Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

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80 Shia Muslims from the minority Hazari sect were killed Saturday and over 300 mutilated by IS in car bomb attacks on their peaceful demonstration in Kabul.

Be interesting to see how it occupies the news cycle in the West over the next couple of days. Or not.

Haven’t heard a word on it anywhere. You?

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Anzac dead in captured Turkish trenches in Gallipoli

I wrote this poem remembering attending so many Remembrance Day services with my mother, whose husband, the father who I never knew, died at 46, a cheerful but essentially broken man, after six years of service in the Royal Navy..

I am very proud of this poem, both as a poem, in and of itself, and as an authentic expression of my feelings and some things I consider important.

I am largely a pacifist in my outlook, but I have great respect for those who put their lives on the line defending values I hold dear, and opposing tyranny.

It references not only those solemn services attended at memorials with my mother, but the many times since I have seen elderly people stand and pay their respects to the dead of both World Wars, and other wars.

Anzac DayThere is a wave of emotion sweeping Australia at the moment when Anzac day rolls around, with record numbers of people attending Dawn Services both around the country and in places overseas such as Papua New Guinea and Galipolli.

Increasingly, those people have young faces. The great grandchildren, grandchildren and children of those who were wounded, broken, and died. Why the sudden upsurge of interest? Perhaps younger people today look back to a past when the issues were simpler and convictions stronger.

I am also sure that the 39 Australian service people killed in Afghanistan since hostilities broke out there have something to do with it. The Americans and others have lost more people, of course, but those 39 lives are a grievous loss to a country with a population as small as Australia’s, just as the disproportionate sacrifice of the World War I diggers left a scar across the country that took generations to heal: the faces and stories of those brave young people killed in Afghanistan in recent years sure focuses the mind.

I am also reminded, on this solemn day, of the most important thing ever said about conflict, which is, of course:

“War will continue until men refuse to fight.”

If you are interested to purchase my collection of poems called Read Me – 71 Poems and 1 Story – just head here.

(Article re-published for Anzac Day 2013 and Remembrance Day 2014.)

We do confess, Dear Reader, to occasionally being somewhat impatient with our feminist sisters.

Let’s be clear: we are totally on-side with equality of opportunity. Equal pay. Demolishing the glass ceiling. And freeing women from the need to constantly defend themselves from the appalling ingrained sexism that sees them the victim of unwelcome sexual advances, and worse.

And please note: fruit of one’s loins was sent to learn Taekwondo from the age of 11 to 18. Apart from the fact that Pop Pops will come after you with a machete, we doubt any male would survive assaulting her will leave the scene with their gonads intact.

But women shouldn’t have to become self-defence experts to protect themselves, and anyway, there are some attacks no one could defend themselves against.

 

Reshma before and after

Reshma before and after

 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-acid-attack-survivor-reshma

Like us, you may want to donate to help provide treatment for a much-loved 18 year old Indian girl hideously disfigured by an acid attack in Mumbai.

Her full story is here:

 

India's acid victims still suffer despite new rules

 

India’s acid victims still suffer despite new rules. The Indian teenager’s voice trembles as she recalls the day she lost her face when her brother-in-law and his friends pinned her down and doused her with acid.

Amid the horror of the attack, which followed a family dispute, Reshma Qureshi should have received swift state aid after India’s top court ruled that victims were entitled to 100,000 rupees ($1,600) within 15 days.

But, five months later, she is yet to receive a penny.

“One of my eyes is ruined, yet no help is coming,” the 18-year-old told AFP in her family’s cramped Mumbai tenement, as tears ran down her disfigured face, to which her mother applied cream to soothe the burning.

Acid attacks have long plagued India, often targeting women in public places as a form of revenge linked to dowry or land disputes or a man’s advances spurned.

 

Twenty-year-old Ritu was attacked by her cousin during a dispute over property about two years ago.

 

Those who survive the attacks face lifelong scars and social stigma. Reshma, once a pretty and outgoing commerce student, no longer socialises with friends but lies quietly on the family bed, saying and eating little.

Despite steps taken last year to help wipe out the scourge and improve financial aid for survivors, activists say little has changed.

“Still there’s no awareness on the issue,” said Alok Dixit of the New Delhi-based Stop Acid Attacks campaign group, accusing authorities of “buying time”.

The Supreme Court in July last year gave Indian states three months to enforce restrictions on the sale of acid, but campaigners say it remains easy to purchase.

The court also said victims should get 300,000 rupees in compensation, a third of it within 15 days of the assault.

Dixit said he knew of nobody who had received this initial sum so quickly, while only two in 100 cases had managed to win the full amount.

“People don’t know how to apply for compensation. The authorities don’t know,” he said.

Even if claims were successful, the figure is “not at all enough” for the costly and multiple plastic surgeries required, Dixit added.

 

Laxmi was 15 years old when she was attacked by her brother’s 32-year-old friend after she refused his marriage proposal.

 

Reshma, the adored youngest child of a taxi driver, was attacked in her family’s northern home state of Uttar Pradesh, and the fact that she lives in Mumbai complicates her claim.

