the “war on terror”: creating refugees one village at a time

tam tam and i have been planning a trip we want to take next summer. we’ve been thinking about where we want to go and who might want to join us. one of the criteria we have agreed on is that the place we go cannot be involved in or complicit with any colonial or imperial adventures. and, as you can imagine, this leaves out a number of places in the world. for instance, in nancy better’s article in the new york times today seems to be reporting that americans should take their summer vacations in the zionist entity (a place where tam tam is not allowed to visit because she is a palestinian refugee in lebanon):

Our Golan Heights excursion unleashed a torrent of questions about the war for independence and Israel’s 1948 declaration of statehood. We found answers at the Ayalon Institute, formerly a clandestine munitions factory built by the Haganah (the pre-independence armed forces) under a kibbutz near Tel Aviv. Restored and opened to the public, the institute is not mentioned in many guidebooks and gets little press. Yet Charlie — who devours detective novels and has twice toured the International Spy Museum in Washington — declared it his favorite site.

The place conveys a real sense of danger; had the Haganah members been discovered, they would have been hanged. The factory operations were concealed by a bakery and laundry; a 10-ton oven and a large washing machine hid entrances to the shop floor, which housed as many as 50 workers who, at the peak, produced 40,000 bullets a day. The noise of the washing machines camouflaged the din of the manufacturing process below ground.

David was especially fascinated by the sunlamps that munitions workers used to get an artificial tan. “It’s like an alibi,” our guide explained. “They pretended to leave the kibbutz each morning to work on a neighboring farm and then they sneaked back into the factory to make bullets. People would be suspicious if they looked too pale.”

Next we traveled to Akko, site of a medieval Crusaders’ fortress and later an Ottoman citadel. When the Turks were defeated by the British in 1918, the fortress became a high-security prison that held Jewish freedom fighters. Today the Underground Prisoners Memorial Museum pays tribute to them. A gloomy, ominous air hangs over the prison cells, with their thick stone walls, iron bars and narrow windows. Our group was mesmerized by the gallows room, with a noose centered over a trapdoor in the floor.

the above is just a sample of what the article says. you may click the link and read the entire piece and in it you will not find one use of the word palestine or palestinian. there’s no mention of the fact that akka is a palestinian city and that those so-called “jewish freedom fighters” were and are terrorists who massacred palestinians, stole their land, and created 750,000 refugees. there is no mention of syria either in their little excursion to occupied golan.

conversely, adrian bridge’s recent article in the telegraph on sri lankan tourism talks about the tamils, although as if they are only resistance fighters and not a massive civilian population massacred and made into refugees:

With the fighting still fresh, outrage over the number of civilians killed and fears that pockets of Tamil Tiger fighters may continue with terrorist attacks, the Foreign Office continues to advise against all travel to the north and east of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka travel experts, however, hope that in the long term, the ending of the 26-year-long civil war will signal a fresh start for tourism in what is potentially one of the most attractive holiday destinations in Asia.

“This is a good step forward but we have to be cautiously optimistic; there is still a lot of work to be done to bring about a true peace,” said Jean-Marc Flambert, who promotes a number of hotels in Sri Lanka.

“But in fact the best beaches on the island are on the east coast. Also, with the rainy season there coming at a different time to the rain in the south and west it could turn Sri Lanka into a year round destination.”

the above link came to me via the amazing rapper @_m_i_a_ on twitter (aka maya arulpragasam) and her perfect tweet in response to the article was:

I SAY YEAH … IF U like swimming in blood and hiking and biking on mass graves and eating chemically contaminated fried fish for lunch.

the problem with this story about sri lanka and its war against a civilian tamil population is that even news sources like al jazeera continue to report in a decidedly biased way. take this report by tony birtley on al jazeera today in which he says that 17,000 tamil fighters were killed:

tamil net gives us rather different figures:

Sea Tiger Special Commander of the LTTE, Col. Soosai Sunday noon said that around 25,000 civilians injured in the artillery attack of Sri Lanka Army are dead and dying now without receiving medical attention. The LTTE has repeatedly requested the ICRC through Mr. Pathmanathan to evacuate the injured through Vadduvaakal or Iraddaivaaikkaal, but there was no IC response. Within a 2 square kilometre area, there are dead bodies everywhere while the remaining thousands are in bunkers amidst the use of every kind of weapon by Colombo’s forces. The SLA is not even allowing the people to flee but prefers to fire at them, Soosai said.

