Tag Archive: Pakistan

Jul 23 2013

How Obama’s Drones Spread a Deadly Disease

American’s were so proud that Pres. Barack Obama had found and killed Osama bin Laden in an Abbottabad, Pakistan and continues to defend its illegal drone program that kills more innocent civilians than it does terrorists. The killing of bin Laden and the drone program have had an impact on a deadly disease that was about to be eradicated world wide, polio. The distrust in the vaccination program was created when the brilliant minds came up with an appallingly bad scheme to set up a fake vaccination program to find bin Laden:

As reported by the Guardian and subsequently by the New York Times, intelligence operatives funded a sham vaccination program in hopes of obtaining a sample of DNA to prove that bin Laden, then rumored to be in the area, was actually living in the compound where he was subsequently found and killed. From the Guardian:

   DNA from any of the Bin Laden children in the compound could be compared with a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010, to provide evidence that the family was present.

   So agents approached [Shakil] Afridi, the health official in charge of Khyber, part of the tribal area that runs along the Afghan border.

   The doctor went to Abbottabad in March, saying he had procured funds to give free vaccinations for hepatitis B. Bypassing the management of the Abbottabad health services, he paid generous sums to low-ranking local government health workers, who took part in the operation without knowing about the connection to Bin Laden. Health visitors in the area were among the few people who had gained access to the Bin Laden compound in the past, administering polio drops to some of the children…

   In March health workers administered the vaccine in a poor neighbourhood on the edge of Abbottabad called Nawa Sher. The hepatitis B vaccine is usually given in three doses, the second a month after the first. But in April, instead of administering the second dose in Nawa Sher, the doctor returned to Abbottabad and moved the nurses on to Bilal Town, the suburb where Bin Laden lived.

There is no evidence the “vaccinations” produced DNA that helped identify bin Laden. The physician named in the article has been arrested by the Pakistani security forces. The CIA has understandably refused any comment. But the allegation that a vaccine program was not what it seemed – that it was not only suspect, but justifiably suspect – has been very widely reported.

This is awful. It plays, so precisely that it might have been scripted, into the most paranoid conspiracy theories about vaccines: that they are pointless, poisonous, covert shields for nefarious government agendas meant to do children harm.

This unethical scheme had its deadly consequences in more ways than one. The rumor that the vaccine program was a covert campaign by Western powers to sterilize and kill Muslim children. It’s also put health care workers with the vaccination program at risk:

Foreign Policy has the exact numbers. Up to 22 workers may have been killed-one of the incidences was a roadside bomb, so it might have just happened to catch vaccinators-while 14 others have been bombed, taken for ransom, tortured, or otherwise injured. The violence likely stems from the Pakistani Taliban’s opposition to vaccination, Foreign Policy reports.

Taliban leaders have a variety of reasons they’re suspicious of the polio vaccine. They think vaccinators could be spies for the U.S. military–more on this later–or that they could be part of a plot to sterilize Muslims. Last year, Pakistani Taliban groups questioned why Americans fund both fatal drone strikes and life-saving vaccination programs. Leaders said they would ban vaccinators from reaching them until the U.S. stops using drone strikes. [..]

One doctor, a Muslim, took a journalist on a tour in April and talked about a fatwa placed upon him. In May, a gunman killed him and injured his one-year-old daughter.

Despite all of this, the battle to eradicate polio in Pakistan continues but the impetus is a rivalry with India, where polio was eliminated two years ago

After India’s success and hints from the World Health Organization that it might issue travel warnings, Pakistan’s government went on an emergency footing. A cabinet-level “polio cell” was created. Vaccinators’ routine pay doubled to $2.50. More than 1,000 “mobilizers” were hired to visit schools and mosques to counter the ever-swirling rumors that the vaccine contained pork, birth control hormones or H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.

Mullahs were courted to endorse vaccination. They issued 24 fatwas, and glossy booklets of their directives were printed for vaccinators to carry.

Perhaps most important, local command was given to deputy commissioners, who have police powers that health officials lack.

Pakistan is closer than ever. Although cases will not peak until after the summer monsoons, there have been only 21 so far this year. A few years ago, 39 substrains of the polio virus circulated; now only two do. About 300,000 children live in areas too dangerous for vaccinators, but almost all the sewage samples from those areas are clear of the virus.