Her relatives have clubbed together and taken out loans for her treatment, but doctors have said she may need up to 10 more operations.

Nothing will be alright.

“After that things will be better, but still nothing will be alright,” she said.

Relatives were in tears when the press visited the family home, reached by a steep ladder down a maze of alleyways.

Reshma’s elder sister Gulshan, whose estranged husband carried out the attack, witnessed the assault and suffered burns on her arms, but wishes she had been the main target.

The family believe Reshma was singled out because of her beauty and popularity.

“Reshma is very emotional and she wants to study,” Gulshan said.

While Gulshan’s husband was arrested and jailed, a juvenile in the gang has been freed on bail and two other accomplices remain at large, according to the family.

“The police don’t say anything, they don’t search anything,” said Reshma.

Last year, acid attacks were made a specific criminal offence in India punishable with at least a decade behind bars. But court cases can drag on for years.

Particularly in northern states, “police are not very cooperative and we have heard of cases where they try to get families to change their statement,” said Bhagirath Iyer, a member of the volunteer network “Make Love Not Scars”, which helps victims.

 

A fashion photo shoot featuring five acid attack victims is drawing wide attention in India, where open discussions about violence against woman are drawing attention to a long-ignored public scourge.

 

Crowd funding help

Frustrated with the lack of government aid, activists have meanwhile turned to online crowd funding to help raise funds for acid attack survivors.

“Make Love Not Scars” has set up a campaign on the website Indiegogo for Reshma, who returned to hospital for more treatment on Friday. The immediate target was $2,200, which has been passed, although her overall costs are expected to be much higher.

Iyer said donations usually came from wealthier Indians living abroad, but they were “bombarding” Indian celebrities on Twitter to spread their message.

“Crowdsourcing is possible but you have to market it really hard,” he said, adding that upper middle-class victims often won more attention in the Indian media than those from poorer social backgrounds.

Reshma, who describes her face today as “so scary”, is desperate to finish her treatment and hopeful that she will bring her attackers to justice.

“I want to tell them that they should not be able to do to other girls what they have done to me.”

The campaign site for Reshma can be found at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-acid-attack-survivor-reshma. Please donate; it takes a few seconds, and even a few dollars will make a huge difference to this poor girl and her family.

And to our feminist friends, let us say this. Yes, we know terrible attacks happen to women in Western countries too, but in less developed countries they are far more common, more culturally acceptable, and include, in some places, virtually no communal resistance to rape, lynching, spousal violence, casual murder, stoning, whipping, and more. They mean women cannot work for pay, are virtual slaves in their homes, cannot be educated and may be shot if they say they should be, may not leave home unaccompanied, are forced to wear uncomfortable and restrictive dress, are not allowed the same rights as men to a fair and independent trial, and are frequently jailed or executed for their “crime” of being raped and demanding justice.

The women of ALL the world need feminists from ALL OVER THE WORLD to campaign on their behalf. Now.

If you want to know why, watch this:

 

#itsagirlthing

 

In the very recent past, Dear Reader, we have been vocal about the right of Muslim women to wear whatever they want. And to be free from abuse or violence for doing so.

This is in recognition of the facts of basic civil liberties, and of religious respect.

We don’t abuse Jews for wearing the kippah, do we? Many religions that originated in the middle east proffer wearing a head covering as a mark of respect to God, the idea being that something then separates man or woman from God – a physical barrier signifying a spiritual relationship. Within living memory, women typically wore a hat when attending Church. Many Christian groups … the Amish, for example, or various eastern European orthodox groups … wear hats habitually, and/or headscarves for women that look pretty much exactly the same as the hijab of Muslim women.

We are not entirely sure why historically men didn’t used to wear hats in Christian Churches, although we can guess. Patriarchy is a powerful and persistent force in society. It co-opts any excuse to place women in a slightly different position to men, and usually inferior.

 

Note this graphic is called "Muslim headgear" and then goes on to say that the religion doesn't mandate some of it. A classic example of the confusion surrounding this issue. In any event, this is a helpful graphic for those wanting to understand the names of the various pieces of clothing.

Note this graphic is called “Muslim headgear” and then goes on to say (with the Chador, for example) that the religion actually doesn’t mandate it. A classic example of the confusion surrounding this issue. In any event, this is a helpful graphic for those wanting to understand the names of the various pieces of clothing being discussed in the media.

 

The key point being that it is not only religion that dictates the clothing issue, it is culture. Religion is frequently co-opted to justify cultural norms. In fact, the religious norm that is frequently promoted is that somehow a woman’s eyes, face or body are inherently sinful, and likely to excite men to behave inappropriately. Or in other words, blaming half the species for the other half of the species’s inability to control itself.

The same logic used to lead the Victorians to cover the legs of grand pianos with cloths because they were too reminiscent of – horror! – womens’ shapely legs.

What we cannot understand is why so many on the left of politics will not tackle the issue of the burqa – the all body and head covering where the woman must look out from behind a grill or flap of cloth that emanates from Afghanistan – which has NOTHING to do with religion.