for people who want some background on the conflict al jazeera put up a time line on their website starting from sri lanka’s independence from british rule–1948 (yes, the british “leave” one colony and ensure the existence of a new one in the same year)–through the recent genocide. additionally the conversation on democracy now! yesterday between anjali kamat and ahilan kadirgamar that provided some context that doesn’t demonize tamils seeking liberation:

i think that the above interview is important for the way it reveals the orwellian language used by the sri lankan government in which internment camps become “welfare centers.” all of this has been enhanced and made possible by the u.s. exporting of the so-called “war on terror” in which any government wanting to clamp down on resistance groups can commit massacres and genocide and get away with it.

suren surendiran’s article in the guardian today gives us some further context and a broader understanding of the toll this has taken on the tamil people of sri lanka:

Sri Lankan military killed thousands of Tamil civilians over the past few months (not to mention the years before) using the full might of its fire power by way of artillery and air strikes. It has, with intent, starved its own people by refusing to send food and medicine in sufficient quantities and in adequate frequencies.

Crucially, this genocide by the Sri Lankan state has been enabled by the international community, including Britain.

What is deeply disappointing is the fact that powerful liberal states which have long espoused human rights, the Geneva conventions and, most recently, the responsibility to protect, have all allowed thousands of innocent lives to be lost unnecessarily and with full knowledge.

The slaughter went on every day, with many women and children being killed not just by the shelling but due to starvation and lack of medical care. Yet the international response, especially those of the UN and western liberal states, has been pathetic. Mere statements after statements were released by heads of states like Gordon Brown and Barack Obama and institutions such as the UN, EU and various non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty, HRW and Crisis Group. No one showed real leadership in stopping this genocide which took place in broad daylight.

Even now thousands of displaced young Tamils are being abducted and disappeared, the wounded and injured are not given medical care and families are separated and abused in overcrowded barbed-wire-fenced camps. Thousands are still lining up at check points which have no independent observers present. International media has no way of reporting without government interference.

Sri Lanka is conducting this war beyond its means. Its economy is in a mess due to mismanagement, as stated by the World Bank. Sri Lanka’s Central Bank is seeking an emergency loan from the IMF due to its fast depleting reserves. Yet, year on year defence budget has been consistently rising by huge percentages. Regional powers and others have assisted financially and otherwise to continue with this government’s war with its own people. Unemployed youth from Sri Lanka’s rural south who could be put to more constructive development use were being used for destruction and killing.

Pretending to promote human rights and high moral values, western governments are turning a blind eye to the state terrorism in Sri Lanka, but also incentivising such horrendous violations by granting large sums in loans and grants. Hypocrisy of the international community is obvious as they argue any sanctions against such financial assistance will hurt the wider economy of Sri Lanka. The same wasn’t true it seems for the poor Zimbabweans or the Palestinians of Gaza City.

of course, i wrote the other day about the zionist entity providing sri lanka with its weapons in order to carry out this genocide. the genocide may be over in sri lanka, but the trauma will not be over for a long time. nor will the refugees lead a normal life for some time to come either. and while this massive refugee crisis comes to a head the one in pakistan just continues to worsen also because of a so-called “war on terror” instigated by americans. unhcr is now reporting that refugees may be reaching 1 million:

The number of displaced people registered since May 2 by authorities with help from UNHCR climbed above the 1 million mark over the weekend and continues to rise rapidly. Most of the displaced are staying with relatives or friends, placing huge economic and social strains on the country. More than 130,000 others are staying in camps supported by UNHCR. The 1.17 million recently registered join another 555,000 Pakistanis displaced in earlier fighting since last August.

and for those who need reminding that this is a united states-made war on the civilian population of pakistan, the u.s. bombed the region yet again this week as alamgir bitani reported in the independent:

A bomb blew up in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on today killing 10 people, hours after a suspected US drone aircraft fired missiles at militants in another region on the Afghan border and killed 10.

The violence came as the Pakistani military battled Taliban militants in a northwestern valley in an offensive that has forced more than 900,000 people from their homes.

The blast in Peshawar blew up a passing school bus and city police chief Sifwat Ghayyur said four children and two women were among the dead.

“It was a remote controlled bomb. Ten people have been killed and 18 wounded,” Ghayyur told Reuters.

according to mainstream american news media, they are praising these actions in pakistan calling them “effective” on cnn as reported in common dreams:

U.S. airstrikes aimed at al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan have been “very effective,” with few civilian deaths as a result, CIA Director Leon Panetta said Monday in a rare public acknowledgment of the raids.