Ultimately, though, success will depend on more than political will and the rivalry with India. In the wake of the recent killings, it will rely most of all on individual acts of courage, like those by prominent imams who pose for pictures as they vaccinate children.

This is an uphill fight, especially in the Peshwar region where anti-American sentiments are very high due to the barrage of drone strikes on the isolated mountain villages where just about every adult male has an AK-47. Lack of sanitation and clean water supplies, along with few government services such as health clinics, garbage pick up and schools add to the complicated picture.

Peshawar worries even Dr. Elias Durry, a normally optimistic polio specialist with the W.H.O. “You can get 90 percent vaccine coverage, and come back a few months later, and it’s 50 percent,” he said. “People just move so quickly.”

Shaheen’s sewers are concrete trenches about a foot deep, into which wastewater, rendered milky white by dish soap, flows from pipes exiting mud-brick houses. A child reaching into one for a stick to play with showed how easily the virus, carried in fecal matter, could spread.

Though the area has clean water from a well, the steel pipe it flows through at times dips inside the sewerage trench. It has dents where trucks have banged it, and it is pierced by connectors, some attached just to rubber hoses. [..]

Pakistani children suffer diarrhea so often that half the country’s young are stunted by it. Polio immunity is low, even in vaccinated children, because other viruses crowd the gut receptors to which the vaccine should attach.

At the clinic in Shaheen, the doctor running the polio drive, an ophthalmologist, complained that he got too little police help.

In the middle of last year, it became known that in 2011, the C.I.A. had paid a local doctor to try to get DNA samples from children inside an Abbottabad compound to prove they were related to Bin Laden. Even though the doctor, Shakil Afridi, who is now serving a 33-year sentence for treason, was offering a hepatitis vaccine, anger turned against polio drops.Leaders of the polio eradication effort could not have been more frustrated. They were already fighting new rumors that vaccinators were helping set drone targets because they have practices like marking homes with chalk so that follow-up teams can find them. Now, after years of reassuring nervous families that the teams were not part of a C.I.A. plot, here was proof that one was.

What Charles Pierce said:

It is possible for the vast United States intelligence apparatus to go 15 minutes without fking up in the most egregious way possible?

Nope.

Aug 24 2012

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws and the Failure of American Foreign Policy

This is my first diary here. I usually write on the Daily Kos, but wish to expand my horizons a little.



Pakistan has arrested an eleven year old Christian girl, last weekend on charges of blasphemy. It is alleged that the girl burnt pages which contained verses from the Koran.

Furthermore, the girl suffers from Down Syndrome and it is questionable whether or not this was an act of malice or merely an accident.

Even if the act were intentionally, I firmly believe that Blasphemy laws should not exist anywhere in the world because I concur with the message of Noam Chomsky:

If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.

Beyond the destruction of objects, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws target not just acts but rather thoughts. It makes thought crime a legitimate offense. For instance, a medical lecturer was targeted by the laws for expressing a mere opinion:

After one class in October he was accused by his students of saying that until the prophet Mohammed received his first message from God at the age of 40 he was not a Muslim and did not shave his armpits or pubic hair, and his parents were not Muslim. A group of 11 students complained to a group called the Organisation of the Finality of the Prophet, a self-appointed guardian of hardline Sunni Islam, which has brought dozens of blasphemy charges against religious minorities. A charge was lodged against the lecturer and he was immediately arrested, although he insisted that his words were misunderstood.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl…

Skepticism, intellectual inquiry and the expansion of curiosity are at the heart of a progressive society. Blasphemy laws hamper a mind’s ability to think and to doubt. It chains that mind to archaic religious texts, and cannot reconcile human progress and secular-humanistic principles too swiftly or too easily.

It was Salman Rushdie (himself a target of an anti-blasphemy sentiment extending overseas), who said this about censorship and it equally applies to blasphemy laws (since they are just another form of censorship):

“But the worst, most insidious effect of censorship is that in the end, it can deaden the imagination of the people. Where there is no debate, it is hard to go on remembering, everyday that there is a suppressed side to every argument.” (Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, p. 39).

