Afghanistan).

Pakistan floods map

I know there’s no global warming cuz it snowed a lot last winter

A frequently heard refrain from the right (how in the hell did this become political?) that shows utter ignorance of how global warming works. It’s not too hard. Warming temperatures (mean temperatures – measured on a planetary scale) mean more evaporation from oceans, and the excess water rises into the atmosphere. Water has to go somewhere, requiring rain to fall – and now that we have more water up there, more water must come down here. That’s why we’re not expecting more storms, we’re expecting more severe storms. This is also why we had so much snow in the temperate zones last winter. The water goes up and the water comes down.

Here are a few facts about the ongoing flooding crisis in Pakistan (6,000,000 people directly affected; 2,000,000 homeless). Expect to see more of this:

  • one fifth of the country under water
  • two years of crops washed away
  • towns and villages across the country disappeared in two days
  • a year’s worth of rain fell in ONE DAY

ISI and Pakistan and empty vessels on my teevee

For almost two decades, books* have been being written about the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, and how they – with the CIA – created the Taliban. It’s a well known narrative.

Television is discovering the story (as a result of the big wikileak document dump reported in yesterday’s NY Times and everywhere else). To television, it is a brand new story. They didn’t know about this. Some sound like they weren’t even familiar with the ISI.

These are the people who inform a nation.

* Best of the lot is Steve Coll’s 2004 book GHOST WARS: Afghanistan, the CIA and Osama Bin Laden. (approximation of the title) The paperback has an update from the 9-11 Commission. Pakistan and ISI figures heavily in his account. (warning: it’s a long book but reads like a thriller)

It’s even a good morning in Las Vegas

I found last year’s Sen. John Ensign sex scandal puzzling. (We have so many of  these – sigh.) The mystery was how could Nevada elect to the US Senate a guy who was still such a Mama/Papa’s boy? He gets in trouble and turns to his parents – his parents! – to bail him out by buying off the mistress and her husband.

Now, according to LasVegasNOW.com,  the local US Attorney and the FBI are in Las Vegas, spreading subpoenas;  according to the AP, a grand jury has been convened. They’re interested in much more than the sex angle. They’re focusing on Ensign’s own ethical violations, quite a few of which appear to be illegal.

In the more consequential world, there’s a real chance that Ayad Allawi might win the election in Iraq. This would be terrific news. He’s secular and his coalition is majority secular. If he fails, if Malaki is re-elected, Iran wins. Malaki is a partisan Shia and is building a deep relationship with Shia Iran.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the story is all about drones and suicide bombs and whether the Pakistani military is serious about taking down the Taliban.

It’s yet to be seen whether this is good or bad news for our troops in Afghanistan, where it is the 160th day of the ninth year of the War. And here is a stunning picture: it’s in Afghanistan, northwest of Kabul, looking toward the ancient Silk Road. More pictures, The Year in Afghanistan, can be found here.

Good morning

The action this week seems to have been in Pakistan, with bombings in populated areas (one killed three American soldiers). So perhaps it’s a good thing that talks with the Taliban are being pursued in Afghanistan, where it is the 120th day of the ninth year of the war there.