But it has everything to do we male patriarchy and bullying. If you doubt that assertion, try being an uncovered woman walking the streets of “liberated” Afghanistan if you agree. You might get away with it in parts of Kabul, in the rest of the country you will be abused, beaten or worse. The same is true of some areas (mainly in the country) in other states.

 

We think demanding women wear particular clothing in public is morally wrong, wherever the demand comes from. In Islamabad, for example, any woman attending the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca must now wear the burqua. Are we racists for saying we don't think women should be forced to wear a particular item of clothing to be allowed to be seen in public? We don't think so.

We think insisting that women wear particular clothing in public is morally wrong, wherever the demand comes from. It is the INSISTENCE we think is wrong, not the wearing of the item, whatever we may think of it. In Islamabad, for example, any woman attending the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca must now wear the burqua. Are we racists or culturally insensitive for saying we don’t think women should be forced to wear a particular item of clothing to be allowed to be seen in public? We don’t think so.

 

Here’s the question: in order to be “accepting” of people’s freedoms, why do we in the West (or in secular Muslim countries in the Middle East or Asia, for that matter) have to accept all cultural constructs as equally valid?

As an extreme example to make a point, we wouldn’t accept the right of some isolated rainforest tribe to continue with cannibalism after they came in contact with modern society … would we?

The burqa is medieval, and inappropriate in any society, let alone a pluralist Western one. We should be making that case strongly and sincerely to men (in particular) in our communities that originate in that area, and we should be encouraging women to speak up for themselves if they do not wish to wear it, if they can do so safely. The very fact that we have to add “if they can do so safely” makes the point, does it not?

Meanwhile, bleeding heart liberals and ignorant commentators continue to conflate religion and culture as if they were the same thing. They are not. We should be doing everything in our power to convince everyone in the world that our modern, feminist view of the role and presentation of women is the right model for women and for society as a whole.

Remember the same patriarchal cultural constructs that lead to the burqa in Afghanistan also result in the disgrace of honour killings (which are, by the way, most emphatically not limited to Muslims), to stonings of women accused of adultery (frequently as a way to get rid of an unwanted wife), to a persistent likelihood of being raped (or worse) merely for walking outside unaccompanied by a male, and also the savagery of female circumcision. Or as it should be called, female genital mutilation.

And yes: what should also be said is that virtually no women in Australia wear the burqa, and relatively few in Europe or America, too, although it is seen in pockets of cities with large numbers of immigrants from the areas where it is de rigeur. And yes, therefore, talking about it endlessly nowadays is part of a generalised distrust of “the other”, and at the moment, the “other” that concerns us most is Muslims, sadly.

But as we’re talking about it, we may as well talk about it. Or perhaps we approve of societies where women are banned from driving? That’s not in the Holy Koran, either.

 

Silly old sod is about the politest way we can put it.

Silly old sod is about the politest way we can put it.

Ex Prime Minister Bob Hawke has revealed himself as … well, you decide the epithet.

Why is a woman’s status as a mother still relevant to her career potential?

The infamous “Silver Bodgie” said that, while Tanya Plibersek was “a very impressive representative,” she may not be a candidate for Labor leadership as she has a three-year-old child.

“She could be a candidate for the deputy,” he told The Australian.

At the top of Bob Hawke’s list, however, is Bill Shorten. Who, er, just happens to have a three year old.

Go figure.

plibersekmem_narrow-300x0As a result, Destroy The Joint’s meme has enjoying a good run in social media.

It’s all academic, sadly, as Plibersek didn’t put her hand up.

We are actually rather sorry about that.

She’s articulate, hard working, attractive, coherent, compassionate, and wildly popular.

She has three children under the age of 13 and she’s been in politics since before her children were born, and managed a $5.1 billion health portfolio as a cabinet minister in the Labor government.

It’s reasonable to assume she’s got her share of her child-rearing sorted out.

The real point is, of course, that the comment made by Hawke would never, in a month of Sundays, be made about a man. Throughout the workforce, we bemoan the glass ceiling on women’s ambitions and careers, and then people make comments like this. They absolutely must not be allowed to go unchallenged.

Despite in other ways being a progressive modern Western democracy, Australia has now sunk to 45th position when it comes to representation of women in Parliament. Abbott’s cabinet has just one female member. Fewer than the cabinet in Afghanistan, as the ALP were delighted to report.

(Mind you, that is because the uniquely horrible Sophie Mirabella has now officially lost the seat of Indi, which only goes to prove there is a God. Or Karma is real, one of the two.)

Anyhow, now is not the time for women to be relegated to support roles. Nor is it the time for [insert your favourite expletive here] like Bob Hawke to talk such utter crap.

We were always Keating fans, frankly. As to whether we prefer Anthony Albanese or Bill Shorten to lead the ALP, we frankly are yet to decide. Both have their strengths, and weaknesses. We would, however, very much like the media to sort out the correct pronunciation of Albo’s surname. Is it “Albaneezeey” or “Albaneeze”? We think the people should be told. Fast.