The Muslim world needs to return to a time, when free-thought and free-inquiry thrived in its lands. It needs to create the same atmosphere that created people like Abu Bakr al-Razi. In fact, as the Guardian notes:

In examining this chapter of Islamic history, regardless of the validity or otherwise of the views expressed, one cannot help feel amazed at the fact that the Islamic thinkers of the 10th century had the freedom to discuss and publish their “unorthodox” ideas, while the Islamic world now cannot, or will not, deal with any form of intellectual dissent.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comm…

It probably will have a hard time doing this however, due to external interference in the guise of U.S. foreign policy.

We made a great blunder in our foreign policy as the philosopher Slavoj Zizek says, when we chose to side with Muslim fundamentalists against either secular-leftists or reformist movements. The very same ideas and people that now haunt us, we have either brought to power or sustained financially and militarily time and time again.

It has done wonders for the defense industry and perhaps that’s why such masochistic behavior is repetitive. The need for a perpetual and terrifying enemy is what fueled the Cold War and the arms trade, and racked in millions to disaster capitalism firms, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, another boogeyman has taken its place. As Naomi Klein’s blog notes about the invasion of Iraq (an extension of our war on terror):

“Disaster Capitalism” firms need wars to generate profits. And by sidestepping the draft, Iraq became a privatized war employing over 185,000 (20,000 more than the military), including truck drivers, PX clerks and mercenary soldiers. Blackwater was near bankruptcy before the war. Through secret no-bid contracts the U.S. pays for training centers which the companies now own. Peace does not generate disaster profits.

http://www.naomiklein.org/shoc…

Jul 18 2012

Consequences of the War on Terror

The consequences of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s loose lips with secret information about the informant in the assassination of Osama bun Laden in Pakistan, has put many lives at high risk.

More Damage from Panetta’s Vaccine Ruse: UN Doctor on Polio Vaccine Drive Shot; Hundreds of Thousands Denied Polio Vaccine

by Jim White at emptywheel

As one of only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic, Pakistan launched a three day vaccination drive yesterday with a target of vaccinating the 318,000 children in North and South Waziristan who have not received their vaccinations. Across all of Pakistan, the goal is to vaccinate 34 million children under the age of five. The drive is being held despite a push by the Taliban to prevent vaccinations in tribal areas. The Taliban’s ban on vaccinations is aimed at stopping US drone strikes in the tribal areas and is in response to the vaccination ruse by the CIA.  Dr. Shakeel Afridi pretended to be doling out hepatitis vaccines in a failed attempt to retrieve DNA samples for the CIA from the bin Laden compound when it was under surveillance prior to the attack that killed Osama bin Laden. Today, a UN doctor and his driver were wounded when a shooter opened fire on them in Karachi. The doctor was reported to be working on the vaccine program. [..]

It seems that Leon Panetta’s approval of and subsequent public confirmation of Afridi’s vaccine ruse is a problem that just continues to affect the lives of more and more children every day. Although the Pakistani government’s vaccine drive is legitimate and urgently needed, Panetta’s poor judgment is putting that drive at risk and assuring that it will fall far short of the rate of vaccination needed to prevent a record year for polio cases in Pakistan.

The consequences are that the informant, Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi, was jailed for 33 years in May, 34 million children are at risk and trying to save those lives can get you killed. MR. Panetta should be sentenced to driving doctors and aid workers in North and South Waziristan for the rest of his life.

Dec 30 2011

The Drone Wars

Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has waged an increasing clandestine war using unmanned drones controlled by civilians members of the CIA. In a recent article Washington Post‘s Greg Miller exposes some troubling aspects of the program which has little oversight or control:

In the space of three years, the administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries. The apparatus involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force­ ­cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents. [..]

The rapid expansion of the drone program has blurred long-standing boundaries between the CIA and the military. Lethal operations are increasingly assembled a la carte, piecing together personnel and equipment in ways that allow the White House to toggle between separate legal authorities that govern the use of lethal force.

In Yemen, for instance, the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command pursue the same adversary with nearly identical aircraft. But they alternate taking the lead on strikes to exploit their separate authorities, and they maintain separate kill lists that overlap but don’t match. CIA and military strikes this fall killed three U.S. citizens, two of whom were suspected al-Qaeda operatives. [..]