Asked about criticism of the missile attacks by counterinsurgency experts, Panetta said he did not want to discuss specifics, “but I can assure you that in terms of that particular area, it is very precise and is very limited in terms of collateral damage.”

“Very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership,” Panetta told the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles.

i just wonder what is effective about creating 1 million refugees? bombing civilian villages? sowing the seeds of future generations who will seek justice for sure and perhaps vengeance. though who knows because the media campaign in pakistan seems to be as mythologizing as the american media with respect to distancing the war from the united states as declan walsh reported in the guardian the other day:

The human exodus from the war-torn Swat valley in northern Pakistan is turning into the world’s most dramatic displacement crisis since the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the UN refugee agency warned.

Almost 1.5 million people have registered for assistance since fighting erupted three weeks ago, the UNHCR said, bringing the total number of war displaced in North West Frontier province to more than 2 million, not including 300,000 the provincial government believes have not registered. “It’s been a long time since there has been a displacement this big,” the UNHCR’s spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva, trying to recall the last time so many people had been uprooted so quickly. “It could go back to Rwanda.”

The army reported fierce clashes across Swat, a tourist haven turned Taliban stronghold. After a week of intense aerial bombardment with fighter jets and helicopter gunships the army has launched a ground offensive to drive out the militants to rout the militants from the valley. Commandos pushed through the remote Piochar valley, seizing a training centre and killing a dozen Taliban, a military spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said. Gun battles erupted in several villages surrounding Mingora, Swat’s main town. Abbas said the military had killed 27 militants, including three commanders, and lost three members of the security forces. The figures could not be verified, as Swat has been largely cut off since the operation started.

The Taliban leader in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, remains at large. His spokesman vowed the rebels would fight until their “last breath”.

The operation continues to enjoy broad public support. Opposition parties endorsed the action at a conference called by the government, dispelling the notion that the army was fighting “America’s war”.

farooq sulehria has a great piece in dissident voice on the way that this media and military campaign has been playing out in pakistan, and here is the upshot:

Over 700 people have been killed in U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan since 2006, with 164 killed in 14 attacks under Obama’s watch. These drone attacks are further fueling anti-U.S. sentiments.

Instead of finding an exit strategy in Afghanistan, the Obama administration is practicing an Iraq-style surge. But it is U.S. presence in the region that will sustain the conditions that breed Talbanisation. The longer the USA stays in Afghanistan, the longer the Taliban’s defeat will be delayed and the suffering of the poor masses prolonged. For those lucky enough to survive bombs dropped by the Pakistan military in Swat, they will also have to deal with the possibility of having their throats slit by Taliban hit squads. Or they have the option to become refugees in their own country.

and just like the american support for the zionist entity when it gives it massive bombs to pound gaza (which it is doing as i type, by the way) and then gives money to rebuild gaza (which it only pledged, it never actually gave the money), the americans are paying to bomb pakistan and now paying to supposedly help the refugees:

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has pledged $110m in humanitarian aid to Pakistan as part of Washington’s new strategy for helping Islamabad counter Taliban’s growing influence.

Clinton announced the aid package during a press conference at the White House on Tuesday.

She said the money is meant to ease the plight of at least two million Pakistanis who have fled fighting in the country’s Swat valley and are living in squalid tent cities.

US officials said $100m in aid would flow from Clinton’s state department and the other $10m will come from the defence department.

obama bombs over pakistan

a naive, and likely american, reader of my blog seems to think that the united states did not instigate and is not participating in the war on pakistan because this reader spoke to a someone in the military who denied it. ah, okay, that settles it. not! here is a reuters report about more american bombs targeting pakistan yet again:

Suspected US drone aircraft fired missiles in a Pakistani region on the Afghan border today, killing at least eight people, military and intelligence officials said.

The attack took place in a mountainous region of South Waziristan, a known al-Qa’ida and Taliban hotbed, the officials said.

“We have at least eight dead in the attack,” said a Pakistani military official who declined to be identified.

The target of the attack was not immediately known, he said.

The United States began stepping up drone attacks in Pakistan last year. There has been no let-up since President Barack Obama’s administration took office in January, despite complaints from the Pakistani government.

The United States has carried out about 40 drone air strikes since the beginning of last year, most since September, killing more than 320 people, according to a tally of reports from Pakistani security officials, district government officials and residents.

There have been 16 attacks this year, with five in April.

At least five militants were killed on Saturday in a drone attack, also in South Waziristan.