So what do you think of Bob’s comment? Try and keep it nice. We do note he will be 84 in December. How ageist of us, before you say it. Shocking.

Eisenhower

Eisenhower

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”

Dwight Eisenhower, speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

In my opinion, American defence spending is bloated beyond belief, beyond anything necessary to fulfil either a defensive or offensive role in the world, and this is the result of an active and ongoing conspiracy between corrupt politicians (perhaps I should say, a corrupted political system) and the military-industrial complex.

Remember, American defence spending is greater than ALL of the next ten biggest defence budgets in the world, and that includes Russia and China.

And who pays for this? American taxpayers.

The role of the military-industrial complex is hardly new - as this 19th century cartoon exemplifies. Isn't it time we really tackled it?

The role of the military-industrial complex is hardly new – as this 19th century cartoon exemplifies. Isn’t it time we really tackled it? Over to you, taxpayers.

See, I cannot understand, for the life of me, why Americans – and especially those who detest taxes and Government waste of public money – do not rise up and demand that their defence budget is radically trimmed.

I cannot understand, for example, why Tea Party activists – almost universally anti excessive taxation – do not target defence spending first.

Just why is defence spending protected from cuts that are clearly necessary?

Why does the right wing demand defence spending be exempted from cuts?

Is it somehow a measurement or reflection of some deeply ingrained macho-psyche bullsh*t?

Is it merely that the political forces are so deep in their trenches that they cannot move from ossified positions?

Is it simply  that defence is a dog-whistle topic for the GOP base, and it’s better to try and make cuts to needed social security spending, despite the harm it causes, than to seek to educate their own supporters?

In which case, shame on them. And shame on the Democrats for letting them get away with it.

Yes, I understand that decisions about what items to cut are always complex … I have heard persuasive arguments from friends in the US Navy that they believe expenditure on capital ships has fallen to dangerously low levels. But I am talking here of the overall budget. Someone needs to get to it with a serious knife and cut deep, hard and long. It’s time.

There is another good reason for America to get it’s defence spending under control. Without excess (and excessive) forces, they will be less inclined to engage in military adventures overseas that are both morally and legally dubious. Iraq – and the 500,000 subsequent dead – would never have happened. And Afghanistan, in the absence of Iraq, would have been a two year event, and a much more likely success, rather than the morass it has become.

So – it’s over to you, American taxpayers. We are all relying on you. Are you really happy with the way things are going?

Feel free to cut and paste this on your Facebook page, blog, etc

Feel free to cut and paste this on your Facebook page, blog, etc. It is from the excellent “Ethical Reporters Against Faux News” Facebook page, a source of regular facts that need to be known.

Yes, before someone upbraids me, I know US military spending IS tipped to fall. From $638 billion this year to $538 billion by 2020.

But it’s not enough. And anyway, if pressure is not kept on, who says if that goal will be met?

Do I think it is beyond the wit and wisdom of Washington insiders to dream up another false-flag reason to suddenly ramp up spending again?

No. Sadly, I do not. Do you?

Oh, and Ike? He was a Republican. The type of moderate, thoughtful Republican that doesn’t seem to exist any more, more’s the pity. He was hawkish against communism, expanded America’s nuclear arsenal, but also launched the Interstate Highway System; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which led to the internet, among many invaluable outputs; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), driving peaceful discovery in space; the establishment of strong science education via the National Defense Education Act; and encouraging peaceful use of nuclear power via amendments to the Atomic Energy Act.

In social policy, he sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, for the first time since Reconstruction to enforce federal court orders to desegregate public schools. He also signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote. He implemented desegregation of the armed forces in two years and made five appointments to the Supreme Court. He was no captive of extremists – he actively and adroitly condemned the excesses of McCarthyism without upsetting his own right wing – in marked contrast to the current leadership of the GOP, he articulated his position as a moderate, progressive Republican: “I have just one purpose … and that is to build up a strong progressive Republican Party in this country. If the right wing wants a fight, they are going to get it … before I end up, either this Republican Party will reflect progressivism or I won’t be with them anymore.”

He was a talented politician. He prevented the GOP from collapsing into extreme-right irrelevance, and became, in doing so, wildly popular with both Democrats, independents and Republicans.

In summary, Eisenhower’s two terms were peaceful and productive ones for the most part and saw considerable economic prosperity except for a sharp recession in 1958–59.

So why was Eisenhower so chary of military spending?

Further comment superfluous.

Further comment superfluous.

Perhaps it was because, unlike most politicians today, he had actually witnessed the effects of that spending at first hand.

Not just the theft from those who needed the money spent on them, but also the carnage that war let loose really entails.

He walked the beaches after D Day.

He had ordered into battle legions that he knew would suffer 50%, 60%, 75% casualties.

He spoke with those men, face to face, hours before they left for France, knowing that most were just hours from dismemberment, disablement, or a  grisly death.

For him, every bullet fired, on both sides, was a disaster. But that understanding did not prevent him being one of the greatest military commanders in history.

And it didn’t stop him being a Republican.

