[HCCN] fw: The Rotten Fruits of War

Judith Robbins JUDY at ROBBINSandROBBINS.com
Thu Oct 22 19:28:37 EDT 2009




Published on Thursday, October 22, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
The Rotten Fruits of War

by Dan Pearson and Kathy Kelly
Five months ago, shortly after the Pakistani government had begun a  
military offensive against suspected Taliban fighters in the  
northernmost area of the country, we arrived in Islamabad, the  
capital, as part of a small delegation organized by Voices for  
Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org ). Our initial travel plans had  
focused on learning more about civilian suffering caused by U.S.  
drone attacks. But, over the course of our three-week visit, close to  
3 million people had become uprooted by violence in the Swat Valley  
and neighboring districts. Visiting tent encampments and abandoned  
buildings to which people had fled, we spoke with people who  
identified themselves as poor people, with meager resources, who were  
anxious to return to their homes as soon as possible. They were also  
alarmed because they feared that their crops, animals, shops and  
stores were already destroyed.

Now that the military offensive in Swat has wound down, Pakistan's  
government officials have labeled the operation a success. They claim  
to have cleared the area of Taliban fighters and have commenced a new  
military offensive in South Waziristan.

A closer look reveals a very different story.

Many families from Swat and surrounding districts returned to find  
that their homes, crops and other means of survival have been damaged  
or destroyed. Such circumstances force many to rely heavily on food  
aid. According to Amjad Jamal, a spokesperson for the World Food  
Program (WFP), "around 2.4 million displaced people received aid from  
the WFP food hubs last month."

The WFP announced today that they are temporarily closing 20 food  
hubs in the North West Frontier Province citing concerns of worsening  
security.

Reporting from a Pakistani field hospital run by the International  
Committee of the Red Cross, the BBC met with scores of victims  
wounded by land mine explosions. The father of a 14 year old boy  
whose hands were blown off while he was playing with a piece of  
unexploded ordnance expressed anger over the government's failure to  
remove the land mines before telling people it was safe to return.  
The father worked as a jeweler before the military offensive began,  
but after he and his family fled the fighting, his shop was looted;  
now he has no income, and his home was damaged in the shelling.

The BBC also reported that more than 200 corpses, believed to be  
bodies of suspected Taliban, have been found across the valley in  
recent weeks. Pakistan's independent Human Rights Commission has  
called for an investigation into reports of numerous extra-judicial  
killings and reprisals carried out by security forces.

Dr. Aasim Sajjad, a professor at the Lahore University of Management  
Sciences, believes that the Taliban's numbers will grow as a result  
of Pakistan's military offensives. "The hundreds of thousands  
languishing in refugee camps talk of the mortar shells that have  
destroyed their homes and killed their relatives," says Dr. Sajjad.  
"They seethe with anger and warn the government that most Taliban  
fighters hail from the local population. The longer the war continues  
-- and it has only just begun in this region -- the better the  
chances that the Taliban will be able to recruit from the  
refugees." (Monthly Review "War, Islamists and the Left," July 7, 2009)

Yesterday's deadly suicide bombing at the Islamic University in  
Islamabad was the latest in a series of the Taliban's recent reprisal  
attacks against the Pakistani government that have claimed the lives  
of over 150 people.

Military offensives that promise to smash or eradicate "the bad guys"  
may accomplish short-term "successes" by locking up or killing armed  
resisters and promising that the military will provide peace and  
security. But military establishments aren't set up to address the  
long-term, desperate grievances that afflict impoverished people and  
give rise to support for militant groups of resisters.

According to conservative estimates, 75% of Pakistan's population of  
170 million lives on less than $2 a day. The majority of Pakistanis  
yearn for food security, clean water, a livelihood that can sustain  
their families and education that will help their children break out  
of impoverishment. Young men who are jobless, shut out of education  
are resentful of social structures that favor wealthy landowners and  
other elites and they are drawn to Taliban groups that promise a  
Robin Hood sort of redistribution. These Taliban groups have been  
dealt a temporary setback by the military offensive, but the  
fundamental problems of hunger, lack of clean water, illiteracy and  
joblessness haven't been tackled.

Meanwhile, U.S. drone attacks continue, in both Pakistan and  
Afghanistan. Using "eyes in the skies" by piloting Unmanned Aerial  
Vehicles, (UAVs or drones), the U.S. analysts can see and attack  
suspected Taliban or Al Qaida fighters, along with anyone else who  
might happen to be in the vicinity. But the UAVs won't help us  
understand the acute need for humanitarian relief, diplomacy,  
negotiation and dialogue in a region already overwhelmed by attacks,  
counter-attacks, bloodshed and death.

Whether it is in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq or even in the U.S., as  
we've seen in recent years, war takes its heaviest toll on the  
poorest. It is a profound mistake to believe that military force is a  
solid foundation for peace.

Kathy Kelly (Kathy at vcnv.org ) and Dan Pearson (dan at vcnv.org ) are co- 
coordinators of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. With colleagues in  
Chicago, they are organizing the Peaceable Assembly Campaign to  
nonviolently resist U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as  
well as military support for the Israeli military.



Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/10/22
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