Pakistan says the drones violate its sovereignty and undermine efforts to deal with militancy because they inflame public anger and bolster militant support.

and julian barnes and greg miller report for the los angeles times that this is indeed a partnership between pakistan and the u.s.:

The U.S. military has begun flying armed Predator drones inside Pakistan and has given Pakistani officers significant control over targets, flight routes and decisions to launch attacks under a new joint operation, according to U.S. officials familiar with the program.

The project was begun in recent weeks to bolster Pakistan’s ability and willingness to disrupt the militant groups that are posing a growing threat to the government in Islamabad and fueling violence in Afghanistan.

For the U.S. military, the missions represent a broad new role in searching for Islamic militants in Pakistan. For years, that task has been the domain of the CIA, which has flown its own fleet of Predators over the South Asian nation.

Under the new partnership, U.S. military drones will be allowed for the first time to venture beyond the borders of Afghanistan under the direction of Pakistani military officials, who are working with American counterparts at a command center in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said the program was aimed at getting Pakistan — which has frequently protested airstrikes in its territory as a violation of sovereignty — more directly and deeply engaged in the Predator program.

now that the pakistani army has joined forces with the united states it does not absolve the united states from its role in creating this problem in the first place. al jazeera’s sohail rahman shows some of the destruction plaguing pakistan now as a result of the united states handiwork:

to be sure: the pakistani army would not have to be forcing half a million of its own people to become refugees or firing on its own people and communities had the united states not started its so-called “war on terror.” and this has been, of course, exacerbated by the americans who have, in the past year, begun its bombing of pakistan campaign.

meanwhile, taking a play from the zionist entity (or perhaps it is the other way around–it’s always hard to tell with these two they are conjoined) the united states has begun using white phosphorous on civilian populations in afghanistan as jason straziuso and rahim faiez report for ap news:

Doctors voiced concern over “unusual” burns on Afghan villagers wounded in an already controversial U.S.-Taliban battle, and the country’s top human rights groups said Sunday it is investigating the possibility white phosphorus was used.

The American military denied using the incendiary in the battle in Farah province — which President Hamid Karzai has said killed 125 to 130 civilians — but left open the possibility that Taliban militants did. The U.S. says Taliban fighters have used white phosphorus, a spontaneously flammable material that leaves severe chemical burns on flesh, at least four times the last two years.

Using white phosphorus to illuminate a target or create smoke is considered legitimate under international law, but rights groups say its use over populated areas can indiscriminately burn civilians and constitutes a war crime.

Afghan doctors told The Associated Press they have treated at least 14 patients with severe burns the doctors have never seen before. The villagers were wounded during last Monday’s battle in Farah province.

Allegations that white phosphorus or another chemical may have been used threatens to deepen the controversy over what Afghan officials say could be the worst case of civilian deaths since the 2001 U.S. invasion that ousted the Taliban regime.

a nakba in the making

it is unreal. it is deja-vu. i cannot believe what i am watching and reading about the massive flight of half a million pakistanis because of the united states project of state terrorism and upheaval in in the region. just take a look at this raw footage from al jazeera of pakistanis fleeing their homes in the swat valley:

both mohammed idrees pulse media and an article from the independent by andrew buncombe call this “the biggest human flood since 1947.” here is part of buncombe’s report:

Aid groups have warned of a human tide of up to 500,000 people fleeing their homes. The UN said an estimated 200,000 have fled the Swat valley and its main town, Mingora, in the past few days alone, while another 300,000 are poised to flee if they get the chance. This would create a total of one million people forced from their homes by fighting in the past 12 months. It represents the biggest internal displacement of people in Pakistan since independence more than 60 years ago.

“People are in shock. In some cases their homes have been destroyed by mortar shells. They are wondering when they’ll be able to go back. Others say they will not be able to go back,” said Antonia Paradela, an official with Unicef who interviewed Sahin and other refugees in the Sheikh Shehzad refugee camp near Mardan, a city in the south of the Swat valley. “This is the place where the families are coming. They are tired, sweaty, dusty. There are whole families crying because they have lost someone. But there is also a sense of relief to be out of the danger.”

Under mounting international pressure, the government of Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan’s military launched this week’s operation to drive the Taliban from the former tourist destination of Swat after a controversial, three-month ceasefire with the militants fell apart. After a previous military effort failed to dislodge the militants who had extended their violent influence throughout the valley over a two year period, the government in February signed a peace deal which included an agreement to establish Sharia courts in Swat and some neighboring areas.