There is nothing about this uniform, or that of any other British serviceman or woman, that should EVER be covered up, except for operational reasons.

There is nothing about this uniform, or that of any other British serviceman or woman, that should EVER be covered up, except for operational reasons.

Words fail me …Whilst I never want anyone to lose their job, in the old days, these staff members would be sacked. Nowadays they’ll probably be counselled and moved sideways.

Disgraceful. Hands up anyone who thinks Virgin should offer this office two First Class round the world tickets? Hands up everyone who will re-post, tweet and FB this story until they do?

Step forward, Richard Branson.

From Yahoo and others

A British Royal Navy officer was asked by Virgin Atlantic staff to cover up her uniform in case it offended other passengers, according to UK reports.

Petty Officer Nicky Howse was travelling on Virgin Atlantic from Los Angeles to Heathrow when staff asked her to change out of her uniform before boarding the flight, according to the Daily Mail.

“It was horrific,” Howse told a friend, via email. “I was made to feel uncomfortable in my own country for wearing the uniform I wear to defend the place. It made me ashamed of my country that a British serviceman can’t travel in uniform. I was so distressed.”

Although the Navy engineer refused to change out of her uniform before boarding, she was eventually forced to wear a set of airline

Bugger all the self-publicity, Dickie - how about making this up to the Petty Officer with a couple of tickets?

Bugger all the self-publicity, Dickie – how about making this up to the Petty Officer with a couple of tickets?

pyjamas for the duration of the flight.

“It started at check-in. Some G4S security guy gave me the third degree about travelling in uniform. I was fuming. He was rude, he wouldn’t let the check-in girl give me my passport.

“I was shaking with rage. I thought it was all done. But when I got to the departure gate I was taken to the side by the flight supervisor and they said I wasn’t allowed to fly in uniform and had to wear a sleep suit.

“I then stood feeling completely humiliated with other passengers, clearly curious as to what was going on, staring at me, waiting for him to come back with the black pyjamas.

“I asked if it was Virgin policy, they said “Yes”. I refused to wear it until after I was on board then still refused but basically got told I’d be asked to leave the flight if I didn’t take it off or cover it up.”

Virgin has since responded to press inquiries, stating that the airline has no such policy.

“This was a completely isolated case in which our staff were incorrectly advised by a security agent. We have made contact with the passenger in question to express our deep regret for any upset caused,” a spokesman told the Daily Mail.

But Howse says she was given a litany of excuses for why she shouldn’t wear the uniform.

“I was basically told it was because [the airline didn’t] only fly British passengers and told it was seen as a threat. I went ballistic. I said, ‘In the country I defend I can’t wear my uniform?’

“They then said it was for my own safety to stop abuse, to which I replied [that] I can deal with that myself if it arises, as I did in Afghanistan,” Howse said.

Colonel Richard Kemp, under whom Howse served in Afghanistan, called the incident “an insult to the Royal Navy and to the British armed forces who the Queen’s uniform represents.”

“This naval engineer has volunteered to serve and to fight for her country,” he added. “How dare Virgin Atlantic and G4S treat her like dirt?”

On the day that Australia and Afghanistan struggle with the official confirmation that Aussie troops in Oruzgan province shot and killed two shepherds aged 8 and 7, mistaking them for insurgent who had been firing at them, this fascinating piece of reportage from William Salaetan at slate.com a few days ago argues that, far from the indiscriminate slaughterer of innocent civilians that they are often painted to be, controversial unmanned drones in fact kill fewer civilians than conventional weaponry such as bombs. We comment at the end of the article.

Article begins:

An American Predator drone fires a missile.

An American Predator drone fires a missile.

UN: Drones killed more Afghan civilians in 2012,” says the Associated Press headline. The article begins: “The number of U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan jumped 72 percent in 2012, killing at least 16 civilians in a sharp increase from the previous year.”

The message seems clear: More Afghans are dying, because drones kill civilians.

Wrong. Drones kill fewer civilians, as a percentage of total fatalities, than any other military weapon. They’re the worst form of warfare in the history of the world, except for all the others.

Start with that U.N. report. Afghan civilian casualties caused by the United States and its allies didn’t go up last year. They fell 46 percent. Specifically, civilian casualties from “aerial attacks” fell 42 percent. Why? Look at the incident featured in the U.N. report (Page 31) as an example of sloppy targeting. “I heard the bombing at approximately 4:00 am,” says an eyewitness. “After we found the dead and injured girls, the jet planes attacked us with heavy machine guns and another woman was killed.”

Jet planes. Machine guns. Bombing. Drones aren’t the problem. Bombs are the problem.

Look at last year’s tally of air missions in Afghanistan. Drone strikes went way up. According to the U.N. report, drones released 212 more weapons over Afghanistan in 2012 than they did in 2011. Meanwhile, manned airstrikes went down. Result? Fifteen more civilians died in drone strikes, and 124 fewer died in manned aircraft operations. That’s a net saving of 109 lives.

On Monday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai banned his security forces from requesting NATO airstrikes in residential areas. Why? Because a week ago, an airstrike killed 10 civilians. What kind of airstrike? Bombs.

