Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A curious case of double standards

Is the life of Afghani teenagers disfigured by the Taliban worth less than the life of Afghani teenagers disfigured by US missiles?

There was always a fundamental difference between Iraq and Afghanistan. In the former, the unprovoked attack waged by Bush's government opened the mother of all cans of worms. The sectarian violence and hostility towards Western troops that followed is well documented, the inevitable consequence of dodgy dossiers, doctored evidence and deceitful statements. However bad Saddam's grip on power may have been, the level of violence pre-dating the invasion cannot be compared to what followed in the years 2003-2008.

Prior to 2001, instead, Afghanistan was a country already being torn to pieces by the Taliban. If genocide is defined as the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group, then the Taliban regime was obsessively aiming their ethnic cleansing towards more than 50% of the country's population -women, that is. And let's not even get started on ethnic minorities and the "infidels".

We all know that the US and the CIA have loads to answer for regarding their active fostering of the Taliban and a certain bloke called Bin Laden. Significant sections of the Left will be quite happy to remind you of that at every turn - and rightly so. Similarly, Muslim commentators and associations will waste no time in condemning the US-led invasion, shouting "GENOCIDE!" each time a US missile hits the wrong target.

All that is fair enough. What isn't, however, is that each time the Taliban slaughter civilians as if they were ants you don't hear a single word in condemnation - unless we have a tendency to blink, that is. Today's reports of the Taliban's umpteenth attack on a girls' school, with 90 (ninety) of them gassed in one go, quite clearly failed to tickle the fancy of UK commentators and blogs alike of every political allegiance. Similar levels of apathy as last November, when Taliban attackers on motorbikes used water pistols to squirt acid in girls' faces as they walked to school on the outskirts of Kandahar.

And yet, if a bomb from an US airplane inflicted similar injuries on similarly helpless victims, doubtless Stop the War coalition and other friends would be demonstrating against such evil. Muslim associations too. Where is their outrage? Why don't they stand up to it? Is the life of Afghani teenagers disfigured by the Taliban worth less than the life of Afghani teenagers disfigured by US missiles?


Selma said...

Claude, the link in this piece ' Taliban' links to your previous piece heckling those who dare to demand that the foreign invaders of Afghanistan leave and not to any evidence that the Taliban had torn the country to pieces prior to the invasion. The links 'ethnic minorities' and 'infidels' link to AFP newswire paragraphs and not to any decent investigative pieces supporting your arguement.
The link 'reports' links to an Independent article in which it says that they may have been victims of a gas attack though the Taliban, whom I might assume would want these uppity women to know that it was they who had 'gassed' them, deny all and any involvment saying that "Harming children is not the work of holy warriors," he said. "We absolutely reject this."
All in all a very sloppy piece Claude but then, judging by your last piece where you railed against those who want an end to this illegal occupation I cant say I'm surprised.
Generally thoughg I tend to aggre with many of the other articles posted here so keep up the good work to the other folks who post.

Paul said...

Presumably Selma you could point towards a ruling by the ICJ or UN Security Council that the 'occupation' of Afghanistan is illegal? You know the kind of judgement that is rightly made about Bashir and his conduct in Darfur (which no Muslim seems capable of condemning indeed the Arab league support him).

What is worth debating of course is what are we doing in Afghanistan and what is the end game going to be. However the US and NATO went there after Al Qaeda hosted by the Taliban repeatedly attacked the west. The events of the 1998 Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and 9/11 are not 'propaganda’ they occurred.

The 'Taleban' do pose awkward moral problems for many on the left. Unsurprisingly they are opposed to what they call 'US Imperialism'. The problem is they do not seem capable of criticising those opposed to the US. Lets be clear about the Taleban, they were put in place with funding from the Pakistani ISI and Saudi Arabia. They treated women harshly, (something even Yvonne Ridley herself has testified to) executed those they considered homosexuals, massacred the Shia Hazara sect.

HRW on the Taleban treatment of Afghans:

Taleban treatment of Non-Muslims:

Of course the response to the Taliban and Al Qaeda has been lousy. HRW in this report rightly criticises the excessive use of air power by western forces. They also lay some of the blame for the casualties at the Taleban's door for using them as human shields.

What I am saying is no apologia for everything the US/NATO has done. However to sugar coat the Taleban is disingenuous in the extreme. However I am not sure what the correct response should be. Creating a functioning state might not be a bad idea; it'll take about 25 years mind.

claude said...

Paul, who would have thought...?
We actually agree!

Selma said...

Paul. The invasion is illegal under the UN charter Article 2 (4). See here:

I would have thought you might know that but obviously not!
Secondly. The Taliban offred to extradite Osama Bin Laden should evidence of his complicity in 911 be frothcoming. It wasnt.
I dont actually remember the Tanzania or Kenya bombings being used as an excuse, and it was only an excuse Paul, but if you could point me to a credible report I would be appreciative.
Finally, to say that I'm sugarcoating the Taliban is disingenious since at no point have I supported or downplayed the brutality of that regime. My arguement is that that brutality should not be used as an excuse for continued occupation which, in reality, has nothing to do with ending the Talibans' rule and is, infact, helping to ensure their continued dominance.