Obama himself was “oddly passive in this world,” the former official said, tending to defer on drone policy to senior aides whose instincts often dovetailed with the institutional agendas of the CIA and JSOC.

Joshua Foust in The Atlantic observes that there are consequences for the successes claimed by the Obama Administration:

In the countries where the drone system is most active — Pakistan and Yemen — relations with local governments and communities are awful, and perceptions of the United States could barely be any worse. There is agreement seemingly only on the need for long distance killing, and even then — especially in Pakistan — there is a great deal of contention.

In fact, one could argue that the severe degradation of relations with Pakistan, which are driven to a large degree by popular anger over drone strikes (as well as a parallel perception among some Pakistani elites that the U.S. disregards Pakistani sovereignty at will), is driving the current U.S. push to ship supplies and, eventually, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, through Uzbekistan.

Besides the political consequences, Foust notes the reorientation of the intelligence community to this killing program may hinder its ability of collecting and analyzing the data needed and a heavy reliance on information from sketchy local partners that can, and has, resulted in unnecessary fatalities. His opinion of Obama’s expansion of the drone war is scathing:

This sloppiness with life and death decisions is a substantial moral failing, and should be a huge scandal for President Obama. But, he has decided to both distance himself from it while also taking credit for its successes, even as it focuses on ever less important and marginal figures within the terrorist milieu. [..]

It is an absolute scandal. We owe ourselves better questions and more accountability of the drones we use to wantonly kill people around the planet.

Senior reporter for Wired.com’s Danger Room, Spencer Ackerman, discussed the sharp increase in drone attacks to do the military’s job since Obama took office.

Oct 11 2010

Damning Praise for Obama: Up Date

US Air Force Gen. (Ret.) Michael Hayden, former CIA Director and NSA chief under George W. Bush, was a guest on State of the Union with Candy Crowley. Naturally the discussion was about terrorism, the recent European travel alerts and the drone attacks in Pakistan that are perpetuating the cycle of terror threats from Al Qaeda. Naturally the discussion also turned to the possibility of another attack in the US and that Americans are on edge based on recent polling done by CNN.

CROWLEY: I want to show you a poll that we took between October 5 and 7, so a recent poll. And the question was, “Will there be acts of terrorism in the U.S. in the next few weeks? Forty-nine percent said it’s likely. Forty-eight percent said not likely. What does the former head of the CIA say?

HAYDEN: I’m not surprised that people are on edge. I’m a little surprised at the spread, particularly since you gave it a time frame in the next few weeks. I don’t think any of us inside government who have a chance to see the variety of information would attach that imminence to the — to the attack. But the probability, I think all of us would agree to. We’ve been quite good since 9/11. We’ve worked very hard. We’ve taken the fight to the enemy…

Keep that fear factor going.

Ms. Crowley then turned the conversation to Pakistan

CROWLEY: We of course, in order to make up for the lack of action in northern Waziristan, have been sending these drones in, record number in September.

There is a cost to it, of course, because the Pakistani populace, which in general doesn’t like the U.S. — the Pakistani government has to make sure that they don’t — there’s no uprising from them because it looks like the Pakistani government is cooperating too much with the U.S.

Do you think these drones have been excessive, and do you think they’re always helpful?

HAYDEN: Well, as you know, I’m not here to confirm or deny any specific operational activity.

. . . But I do know that taking the fight to the enemy, being able to take Al Qaida’s senior leadership off the battlefield, as we say, and that began about July of 2008, in the current effort has been, I think, the single greatest factor in keeping America and our friends safe. I know all activity…All activity that we do…to take the enemy off the battlefield is done very carefully. It’s great precision, high confidence in the intelligence. So I think it’s an appropriate course of action. In fact, it’s one that, in conscience, it would be very difficult for any administration to stop doing.

CROWLEY: You sound as though you believe President Obama is doing a good job on the terrorism front.

HAYDEN: There are some things that I disagree with, and I’ve disagreed with publicly.

CROWLEY: Such as?

HAYDEN: Making the CIA Office of Legal Counsel interrogation memos public, stopping the CIA interrogation program and not really replacing it with any other interrogation program, even to this date.

