Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Malala Was the Clear Person of the Year

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Time's version of a Malala cover.

By Bob Gaydos

I finally got around to checking to see who Time magazine selected as the person of the year for 2012. Turns out the editors, who have been known to like surprise choices, went with the safe, conventional wisdom choice — the leader of the free world, Barack Obama.

To which I say, in all humility, they got it wrong. Yes, Obama had a good year, but he was already president and he beat a chameleon to get re-elected. The clear person of the year, the person who made a profound impact on the world without being the leader of the most powerful nation ever to exist, was Time’s Number 2 choice — Malala Yousafzi. The 15-year-old Pakistani girl became an instant symbol of courage and hope and, I believe, a spokesperson for women’s rights worldwide, simply by refusing to bow to threats from Taliban terrorists and taking a bullet in the head as a result.

Malala, who survived an assassination attempt on a bus in her hometown and has been recovering in a London hospital, had already been an outspoken advocate for access to education for Pakistani girls for several years as a blogger before the Taliban decided that killing her was the only way to stop her, even though they expected public outrage. Instead, their botched attempt made Malala a worldwide heroine and sparked public protests in Pakistan for the very thing the Taliban fear most — educated women.

But something else has also happened, I believe. In neighboring India, traditional enemy of Pakistan, there were also demonstrations to support Malala‘s cause. And most recently, India’s culture of acceptable rape by gangs of men against women has given rise to large protests throughout that country as well as in Pakistan, where violence against women also has not been a major issue. Until now.

There is, I sense, a worldwide stirring for women‘s rights, most notably in countries where they have traditionally been ignored. These range from the widespread outrage in India over the death of a 23-year-old rape victim to the mostly symbolic, yet significant, appointment of 30 women to the previously all-male Shura Council in Sauid Arabia. The council is only advisory to King Abdullah, who made the appointments, but the move stirred protests by some Saudi clerics anyway. Saudi women have male guardians who guide their “decisions,” are not allowed to drive and will vote for the first time next year. Expect more pressure to speed the process of equality.

Back to India, where male children are much favored and abortion of female fetuses is still common, even though against the law. The public outcry over the gang rape forced authorities to reverse initial efforts to let the rapists go and punish the protestors. This is not India’s usual way of dealing with women. I think Malala has had a lot to do with that and with social media efforts to point out similar outrages by men in positions of power.

Even in the “enlightened” United States, political candidates, elected officials and judges have been publicly exposed for views on rape that can only be described as criminally ignorant.

Malala’s unique weapon is apparently an unwavering belief that what she wants — access to education for all girls in Pakistan — is unassailably right and, so, undeniable. She can see no other way. And her age provides certainty to her and, I suspect, a degree of shame to adults who agree with her but did not dare to say so publicly at the risk of their lives. She has no armies, navies, air forces or weapons of mass destruction at her call. She has no great wealth at her disposal. World leaders do not seek her out for favors. She is a teenaged girl with an innate sense of what is right and just, for women and men, and the courage to say so out loud.

As such, she has become the voice of millions of women, and men, around the globe. The person of the year beyond doubt.



The ‘Collateral Damage’ of Protest Votes

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

The Naderesque argument that the Democratic presidential candidate is merely “the lesser of two evils” has been making an energetic comeback on progressive blogs. Liberals have become restive about a growing list of incursions on civil liberties and human rights that President Obama once vowed to oppose or overturn.

I’m not wild about Obama’s national security policy, either. But making “protest votes” for unelectable third-party candidates is an exercise in futility. Far from merely sending a principled message to Democrats that their capitulation to GOP militarism will no longer be tolerated, this strategy may permit Republican extremists to sabotage both our economy and our social contract. If this radical contingent succeeds, middle-class Americans may worry far more about economic disaster than government surveillance, political prisoners, or terrorists overseas.