Paul said...

'Paul. The invasion is illegal under the UN charter Article 2 (4). See here:'

Er no it isn't. I Article 2(4) does not apply in the case of self defence or humanitarian intervention. For that reason I asked you for an ICJ ruling or Security Council resolution. Both of these latter entities are UN bodies.

'Secondly. The Taliban offered to extradite Osama Bin Laden should evidence of his complicity in 911 be forthcoming. It wasn’t.'

Yes the Taliban did offer to extradite him in a certain manner. What you failed to mention is they offered to try him under Sharia law. The problem with this approach is that they certainly did not offer to extradite him to America or the ICC. Indeed under Sharia law the testimony of a non-Muslim or a woman is considered half that of a man’s. It's hardly surprising the US did not take them up on that offer. The US had tried and failed earlier to secure Bin Laden's extradition.

The US position with regards to Bin Laden was just. They requested his immediate extradition and all they met with was obfuscation as in 1999. There was nothing genuine about the Taleban offer to send him to Pakistan; they hoped that by doing that they could strengthen their own hand in Pakistan.

I'm afraid Selma you did earlier downplay Taleban brutality. Firstly you accused anyone of criticising them (in this case Claude) of being in favour of US imperialism. Then later you sought to deny their brutality and demand proof of it. In the face of what others have said and a wad of reports from organisations such as Human Rights Watch (hardly a pro US organisation) your stance is strange.

The problem as I see it is what should be done? Allowing a medievalist bunch of thugs to take over Afghanistan again is a non starter. What Obama and others need to do is establish a broad consensus of nations to build the country. That is a long way off.

Selma said...

Its obvious to me now Paul that facts dont matter a jot to you. This talk of self defence and humanitarian intervention is ridiculous at best.
You believe what you wish and the rest of humanity will get on with ending the madness that you seem so willing to excuse.

Selma said...

To really help Afghan women, citizens in the U.S. and elsewhere must tell their government to stop propping up and covering for a regime of warlords and extremists. If these thugs were finally brought to justice, Afghan women and men would prove quite capable of helping ourselves.

Malalai Joya

These are the words of an actual Aghani and not some armchair 'saviour' of the Afghan people. The full statement can be read here:

claude said...

why is "this talk of self defence and humanitarian intervention ridiculous at best"?

Because you've lost the argument?

Because you believe that it's ok(perhaps like in Rwanda where 750,000 people died in a few months as we thought them "quite capable of helping themselves") to let the Taliban misogynist holy warriors segregate and terrorise 12million women?

Perhaps you find that ridiculous. Which is quite telling.

Bet you think that the Taliban are not really that bad and all the talk of tyranny and misogyny is all down to Yank propaganda.

I believe that it is possible to abhor what the Taliban have been doing and still reject the notion of "US Imperialism". It doesn't have to be all black and white, Selma.

Emma said...

Selma, one quick question.

If you lived nextdoor to a couple and it was quite obvious that the woman was routinely getting knocked about by her husband, would you;

a) Intervene and try and help the woman any way you could, including by force

b) Hide behind your net curtains and watch from the safety of your house, whilst muttering that she's perfectly capable of sorting herself out and defending herself?

socialist sam said...

It's disappointing to see this blog siding with the right on the issue of Afghanistan. I wholly agree with Selma on this.

Selma said...

Of course, Emma, we would do neither would we? Instead we would pick up the phone and call the police. What we wouldnt do it bomb the hell out of them, now, would we?
Talk of self defence and humanitarian intervention is ridiculous, Claude, because of the governments track record in such matters as evidenced by the public record. Should you wish to educate yourself on this, and I would have thought you might have done this before you penned a piece on such an issue, I would direct you to a book titled 'Unpeople' by Mark Curtis, one of Britains best contemporary historians. You'll find some interesting info on Rawanda in there.
Lastly, Claude, if you really care about the Afghan people why do you pay no head to their words?
Not a word did you have to say about the words of Malalai Joya that I posted here for you and Paul, why is that?

claude said...

Oh my god Selma,
you've convinced me!
How dense of me not to think of looking for an anti-war quote on Google before...!
Thank you Selma for coming to the rescue with a quote from Malalai Joya.

Sarcasm aside, I mean Selma, that is one quote . No doubt you could get 2,3, 4, 100. And so could I, to back my point too. Shall we do the battle of cut-and-paste quotes? What for?

Shall I quote the women who were asking the West do do anything in their power to free them from Gender Apartheid under the Taliban's own Nazi regime?

In my first article I pointed towards the Feminist Majority Foundation's website.

"Should you wish to educate yourself" (how patronising can you get, Selma?), you could have a look at the work of the Afghanistan Women Council. Or maybe Dr. Sima Samar of Shuhada, chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, one of the two women to join the interim Government following the fall of the Naziban.

It'd be quite futile, but I'd have thought you're already aware of it.

Mistakes have been made aplenty by the US in Afghanistan. Focus has been lost (mainly due to the idiotic Iraq invasion).

But to leave the country alone in the throes of the holy warriors who believe in a 14th century misogynist society would be a crime.

"If we fall at the hand of the same people, then history will be repeated."

Sima Samar