The Taliban, however, failed to meet its end of the agreement and lay down its arms. Indeed, emboldened by the government’s acquiescence, the militants then spread from Swat into the neighbouring and strategically important Buner valley. The army is also battling to drive the Taliban from Buner and nearby Lower Dir.

While journalists are, in effect, prevented from reaching the war zone, the military’s operation – which involves more than 5,000 troops pitched against an estimated 5,000 Taliban fighters – appears unexpectedly firm, and officials said that 140 militants had already been killed in the past two days. Some observers had wondered whether the army, trained and prepared to fight a conventional war against India, had the will or the capability to take on a well-trained guerrilla enemy.

There was also speculation whether, in the week that Barack Obama outlined his new “Af-Pak” strategy to Mr Zardari and the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, in Washington, there may have been a reluctance to fight what could have been seen as another battle in America’s war. The Obama administration’s policy of using missiles fired from unmanned drones at suspected militant targets and the subsequent civilian “collateral damage” this causes is hugely unpopular in Pakistan.

Yet this time, several things appear different. From the start, the battle for Swat has been pitched as a battle for the future of the Pakistan – and one that has been directed by the Pakistani authorities rather than Americans. In a televised address on Thursday as the military operation was formally announced, the Prime Minister, Yousaf Gilani, said: “In order to restore honour and dignity of the country, the armed forces have been called in to eliminate militants and terrorists. We will eliminate those who have tried to destroy the peace of the country.”

The seemingly widespread support for this operation, as opposed to Washington’s drone strikes, appears based in large part on growing public dismay with the Taliban. With the Taliban having embarked on a policy of burning girls’ schools and beheading their opponents, only to be “rewarded” with a deal that saw Sharia law enacted, the Pakistani public is growing more anxious as the militants’ threat has increased rather than reduced.

Those involved in brokering the ceasefire say the Taliban have now exposed their true colours and must be dealt with by force. “What the people know is that we tried everything possible. The Taliban had their own agenda and that has become clear to people,” said Bushra Gohar, the vice-president of the Awami National Party, which heads the regional government in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). “We hope this will be a clearly targeted operation that will go after the training camps and the leadership.”

Analysts say the operation to drive the militants from Swat and then hold the ground to allow the return of a civilian administration could take months. With the militants having established themselves across Swat’s mountainous terrain over the past two years, even if the military succeeds in forcing them from Mingora and other towns, the Taliban could retreat to smaller adjacent valleys and strike back with bomb attacks on convoys, checkpoints and military camps. It is also likely that the militants could increase suicide strikes on targets outside Swat to act as a diversion.

Some commentators have speculated that in such circumstances, an inconclusive but bloody campaign with a large number of civilian casualties would undermine public support for the operation. The army says it is determined to succeed. “The army is now engaged in a full-scale operation to eliminate the militants, miscreants and anti-state elements from Swat,” said the army’s spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas. “They are on the run and trying to block the exodus of civilians from the area.”

As a result, hundreds of thousands more people like Sahin are likely to be rushing desperately out of Swat and towards the refugee camps at the southern end of the valley in the coming days. At the moment, only a tiny fraction of the displaced are being housed in the camps – the majority being able to stay with relatives or in rented rooms – but in the coming weeks that could change.

Sahin, her children and some other members of her family have nowhere else to go. Five months ago, when an earlier spike in violence drove them from Swat, they were able to stay with relatives in Peshawar. This time, that option was not available to them, she said. For now the family must sit amid the tents of the camp at Sheikh Shehzad, waiting and wondering.

al jazeera further reports of the humanitarian crisis as a result of the flood of internally displaced people:

The announcement by the Pakistani military covers the towns of Mingora, Kamabar and Kabal.

Tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians in the Swat valley have found themselves trapped amid worsening fighting between government forces and the Taliban.

Bodies were reported to be lying in roads, homes reduced to ruins and people left cowering with no means of escape after the military imposed curfews across the region amid the fighting.

“Anger is growing that the government did not give the citizens adequate warning to escape,” Hyder reported.

“Many people are saying their government has abandoned them … what is unfolding here is the tip of the iceberg, the worst is yet to come.”

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have already fled the fighting.

But Hyder said those who have fled the fighting are in refugee camps and receiving little government help.

al jazeera’s sohail rahman reports on this refugee crisis in the swat valley:

m. junaid levesque-alam offers some insight into the current crisis in pakistan, particularly the u.s. role in this crisis which many people seem to leave by the wayside forgetting who started this problem to begin with.