The My Lai massacre in Vietnam. As in most cases in that and other conflicts, bullets and bombs inflicted the majority of civilian casualties.

The My Lai massacre in Vietnam. As in most cases in that and other conflicts, bullets and bombs inflicted the majority of civilian casualties.

In war after war, it’s the same gruesome story: crude weapons, dead innocents.

In World War II, civilian deaths, as a percentage of total war fatalities, were estimated at 40 to 67 percent.

In Korea, they were reckoned at 70 percent.

In Vietnam, by some calculations, one civilian died for every two enemy combatants we exterminated.

In the Persian Gulf War, despite initial claims of a vast Iraqi death toll, we may have killed only one or two Iraqi soldiers for every dead Iraqi civilian.

In Kosovo, a postwar commission found that NATO’s bombing campaign killed about 500 Serbian civilians, almost matching the 600 enemy soldiers who died in action.

In Afghanistan, the civilian death toll from 2001 to 2011 has been ballparked at anywhere from 60 to 150 percent of the Taliban body count.

In Iraq, more than 120,000 civilians have been killed since the 2003 invasion. That’s more than five times the number of fatalities among insurgents and soldiers of Saddam Hussein’s regime. (Wellthisiswhatithink considers the likely figure to be nearer 500,00 civilian casualties due to all causes, as we revealed in our article “The Dead and Not So Dead In Iraq. However only a tiny percentage of those deaths could be attributed to drones.)

 Why so many noncombatant deaths? Study the record. In Vietnam, aerial bombing killed more than 50,000 North Vietnamese civilians by 1969. Each year of that war, the least discriminate weapons – bombs, shells, mines, mortars – caused more civilian injuries than guns and grenades.
We know all about the atomic attackjs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Far worse was the "firestorm" attack on Tokyo using incendiary bombs. The Strategic Bombing Survey estimated that 87,793 people died in the raid, 40,918 were injured, and 1,008,005 people lost their homes. Robert Rhodes, estimating the dead at more than 100,000 men, women and children, suggested that probably a million more were injured and another million were left homeless. American planners estimated the areas attacked to be 84.7 percent residential.

We know all about the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Far worse (and virtually forgotten) was the “firestorm” attack on Tokyo using incendiary bombs. The Strategic Bombing Survey estimated that 87,793 people died in the raid, 40,918 were injured, and 1,008,005 people lost their homes. Historian Robert Rhodes, estimating the dead at more than 100,000 men, women and children, suggested that probably a million more were injured and another million were left homeless. American planners estimated the areas attacked to be 84.7 percent residential.

In Kosovo, the munitions were more precise, and NATO tried to be careful.

But according to a postwar report by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, NATO’s insistence on flying its planes no lower than 15,000 feet—a rule adopted “to minimize the risk of casualties to itself”—“may have meant the target could not be verified with the naked eye.” In Afghanistan, a 2008 report by Human Rights Watch found that “civilian casualties rarely occur during planned airstrikes on suspected Taliban targets.”

Instead, “High civilian loss of life during airstrikes has almost always occurred during the fluid, rapid-response strikes, often carried out in support of ground troops after they came under insurgent attack.”

Drones can overcome these problems.

You can fly them low without fear of losing your life. You can study your target carefully instead of reacting in the heat of the moment. You can watch and guide the missiles all the way down.

Even the substitution of missiles for bombs saves lives. Look at the data from Iraq: in incidents that claimed civilian lives, the weapon with the highest body count per incident was suicide bombing. The second most deadly weapon was aerial bombing by coalition forces.

By comparison, missile strikes killed fewer than half as many civilians per error.

How do drones measure up? Three organizations have tracked their performance in Pakistan. Since 2006, Long War Journal says the drones have killed 150 civilians, compared to some 2,500 members of al-Qaida or the Taliban. That’s a civilian casualty rate of 6 percent. From 2010 to 2012, LWJ counts 48 civilian and about 1,500 Taliban/al-Qaida fatalities. That’s a rate of 3 percent.

The New America Foundation uses less charitable accounting methods. But even if you adopt NAF’s high-end estimate, the drones have killed 305 civilians, compared to some 1,500 to 2,700 militants, which puts the long-term civilian casualty rate at about 15 percent. NAF’s figures, like LWJ’s, imply that the rate has improved: From 2010 to 2012, NAF’s high-end civilian casualty tally is 90, and its midpoint estimate of dead militants is 1,410, yielding a civilian casualty rate of 6 percent.

The highest reckoning of noncombatant killings comes from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Since 2004, BIJ counts 473 to 893 civilian deaths, against a background of roughly 2,600 to 3,500 total killings. Using BIJ’s high-end estimates, if every fatality other than a civilian is a militant, the long-term civilian casualty rate is 35 percent. Using BIJ’s low-end estimates, the rate is 22 percent. But again, if you break down the data by year, they point to radical improvement. From 2010 to 2012, BIJ’s count of 172 civilian deaths, against a background of 1,616 total fatalities, yields a civilian casualty rate of 12 percent.

