Showing posts with label Yemen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yemen. Show all posts

The US and dirty wars

They say if you put a frog in water and slowly warm up the pot, the frog will not notice the increasing temperature and boil to death. A metaphor showing how often we get used to situations, as they gradually get worse and run out of control...

I watched the documentary movie "Dirty Wars" by Jeremy Scahill, an American investigative journalist who also exposed the "frog in boiling water" role of Blackwater in US wars and homeland security.

"Dirty Wars" exposes the increasing role of US covert operations to capture or (mostly) kill anyone, anywhere, without any due juridicial process or proper public oversight. "Dirty wars" takes the specific examples of the killing of civilians in Gardez (Afghanistan), women and children in Al Ma'jalah (Yemen) and of two US civilians in Yemen (cleric Anwar Awlaki and his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki). It focuses on the role of JSOC, the notorious US para-military branch which reports directly to the US President, bypassing the "normal" military chain of command.

I think this is a typical example of "a frog in boiling water"... We all sympathized with the US, and the victims of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11. There was a significant global consent of the US invasion of Afghanistan to eradicate the Taliban and kill Bin Laden. But as of then things have just turned for the worse and the US took the global sympathy of 9/11 to move on to abolish proper human rights, juridicial process, international law and public oversight. Be it the invasion of Iraq -now internationally recognized as based on fake evidence and subversive economic motives-, the capture and detention of civilians -Guantanamo-, to random drone attacks on the soil of sovereign countries -just about anywhere in the world-, to the use of private militia and obscure security firms to execute its own "private" wars, and intrusion of the privacy of citizens -the revelations of Edward Snowden on NSA practices-,....

As time went by, from 9/11 to now, I think it is time to jump out of the boiling water, and question the foreign politics of the US, with all of its related issues. How is it that a single country, which prouds itself to stand up for worldwide democracy, can get away with worldwide unilateral military action without being questioned?

The issue is not just the accountability, oversight, human rights, states' sovereignty, etc.. But the issue is also that it is getting worse. "Dirty wars" claims that the unilateral covert operations increased over time -more now under Obama than under Bush JR, for God's sake-. It gradually shaped the world's perception of the US, and how it turns the world more polarized "extremist" action against the US and its foreign policy. The issue is not just the foreign policy actions themselves, but how they clearly don't work. Proof in case is that the initial feeling of sympathy for the US in Afghanistan and even Iraq, turned completely against the US, and how they polarized the world so much "with us or against us". With a growing sense of "against us".

No matter how cynical it might be, but somewhere it is comforting to see how Russia bluntly and publicly put the US foreign policy with its back against the wall: in Syria - where Putin took the wind out of Obama's sails for an imminent assault on Syria through shrewd foreign diplomacy, and did so again in the Ukraine -by invading the country before the US could say "1-2-3"-. While the latter - the invasion of a sovereign country- can not be justified, it is reassuring that somewhere the world powers might be slightly more balanced than in 2001-2003, even it were by matching the US through employing the same foreign tactics.

It is time for us, frogs, the leap out of the boiling water, and call the US to justice. It would not only serve international political balance, but most of all serve the rights of us, the citizens of the world.

Photo courtesy J.Ronald Lee

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MSF: Top 10 humanitarian crisis of 2009

MSF: Afghan elder with child

Just like Christmas carols, pennies in the Salvation Army collection tin, loads of booze, turkey experiments in the oven, and presents you never asked for, MSF (or "Doctors without Borders" for the Anglophones) has its annual traditions too: Every year-end, them release theirs "Top Ten Humanitarian Crisis of 2009".

On The Road, we have the tradition of summarizing this Top 10 of "world shame" (see our 2008 and 2007 posts).

Top 10 humanitarian crisis of 2009MSF began with the "Top Ten" list in 1998, when a famine in southern Sudan went largely unreported in the US media. Maybe due to the CNN effect ("no media attention, no aid pesos"), MSF went a more commercial course last year, converting "the most Underreported Crisis" list, to "the Top 10 Humanitarian Crisis".

This year, MSF reports in their top 10:

  • Unrelenting Violence Stalks Civilians Throughout Eastern DR Congo (Tell me something new, DRC tops the list every year)
  • Somalis Endure Violence and Lack of Access to Health Care (been in the top list since.. well, since for ever)
  • Precarious Situation for People in Southern Sudan and Darfur (tell me something new)
  • Thousands Injured during the Final Stage of Sri Lanka's Decades-long War (ok, the Sri Lanka government topped themselves this year, I have to admit. They deserved a special mention for nearing genocide this year.)
  • Civilians Suffer From Violence & Neglect in Pakistan (Mjah... More than last year, I agree. But mostly over-reported news this year.)
  • Politics of Aid Leaves many Afghans Cut off from Humanitarian Assistance (On the hit list since the 70's, but US violence in Afghanistan definitively increased, I agree. Hardly underreported news, though).
  • Civilians Trapped in Violent War in Northern Yemen ("North, South, Left, Right:Yemen is always in the Fight. North, South, Left, Right...." Now that the US and Saudis start bombing Yemen rebels, all will be over soon. Rrright.)
  • Woefully Inadequate Funding Undermines Gains in Childhood Malnutrition Treatment (True. No change.)
  • Funding for AIDS Treatment Stagnating Despite Millions Still in Need (True. No change)
  • Lack of R&D and Scale Up of Treatment Plagues Patients with Neglected Diseases (True. No change).
For as far as I am concerned, the 2009 list could just have been a cut and paste from the 2008 list. Except that for one reason or the other, Zimbabwe was dropped from "The List". Maybe it was considered a hopeless case anyway. How about including violence in South Africa, tribal turbulence in Kenya, sexual violence and child labour in many parts of Africa, increased hunger and malnutrition in the US, large scale displaced people in Colombia, the increase of urban poverty, inaccessibility to food rather than unavailability of food....

Guess MSF might have been a bit short of inspiration and imagination this year. But then again, in all due fairness, their "Top 10 List of Shame" is a must-read. Check out the excellent pictures list which goes with the Top 10.

How about this, why don't we start our own "2009 Humanity's Shame Top 10" list? Stay tuned, will announce it soon.

1. We kicked off our "Humanity's Shame Top 1o". Accepting nominations on this post.
2. Nominations are closed. You can vote for your "Humanity's Shame" on this post.
3. The poll results are out. Check out this post for our "Humanity's Shame Top 10"

Picture courtesy Jobi Bieber/MSF

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