But, by and large, there’s been a powerful continuity between the 43rd and the 44th president, and I think that simply reflects the reality that both President Obama and President Bush faced in terms of the threat and the tools that are available to them.

(emphasis mine)

What digby said peas in a pod

Up Date: Glenn Greenwald picks this up today with this final comment:

Civil liberties and a belief in the need to check government power is something many people care about only when the other party is in control.  They seem to believe that there are two kinds of leaders — Good ones (their party) and Bad ones (the other party) — and it’s only when the latter wield power that safeguards and checks are necessary.  Good leaders, by definition, are entitled to trust and faith that they will wield power appropriately and for Good ends, thus rendering unnecessary things like accountability, transparency, oversight and even due process.  Of course, the core premise of our government from the start was that political power will be inevitably abused if it is exercised without constraints, that nothing is more irrational or destructive than placing blind faith in political leaders to exercise unchecked power magnanimously.  But the temptation to want to follow Leaders blindly — to believe in their core Goodness and to thus vest them with unverified trust — is almost as compelling a part of human nature as the abuse of power when exercised without checks and in the dark.

That’s why self-anointed defenders of the Constitution are instantly transformed into authoritarians and back again every time there is a change of party control:  many people don’t believe in these principles generally, but only when political leaders they dislike are in power. The problem, though, is that endorsing civil liberties abuses because one’s own Party is in power virtually ensures that those abuses will become permanent, available to future leaders from the other Party as well.  That was the argument which fell on deaf ears when made to cheering Bush supporters, and it’s barely more effective now.

(emphasis mine)

Do you hear this, Obama Loyalists? You CANNOT have it both ways.

Oct 05 2010

The Dizzying War on Terror: Up Date

Round and round it goes, where this stops nobody knows.

Three killed in attack on Nato tankers which the Taliban claimed responsibility for because U.S. drone strikes increase on Pakistan border which happened because an increased risk of terrorist attacks in Europe, with Washington saying al Qaeda might target transport infrastructure. Terror strikes provoke drones attacks which provoke more terror attacks which provoke….Dizzy yet?

Glenn Greenwald sums it up nicely:

What a surprise: bombing Muslims more and more causes more and more Muslims to want to bomb the countries responsible.  That, of course, has long been the perverse “logic” driving the War on Terror.  The very idea that we’re going to reduce Terrorism by more intensively bombing more Muslim countries is one of the most patently absurd, self-contradicting premises that exists.  It’s exactly like announcing that the cure for lung cancer is to quadruple the number of cigarettes one smokes each day.  But that’s been the core premise (at least the stated one) of our foreign policy for the last decade:  we’re going to stop Terrorism by doing more and more of exactly the things that cause it (and see this very good Economist article  on the ease with which drones allow a nation’s leaders to pretend to its citizenry that they are not really at war — as we’re doing with Pakistan).

So where does this end Mr. President? Are you now going to send ground troops into Pakistan?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Up Date: From Glenn Greenwald:

…..a 2004 Task Force convened by Donald Rumsfeld said about the actual causes of Terrorism and, specifically, the effects on Terrorism from our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  The whole Report is worth reviewing, but among the highlights:  (a) the “underlying sources of threats to America’s national security” are grounded in “negative attitudes” towards the U.S. in the Muslim world and “the conditions that create them”; (b) what most exacerbates anti-American sentiment, and therefore the threat of Terrorism, is “American direct intervention in the Muslim world” — through our “one sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan”; and (c) “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.”

Aug 23 2010

The Week in Editorial Cartoons, Part I – BP’s Soup Recipe

Crossposted at Daily Kos and Docudharma

John Sherffius

John Sherffius, Comics.com (Boulder Daily Camera)

Note: Due to a deluge of editorial cartoons over the past week or so, I’m going to, time permitting, post Part II of this weekly diary in the next few days.  In addition to some of the issues covered in this edition, I’ll include more cartoons on the floods in Pakistan, the withdrawal of combat U.S. forces in Iraq, and Rupert Murdoch’s $1 million contribution to the GOP.

Aug 15 2010

Pakistan, & Hugely Unequal Global Climate Change Effects

The F Word: Time to Declare Global War on Flooding, Laura Flanders & GritTV, August 13, 2010



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