In Yemen, NAF says drones have killed 646 to 928 people, of which 623 to 860 were militants. If you assume that everyone not classified as a militant was a civilian, that’s a civilian casualty rate of 4 to 8 percent. LWJ’s Yemen numbers are less kind: it counts 35 civilian deaths and 274 enemy deaths in 2011 and 2012, yielding a rate of 13 percent. BIJ hasn’t tallied its Yemen data, but if you add up all the fatalities it counted as civilian in 2012, you get a civilian casualty rate of 10 to 11 percent. (For one strike last May, which several witnesses attributed to a plane, BIJ counts more noncombatant deaths than total deaths. If you don’t include those fatalities in the drone column, the civilian casualty rate for 2012 is just 7 percent.)

You can argue over which of these counting systems to believe. But the takeaway is obvious: Drones kill a lower ratio of civilians to combatants than we’ve seen in any recent war. Granted, many civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other such wars were killed by our enemies rather than by us. But that’s part of the equation. One reason to prefer drones is that when you send troops, fighting breaks out, and the longer the fighting goes on, the more innocent people die. Drones are like laparoscopic surgery: they minimize the entry wound and the risk of infection.

Over the years, I’ve shared many worries about the rise of drones: the illusion of withdrawal, the militarization of the CIA, the corruption of law, the evasion of congressional restraint, the risk of mission creep, and the proliferation of signature strikes. But civilian casualties? That’s not an argument against drones. It’s the best thing about them.

Wellthisiswhatithink believes we need to re-evaluate the drone programme. Its range, its usage, its timing, its command and control.

We are on record as saying it poisons civilians against what the West is trying to achieve, and is explicitly making the already fraught relationship between America and Pakistan, in particular, even worse than it already is. However debate on drone warfare should be based, as far as possible, on facts, not on emotion. If we are going to fight wars – a questionable decision in its own right – then we need to fight them with lowest possible impact on the civilian population, for all sorts of practical reasons, leave alone the moral ones. Recent history is, sadly, littered with examples of politicians deciding to deliberately target civilian populations, the direct opposite of their responsibility under the rules of war.

Coventry. Dresden. Nagasaki. Hiroshima. Tokyo. Hanoi. Sabra. Shatila. Srebrenica. Sarajevo. Aleppo.

It is a very sad list, is it not?

Man's deadliest killing machine, by far.

Man’s deadliest killing machine, by far.

Last but not least, in deciding how best – I will leave you to decide your own personal interpretation of “best” – to kill our fellow human beings, we should also constantly remind ourselves that bullets – fired by one person from one weapon – still kill more people in conflict zones than all other forms of ordnance put together.

Controlling the merchants of death who sell them indiscriminately to the highest bidder might be the most immediate and most “do-able” thing we can do to reduce casualties of all kinds. The first step is to make it clear to our political masters that we don’t want our countries involved in this bestial trade. Meanwhile, we would all do well to remember the simple arguments of Edwin Starr in his immortal “War”. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

Two prisoners await beheading by the Taliban. A brief foray into Google will soon find you pictures, or video, of a 12 year old boy being tutored in how to behead a prisoner. It is because of such savagery that we are still in Afghanistan.

KANDAHAR (AFP) – Taliban Islamist insurgents beheaded 17 party-goers, 10 Afghan soldiers were killed and two NATO troops shot dead in a new insider attack in a bloody day across Afghanistan, officials said Monday.

The party-goers, including two women, were holding a gathering with music in a southern Afghanistan village.

“I can confirm that this is the work of the Taliban,” the Helmand provincial governor’s spokesman Daud Ahmadi told AFP. “Two women and 15 men were beheaded. They were partying with music in an area under the control of the Taliban.”

The hardliners were notorious during their rule for public executions and the suppression of music and parties.

Nematullah Khan, the Musa Qala district chief, confirmed that the villagers had organised a party with music, and a local official said he suspected that the two women had been dancing.

Secret parties with dancing women from a gypsy-type tribe are common across southern Afghanistan.

During their 1996-2001 rule in Afghanistan the Taliban, now waging a fierce insurgency against the NATO-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, also tried to stop the mixing of men and women who were not related.

“This callous act clearly demonstrates the insurgents’ willingness to stop at nothing in terrorising civilians,” said General John Allen, commander of NATO’S International Security Assistance Force.

He pledged the assistance of NATO troops “to help bring these criminals to swift and sure justice”, while the US embassy in Kabul condemned the killings as “a shameful act”.

The UN mission in Afghanistan said: “This criminal act is unjustifiable and totally disregards the sanctity of human life.

“UNAMA has repeatedly stated that the killing of civilians is a clear violation of international humanitarian and human rights laws and has called for the perpetrators of such reprehensible acts to be brought to justice.”

Britain too joined in condemning the killings “in the strongest terms”.

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said: “I am appalled at the cruel killing of 17 people at a party…. The facts are still being established but early indications are that the Taliban were responsible.”