I often wondered what would happen to those whose misery I impotently observed; those left for decades without the housing, food or education I was afforded. History has now caught up to the present and supplied us the answer in the form of the Taliban.

The militants, of course, assert that they are simply bringing “true Islam” to Pakistan. Even a cursory glance at Islamic precepts and the Prophet Muhammad’s own example reveal an ethos sharply at odds with the Taliban’s harsh practices which, more than anything else, reflect a history of Pashtun tribalism that precedes Islam’s arrival by centuries and constitutes the militants’ base.

The Taliban’s ascent is not a failure of Islam, but rather the failure of the Pakistani national project to fulfill the basic functions of a sovereign state; to heed the call of its great poets, who denounced inequality and called for a revival and modernization of Islamic thought.

Most Americans are, understandably, more interested in results than reasons: As the Taliban limns the outlines of Pakistan’s demise with the unforgiving scalpel of extremism, will Pakistan confront this force, or succumb to it?

It is difficult to say. Ironically, it is America’s own mode of involvement that harms its interests: Our only visible contributions there today are drones, missiles and destruction. This has produced a polarizing effect whereby any force that opposes America — regardless of its real aims — elicits sympathy from sectors of the military and the rural masses.

Pakistan may be willing to plunge a sword through its heart just to pierce the skin of American interventionism, a case of spite through national suicide.

It is also impossible to know when a people will say enough is enough. While it’s incomprehensible to most of us that any government could comport with the Taliban and its horrors, it is worth remembering that America was willing to permit the horror of slavery for almost 100 years until the slave states declared secession and initiated war.

there are certainly all sorts of recent and past horrors that this fighting and flight reminds one of. here is a brief reflection of the partition, which is, in part, what this exodus makes me think of, by arundhati roy:

The Radcliffe Line, which separated India and Pakistan and tore through states, districts, villages, fields, communities, water systems, homes and families, was drawn virtually overnight. It was Britain’s final, parting kick to us. Partition triggered the massacre of more than a million people and the largest migration of a human population in contemporary history. Eight million people, Hindus fleeing the new Pakistan, Muslims fleeing the new kind of India left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

that flight–that initial flight–was every bit as much of a nakba as the one following it in 1948 when palestinians were uprooted from their land and homes and many massacred as well. i watched deepa mehta’s disturbing, though beautiful, film earth again last night, which is based on the wonderful novel cracking india by bapsi sidhwa. i highly recommend the novel and the film–so many lessons, reminders for us not to repeat the past. here is a trailer of the film:

of course now we are not seeing–yet, anyway–that large scale massacre, but we are seeing that level of large scale stream of refugees. and given that all of this started with the united states bombing afghanistan and pakistan (albeit the latter is undeclared) it seems to me that the united states should take responsibility for this flood of refugees and this new humanitarian crisis that it created. under international law the one state initiating the armed conflict is responsible for the refugees it creates in the process. of course, the united states has found all sorts of ways to get out of its responsibility with respect to iraqi refugees so it’s not like it will be stepping up to the plate in pakistan either. but i think the issue should be raised, especially as various united nations agencies are indicating that there is a serious lack of all sorts of basics for pakastani internally displaced people.

the new refugees

there were 750,000 palestinian refugees in 1948. now upwards of 500,000 refugees–or more accurately internally displaced people–in pakistan. people are fleeing to safer areas. living in tents. why? because americans are bombing pakistan and creating proxy forces to do their dirty work.

but hillary probably has “deep regrets” over this too.

here is kamal haider reporting for al jazeera:

on regret

An injured Afghan child at the hospital in Farah province. Photograph: Abdul Malek/AP
An injured Afghan child at the hospital in Farah province. Photograph: Abdul Malek/AP

listening to hillary clinton express “deep regret” yesterday over the american massacre of over 100 afghan civilians i couldn’t help but think about the meaning of regret. here is the times report on her remarks:

Hillary Clinton has expressed “deep regret” that American jets bombed two villages in western Afghanistan yesterday killing at least 30 men, women and children.

The Secretary of State addressed the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan as anger grew over the loss of innocent life.

“We will work very hard with your governments and your leaders to avoid the loss of innocent civilian life and we deeply, deeply regret that loss,” she said in Washington.

