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Center Column Archives
On March 30th, in response to President Obama's announcement of an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, an emergency action was held in front of the San Francisco Federal Reserve. Two dozen demonstrators protested the notion of Obama's "good war" and called for the complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
Tariq Ali, novelist, historian, political campaigner, and editor of “New Left Review” spoke at the Islamic Cultural Center in Fresno on September 28, 2008. Ali said that Pakistan is in the throes of a new crisis: daily battles on the Afghan border, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the farcical and grotesque succession ceremony. Tariq Ali sold copies of his latest book, “The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power," also the title of his talk.
In at least five separate incidents during July alone, U.S.-led NATO forces have killed as many as 132 civilians in Afghanistan. The worst of the five attacks took place in the Deh Bala district of the Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, where a U.S. air strike killed 47 civilians on July 6th. Another air strike killed up to 22 Afghani civilians on July 4th when missiles from U.S. helicopters struck civilians in Kunarn. Nine more Afghani civilians were killed in the province of Farah on July 15th. In a fourth attack, up to 50 civilians died and at least seven more were wounded in the western province of Herat. The fifth and most recent attack occurred on July 20th, when at least four Afghani civilians were killed.
In a July 14th, New York Times Op Ed, Barack Obama says, "As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces."
Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27th. Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state. She was sworn in as Prime Minister in 1988 but was removed from office after only 20 months on grounds of alleged corruption. In 1993 Bhutto was re-elected but was again removed in 1996 on similar charges. In mid 2007, Bhutto appeared to have arranged a power sharing deal with the US backed dictator Pervez Musharraf, but the deal was scuttled when the Supreme Court appeared set to rule that Musharraf could not legally remain President. Musharraf declared emergency rule in December and replaced the Supreme Court. Bhutto was placed under house arrest and publicly denounced Musharraf, but refused to boycott elections set for January 2008.
On March 4th
, US troops killed 16 Afghan civilians following a car bomb attack on their convoy. Eyewitnesses to the incident described the US troops firing indiscriminately at civilians in their vehicles and on foot in angry retaliation for the attack.
Hundreds of Afghans protested at the scene of the killings,
blocking the main road between Kabul and the Pakistan border.
Associated Press journalists at the scene said US soldiers forcibly deleted their footage of the aftermath of the attack.
On March 5th
, 9 additional Afghan civilians were killed in a NATO bombing raid in Kapisa province.
The nine dead civilians included five women and three children.
In recent months, the escalating violence in Afghanistan has begun creeping back into the headlines. Most of the stories have focused on the resurgence of the Taliban and the accompanying suicide bombings, assassinations of Afghan politicians, and deaths of US and NATO soldiers. Much of the blame has been placed on insufficient coalition troop levels, the under-paid and under-trained Afghan National Army, and anger in the Muslim world regarding Iraq. Unfortunately, the gross mismanagement, epidemic corruption, and massive failures of the US-led reconstruction of Afghanistan have been mostly ignored.