The president couldn’t possibly have lived up to the rosy expectations that voters, disgusted by the Dubya years, had of his presidency. But now, scores of disgruntled Democrats have resolved to abandon the two-party system and become registered independents. Some plan to vote for Obama only if they reside in swing states; others who live in solid blue states may write in Ron Paul (seriously!) or vote for a third-party candidate like former Utah Gov.  Rocky Anderson. Obama critics on the left claim there’s very little space between Obama and Romney, because candidates from both parties depend on corporate donors and are thus beholden to the same interests.

Rob Kall of the progressive website OpEdNews declared in a recent column that he had personally decided to leave the Democratic Party. Some 200 of the site’s 55,000 members commented, professing fervent opposition to Obama’s expansion of Bush policies, including the limited use of remote-controlled Predator drones to support battlefield operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama went on to implement drones operated by CIA officers to kill suspected terrorists (among them, American citizens) “without a shred or whit of due process,” in the view of columnist Glenn Greenwald.

The CIA’s human quarry is tracked by U.S.-based “pilots” whose unmanned aircraft attack targets within the borders of sovereign nations. Drone strikes in Pakistan (which critics term “extrajudicial executions”) have been reported by observers to have killed numerous civilians near the pilots’ “marks” – indicating that these hits may not be as “surgical” as the CIA claims. The official record of “collateral damage” from May 2010 to August 2011? Militants: 600. Noncombatants: 0.

I personally deplore the barbarity of these strikes (and fear that we will eventually have to contend with terrorists acquiring this technology and once again blowing random New Yorkers to smithereens). I am also chagrined by the moral ambiguity of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which affirmed presidential authority over the indefinite military detention of prisoners without charge or trial. Other dubious offenses include the administration’s 2011 defense before the Supreme Court of GPS devices employed in warrantless surveillance; Obama’s failure to honor his inaugural promise to close Guantanamo Bay’s detention camp; his stepped-up policy of deporting undocumented immigrants at a far higher rate than Bush did; the continued use of military tribunals after vowing to try terrorism suspects in civil courts; and the ongoing militaristic fixation of our government.

Obama’s principled opposition to the Iraq War as a candidate for both the U.S. Senate and the presidency led me to foolishly imagine him as a pacifist. He did end the Iraq War, as he promised, but I don’t believe we should commit to staying in Afghanistan until 2024; no other culture, from the Mongols to the Soviets, ever succeeded in “unifying” Afghanistan’s warring tribes. Apparently we have forgotten the past and are condemned, as George Santayana observed, to repeat it.

Obama had to capitulate to certain political realities – the almost-universal opposition of both parties to allowing Guantanamo prisoners on American soil to be tried in civilian courts, as well as Obama’s apprehension about facing a military/national security “coup” if he attempted to prosecute Bush-era war crimes. With an intransigent GOP opposition obstructing his every move – and rejecting their own proposals once Obama endorsed them – the president had to drop the popular “public option” from health care, abandon comprehensive immigration reform, and limit financial regulation.

I remain a pragmatist willing to work within the current electoral system because I believe that a radical-right landslide would eclipse any Democratic failure. Once in office, Romney would repay his wealthy donors by doing the bidding of the Koch brothers, the House’s “Ayn Rand” faction, and the Christian right. He would follow the dictates of Grover Norquist on a regressive tax policy that would exacerbate income disparity. He would install Supreme Court justices who would ensure a conservative majority for a generation.

Do left-wing purists really want to see the Ryan budget passed, along with interminable “Kill at Will” gun laws, racist voting laws, and xenophobic immigration laws? Do they want to witness Roe V. Wade overturned and women subjected to personhood amendments and forced vaginal probes? A GOP Senate majority swept in on Romney’s coattails could conspire with the Republican House to turn back the clock on the rights of workers to the Industrial Age, of African-Americans to the Jim Crow era, of the unemployed to “Hoovervilles,” of the elderly to county poorhouses, and of women to medieval times.

Cahoots: A Place or a State of Mind?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Mickie James, alive and well in Cahoots

By Bob Gaydos

“It is disingenuous for anyone to blame Pakistan or state institutions of Pakistan, including the ISI and the armed forces, for being in cahoots with Al Qaeda.”