No exact casualty toll could be confirmed after the incident in Farah province, but the provincial governor and police chief estimate civilian deaths at more than 100.

for me, regret does not merely express sorrow or empathy. it also means learning from your mistakes and doing what you can to not do that thing that caused you to regret what you did in the first place. but, of course, clinton and obama want to create more such occasions for regret given their desire to place more american troops on afghan soil, which will only bring us promises of more massacres in the future. jeremy scahill shows us precisely why this “regret” is complete hogwash:

Hours after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “apologized” for US airstrikes that may have killed as many as 130 people in Afghanistan, NBC News is reporting that the US military is preparing to blame the deaths of several Afghan families—that were reportedly killed in US bombing raids this week in Farah Province—on Taliban fighters. The network’s Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said military sources told him Taliban fighters used grenades to kill three families to “stage” a massacre and then blame it on the US. At present there are few details on this.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, however, has stated bluntly that US airstrikes hit civilian houses and revealed that an ICRC counterpart in the Red Cresent was among the dead. “We know that those killed included an Afghan Red Crescent volunteer and 13 members of his family who had been sheltering from fighting in a house that was bombed in an air strike,” said the ICRC’s head of delegation in Kabul, Reto Stocker. “We are deeply concerned by these events. Tribal elders in the villages called the ICRC during the fighting to report civilian casualties and ask for help. As soon as we heard of the attacks we contacted all sides to warn them that there were civilians and injured people in the area.”

Read the entire ICRC statement here.

here is nick clark’s report on the massacre on al jazeera today:

here is robert fisk’s take on the massacre and the so-called “deep regret”:

Of course there will be an inquiry. And in the meantime, we shall be told that all the dead Afghan civilians were being used as “human shields” by the Taliban and we shall say that we “deeply regret” innocent lives that were lost. But we shall say that it’s all the fault of the terrorists, not our heroic pilots and the US Marine special forces who were target spotting around Bala Baluk and Ganjabad.

When the Americans destroy Iraqi homes, there is an inquiry. And oh how the Israelis love inquiries (though they rarely reveal anything). It’s the history of the modern Middle East. We are always right and when we are not, we (sometimes) apologise and then we blame it all on the “terrorists”. Yes, we know the throat-cutters and beheaders and suicide bombers are quite prepared to slaughter the innocent.

But it was a sign of just how terrible the Afghan slaughter was that the powerless President Hamid Karzai sounded like a beacon of goodness yesterday appealing for “a higher platform of morality” in waging war, that we should conduct war as “better human beings”.

And of course, the reason is quite simple. We live, they die. We don’t risk our brave lads on the ground – not for civilians. Not for anything. Fire phosphorus shells into Fallujah. Fire tank shells into Najaf. We know we kill the innocent. Israel does exactly the same. It said the same after its allies massacred 1,700 at the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila in 1982 and in the deaths of more than a thousand civilians in Lebanon in 2006 and after the death of more than a thousand Palestinians in Gaza this year.

And if we kill some gunmen at the same time – “terrorists”, of course – then it is the same old “human shield” tactic and ultimately the “terrorists” are to blame. Our military tactics are now fully aligned with Israel.

The reality is that international law forbids armies from shooting wildly in crowded tenements and bombing wildly into villages – even when enemy forces are present – but that went by the board in our 1991 bombing of Iraq and in Bosnia and in Nato’s Serbia war and in our 2001 Afghan adventure and in 2003 in Iraq. Let’s have that inquiry. And “human shields”. And terror, terror, terror. Something else I notice. Innocent or “terrorists”, civilians or Taliban, always it is the Muslims who are to blame.

of course the american government sounds far too close to the israeli government (and given both are the largest perpetrators of state terrorism on the planet this should not come as a shock) on a number of levels, some of which fisk addresses. and i don’t see any regrets leading to investigation and prosecution of those who dropped the bombs.

meanwhile as news of this massacre was just emerging, hamid karzai stepped off a plane in washington dc to meet with clinton and obama and other americans who create the conditions of terrorizing afghan people. i began to wonder about karzai’s regret. i began to wonder how do these people sleep at night? is it really possible you can have so little self worth or so little regard for your own people that you can move from learning of this massacre to meeting with the regime that continues to occupy your land and terrorize your people? and it is not just karzai, of course. asif ali zardari joined him in these meetings. but zardari didn’t seem to get any statements about the united states’ “deep regret” over the fact that because of the american war on pakistan there are upwards of 500,000 pakistanis who are internally displaced people as andrew buncombe reported in the independent:

By bus, by car and on foot, thousands of people continued to pour from the Swat Valley yesterday as the Pakistani military used helicopter gunships and pounding mortar rounds to try to drive out Taliban fighters. Aid officials said they had registered 45,000 people forced from their homes in the last four days but said that number could soon soar. The government has estimated that up to 500,000 people might flood out of the Swat valley ahead of a possible major offensive against the militants.