The insurgents have in the past been blamed for beheading local villagers, mostly over charges of spying for Afghan and US-led NATO forces.

Haji Musa Khan, a tribal elder in Musa Qala district, said the region had seen a surge in such killings in recent months.

“We had three people beheaded during the month of Ramadan. Another person, the son of a tribal elder, was beheaded recently,” he said.

Khan said the killings followed major military operations by Afghan and NATO troops in the area.

Hours after the beheadings, Taliban insurgents overran an Afghan army post in the same province in a pre-dawn attack on Monday, killing 10 troops, authorities said.

Four soldiers were wounded and six others were missing following the attack in Helmand’s Washir district, senior regional police officer Colonel Mohammad Ismael Hotak told AFP.

Helmand spokesman Ahmadi confirmed the incident and said the attack was an “insider plot” in which some army soldiers helped the rebels attack the post.

If it is confirmed that the attack was facilitated by soldiers it will mark a new escalation in a string of insider attacks on Afghan and NATO security forces.

Two NATO soldiers were also killed Monday when an Afghan army soldier turned his weapon against them in a “green-on-blue” attack in eastern Laghman province, the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

“ISAF soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker,” ISAF said.

The latest NATO deaths take the toll from insider attacks this month alone to 12 and to a total of 42 this year, making up around 13 percent of all NATO deaths in 2012.

NATO, which has about 130,000 troops in Afghanistan, has struggled to stem the attacks and they have become a major issue in the Afghan war, eroding trust between the two forces.

Taliban insurgents claim responsibility for many of the attacks, but NATO attributes most to cultural differences, stress and personal animosity between Afghan troops and their international allies.

ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Gunter Katz told reporters Monday that the attacks would not lead to less cooperation with Afghan troops as NATO prepares to pull out from the war in 2014.

“Let me clearly say, we are not going to reduce the close relationship with our Afghan partners. We assess that closer cooperation results in stronger bonds and increasing trust and friendship,” he said.

“These incidents will not affect our operation. The campaign is on track, we effectively fight the insurgency and most importantly we continue to fight alongside our partners from the Afghan security forces.”

 

… not just against the local authority and the police, but against the individual warder concerned.

Enough of this right-wing religious bigotry determining what we can, and cannot, do with our own bodies. These religious fanatics are every bit as bad as the rabid Islamic-extremist nutters in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The simple facts: a rape victim – brutally raped – was arrested after police found out she had a warrant for unpaid fines and failure to show at a court against her. (Whoop-di-do. Rape victim. Let’s arrest her for a minor infraction and lock her up in a jail. She’s just been utterly traumatised? Ah, fu*k that, lads. Let’s lock her up.)

She was given two contraception pills by emergency room doctors, one that she took immediately. The other to be taken in 12 hours.

But while in custody, the woman was denied her second pill by a guard who said they would not allow her to take the pill because it went against their religious beliefs.Now a court has ruled the woman has a right to sue.

The full story, as told at examiner.com. My comments in italics.

Rape victim wins right to sue guard that denied her prescribed contraception

Taking a pill

 

The woman whose name is only known via court records as “R.W.” was brutally raped January 27, 2007 by an unknown assailant. After going to the hospital she was arrested by police on a prior charge and sent to jail. While in custody a guard denied R.W.’s request to give her a contraceptive pill that was prescribed by the emergency room doctor, because it was against their religious beliefs. Now over 5 years later – why so long? Justice delayed is justice denied – a court has ruled R.W. does have a right to sue the guard for violating her constitutional rights.

It is noted in the official court report that after being treated at the hospital R.W. was given two contraception pills, one to be taken immediately and the other 12 hours later. She was then escorted back to the scene of the crime to look for clues. It is at this time the report says it was discovered that R.W. had several outstanding warrants including a failure to appear, and a failure to pay court costs. Because of this reason she was arrested.

She was taken to Hillsborough County Jail and her possessions, along with the second pill needed to guarantee she would not be pregnant with her rapist’s baby, were confiscated. After being booked she was placed into a general holding facility until she could see a judge. This is standard procedure.

When twelve hours passed R.W. asked a guard named in the report as Michele Spinelli, who was in charge of distributing medicine, to allow her to take the medically prescribed contraceptive pill.

Spinelli declined her request, and said that it was because of religious reasons. R.W. pleaded with Spinelli to please allow her the medication, and every time she was told no.

The follow day R.W. was released from jail. She was given her possessions, and she immediately took the remaining contraceptive pill. She was absolutely horrified at the thought of having the rapist’s baby. If contraceptive pills are not taken exactly when prescribed, they can lose 80% or more of their effectiveness.

Because of the guard’s action, R.W. was now, therefore, 80% more likely to carry her rapist’s baby.

As it happens, tests later revealed R.W. never was impregnated by her rapist, but this fact does nothing to change the reality that her constitutional rights were violated while in custody.

The court documents state she is suing for the following reasons: “Bodily injury, pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, cost of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment, loss of earnings, loss of ability to earn money, and aggravation of a previously existing condition.”

R.W.’s claim is seeking nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages. Good on her.