So said Yousuf Raza Gilani, prime minister of Pakistan, in response to statements in this country and elsewhere suggesting that the only way Osama bin Laden could have lived undetected for six years in a million-dollar fortress on a residential street in Pakistan, just down the road from that country’s version of West Point, was if elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence communities were working with bin Laden. In Cahoots.*

To which I say, “Where the heck is this “Cahoots” of which they speak? Is it in Pakistan? After all, it’s not the first time members of Pakistan’s military have been accused (is that the right word?) of being in Cahoots. This usually follows the assassination of one of their prime ministers. And a long time ago, the government of Pakistan was accused of being in Cahoots with China to snare a piece of valuable waterfront property that India also had its eyes on.

For some reason, people said to be in Cahoots always say they weren‘t there, so it would appear that this Cahoots is not a nice touristy place, but rather a place people go to plot evil, or at least nefarious, deeds. Which sounds a lot like Pakistan.

Or maybe Afghanistan? When 541 prisoners, including 106 Taliban commanders, tunneled their way out of Kandahar Prison recently, embarrassed U.S. and Canadian officials claimed Afghan prison officials were incompetent, corrupt, and in Cahoots with the Taliban. This suspicion was fueled by the fact that 800 Taliban prisoners had escaped from another maximum security prison in Afghanistan in 2008.

Then again, Cahoots could be in Mexico. In Hidalgo, Mexico, the Catholic Church, no less, has been accused of being in Cahoots with drug lords because it accepts donations from known leaders of that country’s drug cartels. A new church with a huge silver cross was built thanks to the generosity of a major drug lord. A plaque on the building identifies him. The people in the small town, who grew up with the man, say they don’t know him, but U.S and Mexican officials say they were in Cahoots.

The more I researched, trying to locate Cahoots, the more confusing the answer became. For example, on the other side of the ocean from Mexico, cases of radiation overexposure have led to suspicion that nuclear regulators and the Japanese government operated in Cahoots to cover up fatal flaws at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, flaws that some experts say would have manifested themselves even without the devastating earthquake and tsunami that cut off power to the plant.

Meanwhile in South Africa, Communist Party General Secretary Blade Nzimande said the capitalist system is neglecting the efforts made by the South Africa working class and that the South African media are part of the problem because they are “in Cahoots with the oppressive capitalist bosses.” In the interest of fairness, communist leaders in every nation have always accused capitalists of being in Cahoots with someone.

From here, the search for Cahoots became increasingly futile.

When federal officials sued to shut down an Amish farmer who was selling raw milk across state lines, customers of the Pennsylvania farmer said, “The FDA is in Cahoots with the large milk producers.” And WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange charges that Facebook and the U.S. government are in Cahoots to build a mammoth database. He called it “the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented,” in an interview with Russia Today.

There’s also an American blogger who says, “My gas station and my grocery store are in Cahoots. They both keep inching up prices, waiting to see which one will bankrupt me first.” And a lawsuit has been filed in California accusing Apple, Google, Adobe Systems, Intel, and other tech companies of being in Cahoots to violate antitrust laws by allegedly conspiring to fix employee pay, as well as working out “no solicitation” deals with one another.

Busy place, that Cahoots.

I had a just about given up hope of finding it (Google maps kept referring me to burger joints across America) when I came to the web site for TNA Wrestling. And I quote: “We start things off backstage where it seems like the cameras are spying on Madison Rayne and Tara. The former Knockouts Champion is all up in Tara’s grill, telling that it was her fault she lost her title to Mickie James four days prior. She says that for all she knows, the two of them are in Cahoots. Tara reminds her that it was her locked in the cage with Mickie and Madison goes on to say that she wasn’t there when she needed her. From what I recall, Madi, you demanded Tara stay in the back and play with little dollies while you unceremoniously got your ass beat. But that’s just one person’s reflection. Oh wait, nope, Tara remembers it the same way I do. Maybe we’re in cahoots! CAHOOTS!”

Well, no wonder it’s so hard to find. Who would ever suspect professional wrestlers of being in Cahoots?

* Cahoots capitals are mine.