Censure sets back democracy & rights for Afghanistan’s People

Does anyone get the fact that by supporting the military action in Afghanistan they are now supporting the reversal of democratic rights and freedoms?

Human Rights Watch has responded to the censure of outspoken Parliamentarian, Malalai Joya:

Afghanistan: Reinstate MP Suspended for ‘Insult’

Censure of Malalai Joya Sets Back Democracy and Rights

(New York, May 23, 2007) – The Afghan parliament should immediately reinstate Malalai Joya, a member suspended for criticizing colleagues, and revise parliamentary procedures that restrict freedom of speech, Human Rights Watch said today.

On May 21, 2007, the Lower House of the Afghan parliament voted to suspend Joya for comments she made during a television interview the previous day. It is unclear whether Joya’s suspension will run until the current parliamentary session ends in several weeks or whether she will be suspended for the remainder of her term in office, which ends in 2009. In addition to her suspension from parliament, several legislators have said that Joya could be sued for contempt in a court of law.

“Malalai Joya is a staunch defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women, and she shouldn’t have been suspended from parliament,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Joya’s comments don’t warrant the punishment she received and they certainly don’t warrant court proceedings.”

Tory MP defends Karzai?

What follows is an excerpt from the letter my MP, Dave Batters, sent in response to my concerns about the deaths of Canadians in Afghanistan. As you read, keep in mind that it was Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s Parliament that voted a woman, duly elected to serve in the Parliament, out of it.

We also recognize that important progress is being made in Afghanistan because of the sacrifices of those serving in the Canadian Forces. Under the Taliban, Afghanistan had no free elections, women had no rights, and most Afghan children were denied the opportunity of basic public education. Because of Canada’s important role:

* Over five million children have been enrolled in school, one-third of whom are girls
* Free and fair elections, backed by a national constitution, have allowed 10 million Afghans to have their voices heard and their interests represented
* A new Canadian-led project is enabling 1,500 women to develop home-based fruit and vegetable gardens to supplement family diets and generate income
* Medical attention is now accessible to 77% of the population, up from only 10% in 2001, and 7.2 million children vaccinated against polio
* 4000 houses and shelters have been constructed
* 63,000 soldiers have been disarmed and demobilised and 334,000 mines have been defused and removed.

I assure you that the work of our Armed Forces with NATO in Afghanistan has helped to enrich the lives of millions of Afghan citizens and safeguard Canada against the threat of terrorists. I would encourage you to consider what the world has gained from the sacrifice of these brave men and women in uniform.

When Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai visited Canada’s House of Commons on September 27, 2006, he thanked our country’s soldiers for their work and the sacrifices they have made. He stated: “If the greatness of a life is measured in deeds done for others, then Canada’s sons and daughters who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan stand among the greatest of their generation.”

Regarding a diplomatic solution, clearly this is always the preferred means of resolving conflict. However, the Taliban are extremists and murderers who show no regard for human rights and the rule of law. I have attached a list of atrocities recently committed by the Taliban to illustrate why a diplomatic solution is probably not feasible or achievable in dealing with this radical group.

Wars are never entered into easily and we take our commitment in Afghanistan very seriously. It is important that Canada leave the local population better off than when we began our operations and that we ensure that Afghanistan remains a responsible participant in the international community. Our Conservative government will continue to support our troops as they work for the advancement of human rights and security in Afghanistan and around the world.

Interesting spin, isn’t it? How an elected official of one country can condone the creation of a culture of fear in another country and call it advancing human rights is completely and utterly beyond me.

BRING OUR TROOPS HOME!

Afghan Parliament Ousts Female Lawmaker

Oh, look, Steve! See what we’re supporting in Afghanistan? I thought someone said that our troops are there to help women and girls.

HA! BRING THE TROOPS HOME!!!

Afghan Parliament Ousts Female Lawmakerhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6649078,00.html
*Monday May 21, 2007 12:01 PM*
*Afghan Parliament Ousts Female Lawmaker*
*By RAHIM FAIEZ*
*Associated Press Writer*

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament voted
Monday to oust an outspoken female lawmaker who has enraged former
mujahedeen fighters now in President Hamid Karzai’s U.S.-backed government.

The lawmaker, Malalai Joya, compared parliament to a stable full of animals
in a recent TV interview.

The video clip was shown in parliament on Monday, and angry lawmakers voted
to suspend her from the body, said Haseb Noori, spokesman for the
parliament. No formal vote count was held, but a clear majority of lawmakers
voted for her suspension by raising colored cards, Noori said.

A parliament rule known as Article 70 forbids lawmakers from criticizing one
another, Noori said.

Joya, 29, said the vote was a “political conspiracy” against her. She said
she had been told Article 70 was written specifically for her, though she
didn’t say who told her that.

“Since I’ve started my struggle for human rights in Afghanistan, for
women’s rights, these criminals, these drug smugglers, they’ve stood against
me from the first time I raised my voice at the Loya Jirga,” she said,
referring to the constitution-drafting convention.

It was not immediately clear if she could appeal against her ouster.

Joya, a women’s rights worker from Farah province, rose to prominence in
2003 when she branded powerful Afghan warlords as criminals during the Loya
Jirga.

