Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Can Anyone Pacify the World's Number One Narco-State?


The Opium Wars in Afghanistan
By Alfred W. McCoy

In ways that have escaped most observers, the Obama administration is now trapped in an endless cycle of drugs and death in Afghanistan from which there is neither an easy end nor an obvious exit.
After a year of cautious debate and costly deployments, President Obama finally launched his new Afghan war strategy at 2:40 am on February 13, 2010, in a remote market town called Marja in southern Afghanistan's Helmand Province. As a wave of helicopters descended on Marja's outskirts spitting up clouds of dust, hundreds of U.S. Marines dashed through fields sprouting opium poppies toward the town's mud-walled compounds.
After a week of fighting, U.S. war commander General Stanley A. McChrystal choppered into town with Afghanistan's vice-president and Helmand's provincial governor. Their mission: a media roll-out for the general's new-look counterinsurgency strategy based on bringing government to remote villages just like Marja.
At a carefully staged meet-and-greet with some 200 villagers, however, the vice-president and provincial governor faced some unexpected, unscripted anger. "If they come with tractors," one Afghani widow announced to a chorus of supportive shouts from her fellow farmers, "they will have to roll over me and kill me before they can kill my poppy."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tighter Rules Fail to Stem Deaths of Innocent Afghans at Checkpoints


By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.



KABUL, Afghanistan — American and NATO troops firing from passing convoys and military checkpoints have killed 30 Afghans and wounded 80 others since last summer, but in no instance did the victims prove to be a danger to troops, according to military officials in Kabul.
“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year. His comments came during a recent videoconference to answer questions from troops in the field about civilian casualties.
Though fewer in number than deaths from airstrikes and Special Forces operations, such shootings have not dropped off, despite new rules from General McChrystal seeking to reduce the killing of innocents. The persistence of deadly convoy and checkpoint shootings has led to growing resentment among Afghans fearful of Western troops and angry at what they see as the impunity with which the troops operate — a friction that has turned villages firmly against the occupation.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The New Jim Crow: How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a Permanent American Undercaste


by: Michelle Alexander
Ever since Barack Obama lifted his right hand and took his oath of office, pledging to serve the United States as its 44th president, ordinary people and their leaders around the globe have been celebrating our nation's "triumph over race." Obama's election has been touted as the final nail in the coffin of Jim Crow, the bookend placed on the history of racial caste in America.
Obama's mere presence in the Oval Office is offered as proof that "the land of the free" has finally made good on its promise of equality. There's an implicit yet undeniable message embedded in his appearance on the world stage: this is what freedom looks like; this is what democracy can do for you. If you are poor, marginalized, or relegated to an inferior caste, there is hope for you. Trust us. Trust our rules, laws, customs, and wars. You, too, can get to the promised land.
Perhaps greater lies have been told in the past century, but they can be counted on one hand. Racial caste is alive and well in America.

Sexual Assaults on Female Soldiers: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

What does it tell us that female soldiers deployed overseas stop drinking water after 7 p.m. to reduce the odds of being raped if they have to use the bathroom at night? Or that a soldier who was assaulted when she went out for a cigarette was afraid to report it for fear she would be demoted — for having gone out without her weapon? Or that, as Representative Jane Harman puts it, "a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire."
The fight over "Don't ask, don't tell" made headlines this winter as an issue of justice and history and the social evolution of our military institutions. We've heard much less about another set of hearings in the House Armed Services Committee. Maybe that's because too many commanders still don't ask, and too many victims still won't tell, about the levels of violence endured by women in uniform. (See TIME's special report on the state of the American woman.)
The Pentagon's latest figures show that nearly 3,000 women were sexually assaulted in fiscal year 2008, up 9% from the year before; among women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number rose 25%. When you look at the entire universe of female veterans, close to a third say they were victims of rape or assault while they were serving — twice the rate in the civilian population. (See the top 10 crime stories of 2009.)

Friday, March 5, 2010

US Political Prisoner: Electric shock "trial," sickening violation of Ricardo Palmera’s human rights


Tom Burke, spokesperson for the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera, urgently requests, “Help and aid from Americans, Colombians, and the international community to stop a crime.” Professor Palmera is being put on trial in Colombia while held in solitary confinement in the U.S. He is being forced to wear prison clothes, shackled at the hands and feet and then chained together around the waist, with the ever-present threat of electrical shock if he moves too quickly. This ‘trial’ is a violation of Professor Palmera’s dignity and his rights as a prisoner of war. Tom Burke says, “There is nothing fair or just about the trials and imprisonment of this brave Colombian freedom fighter Ricardo Palmera. Ricardo Palmera should be set free.”
Professor Palmera is held by the U.S. government in solitary confinement, under inhumane conditions in the Florence, Colorado Supermax prison. Tom Burke says, “We need friends and sympathizers to support freedom for professor Ricardo Palmera (popularly known in Colombia as Simon Trinidad). We denounce the wrongs committed against Ricardo Palmera by the U.S. and Colombian governments, along with the abuses and violations of human rights.”
Following four unfair trials in Washington D.C., including one where Chief Judge Hogan was forced to step down after cheating with U.S. Prosecutor Ken Kohl, Professor Palmera is now the victim of a new judge, named Montado, sent by the corrupt Colombian government of President Uribe.