“It is an all-out war there. Rockets are landing everywhere,” Laiq Zada, who fled the danger zone, told the Associated Press. “We have with us the clothes on our bodies and a hope in the house of God. Nothing else.” The sharpened military offensive came as Pakistan’s leader, Asif Ali Zardari, yesterday met in Washington with Barack Obama and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. Many in Washington will be heartened by the decision by Mr Zardari and the military to take the fight to the militants.

But there are doubts over the military capacity for the operation, and the human costs involved. A drawn-out conflict will only increase the longer-term exodus. Some may feel they would have nothing to return to. “I do not have any destination. I only have an aim – to escape from here,” said Afzal Khan, who was waiting for a bus with his wife and nine children. “It is like doomsday here. It is like hell.”

part of the reason for this flight is pakistan fighting in the region, now, too, but this is just proof that the pakistani regime is a tool of the americans creating havoc against its own people for a country that continues to assault them from the air. declan walsh describes some of this context in the guardian (his other article includes video footage of people fleeing to safety in pakistan):

Pakistani helicopter gunships pounded a Taliban-controlled emerald mine and other militant positions in the Swat Valley today, killing dozens of militants, as fighting intensified across North West Frontier province.

Amid expectations of an imminent army operation, militants dug into positions across the main town, Mingora, as terrified residents fled the valley on foot across mountain paths. Taliban reinforcements have been pouring into the area from adjoining districts since Monday, many arriving under cover of night and in some cases crossing into the battle zone by boat.

As President Asif Ali Zardari met President Barack Obama in Washington, his government was bracing for a flood of up to 500,000 internal refugees, making it the largest displacement crisis in Pakistan’s history.

The army said it killed more than 60 militants in Swat and neighbouring Buner, a district 60 miles from Islamabad where a major anti-Taliban drive has been under way for the past nine days. Four soldiers were killed due to fighting and a roadside bomb, a military spokesman said, but local reports suggested a higher toll.

it is in this context that zardari and karzai met with the leaders of the regime that is terrorizing afghan and pakastanis alike in to flight when they are able to escape these massacres. tellingly, the puppet leaders had these remarks to make at their press conference yesterday as ewen macaskill reported in the guardian:

Karzai thanked Clinton for her expression of regret and added: “We hope we can work together to completely reduce civilian casualties in the struggle against terrorism.”

Clinton said the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan faced “a common threat”. Zardari described the Taliban as “a cancer”.

here is james bays report on al jazeera on this meeting in washington yesterday and today:

obama’s offensive rhetoric–along with his puppets by his side–is so deeply offensive not the least of which because any so-called commitment to the people of afghanistan and pakistan means that you would need to do things to improve their lives–this would not, of course, include massacre and forcing people to run from their homes because they are being terrorized by american drones and the pakistani army that is taking orders from the united states:

Barack Obama, the US president, has pledged a “lasting commitment” to both Afghanistan and Pakistan after holding talks with both nations’ leaders in Washington.

He said all three nations shared a common goal of dismantling, disrupting and defeating the al-Qaeda network, the Taliban and its allies and improving security in both countries.

“Our strategy reflects a fundamental truth, the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US are linked,” Obama said at a news conference in Washington on Wednesday, flanked by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and Asif Ali Zardari, his Pakistani counterpart.

He praised both men as fully appreciating the “seriousness” of the current situation in the region.

to get an idea of how real people who are subjected to this savagery feel in afghanistan just read some of the things they said today in the farah province during their protest against their puppet regime and the american occupiers of their land:

Afghans have staged an angry protest following the suspected deaths of up to 100 civilians in a US-led air raid in western Farah province.

Shots were fired on Thursday as the demonstrators threw stones at government offices in the town of Farah, the provincial capital.

Several people were wounded in the melee, Gul Ahmad Ayubi, a health department official, said.

The protest came as a team of US and Afghan government investigators arrived in the Bala Baluk district to gather more information about Monday’s incident.

If the casualties are confirmed, it would be the largest loss of civilian life in a single attack since US troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Haji Nangyalai, one of the protesters, said the demonstration had been called to “show our anger at the crimes committed by the American forces”.

“They have killed our innocent people carelessly, that is why we are protesting.”

Another demonstrator, who gave his name only as Abdullah, told the AFP news agency: “People are really angry and they shout ‘death to America, death to the invaders.

“They are hurling stones at government buildings and there is some gun fire in the air – at this stage we don’t know by who.”