Many of the commanders who fought occupying Soviet troops in the 1980s still
control provincial fiefdoms and have been accused of human rights abuses and
corruption. After ousting the Soviets, the militias turned on each other in
a brutal civil war that destroyed most of the capital, Kabul.

Some faction leaders, like former President Burhanuddin Rabbani and Abdul
Rasul Sayyaf, a deeply conservative Islamist, have been elected to
parliament. Others, like northern strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum, were
appointed by Karzai.

Sayed Alami Balkhi, a lawmaker from the northern province of Balkh, said the
speaker of the upper house of parliament sent a letter to the lower house on
Sunday saying that Joya had humiliated and attacked both houses.

“If the lower house does not take a decision about her, we will take a
decision,” Balkhi quoted the letter as saying.

Joya’s outspoken ways have earned her many enemies in Afghanistan. In
February, during a rally to support a proposed amnesty for Afghans suspected
of war crimes, thousands of former fighters shouted “Death to Malalai
Joya!”

Last May, Joya called some lawmakers “warlords” in a speech at parliament,
prompting some parliamentarians to throw water bottles at her. A small
scuffle broke out between her supporters and detractors, and Joya later told
The Associated Press in an interview that some lawmakers threatened to rape
her as payback.

Joya said Monday that if she couldn’t remain in parliament, she would fight
against “criminals” independently. She said if anything were to happen to
her – a reference to a possible assassination attempt – that “everyone
would know” that the people she has criticized like Rabbani or Sayyaf would
be responsible.

“I’m not alone,” Joya told reporters. “The international community is
with me and all the Afghan people are with me.”

Updated to add a link to liberal catnip’s post regarding Peter McKay’s ridiculousity on this issue.

Women, Peace & Security

Wanna talk Afghanistan? Remember, we were told that Canada was going into the Middle East to help the women. Well, if we’re still in there to give peace and security to the women of Afghanistan and their families, then I think everyone should read this and then read UNIFEM’s annotated version. If we’re not there to do that then whose peace and whose security are we working towards?

Lawyers Against the War Letter to ICC

An excerpt from Lawyers Against the War’s Letter to the International Criminal Court dated 25 April 2007

Re. War crimes and the transfer of detainees from Canadian custody in
Afghanistan

We write to draw your attention to possible war crimes committed with respect to the transfer of detainees from Canadian custody in Afghanistan. In
particular, we request that you open a preliminary examination under Article
15 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to determine
whether there are reasonable bases to investigate Mr. Gordon O’Connor, the
Canadian Minister of National Defence, and General Rick Hillier, the
Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff.

Specifically, we are concerned that Mr. O’Connor and General Hillier have:
1. Chosen to allow detainees to be transferred to the custody of Afghan
authorities despite an apparent risk of torture and other forms of abuse;
2. Chosen not to take reasonable and readily apparent steps to protect
detainees against torture and other forms of abuse—for instance, by
seeking a renegotiation of the December 2005 Canada-Afghanistan
Detainee Transfer Arrangement to bring it into line with pre-existing
Denmark-Afghanistan, UK-Afghanistan and Netherlands-Afghanistan
agreements, and now, following credible reports of the torture of
transferred detainees, by ceasing any further transfers.

Read the full letter here.

Poem: Fingering the dictionary

Fingering the dictionary

for Prime  Minister Stephen Harper on the occasion to celebrate International Women’s Day 2007

chattel

Main Entry: chat·tel
Pronunciation: 'cha-t&l
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English chatel property, from Anglo-French — more at CATTLE
1 : an item of tangible movable or immovable property except real estate and things (as buildings) connected with real property
2 : SLAVE, BONDSMAN

 

 

cattle

Main Entry: cat·tle
Pronunciation: 'ka-t&l
Function: noun plural
Etymology: Middle English catel, from Anglo-French katil, chatel personal property, from Medieval Latin capitale, from Latin, neuter of capitalis of the head — more at CAPITAL
1 : domesticated quadrupeds held as property or raised for use; specifically : bovine animals on a farm or ranch
2 : human beings especially en masse

capital

Main Entry: 3capital
Function: noun
Etymology: French or Italian; French, from Italian capitale, from capitale, adjective, chief, principal, from Latin capitalis
1 a (1) : a stock of accumulated goods especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period; also : the value of these accumulated goods (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income b (1) : net worth (2) : STOCK 7c(1) c : persons holding capital d : ADVANTAGE, GAIN <make capital of the situation> e : a store of useful assets or advantages <wasted their political capital on an unpopular

cunt

Main Entry: cunt
Pronunciation: 'k&nt
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English cunte; akin to Middle Low German kunte female pudenda
1 usually obscene : the female genital organs; also : sexual intercourse with a woman
2 usually disparaging & obscene : WOMAN 1a

Mission of Folly

The full piece by Laxer is also posted at Canadian Dimension.  It’s 30 pages long but definitely worth the read.

Mission of Folly: Why Canada should bring its troops home from Afghanistan (James Laxer)

Canadian troops have been fighting in Afghanistan for over five years. This military mission has endured for longer than the First World War and the Korean conflict. If the mission continues for another year, it will exceed the Second World War in duration, to become the lengthiest war in which Canadians have ever fought. To date, 44 Canadians have died in Afghanistan. On a per capita basis, more Canadians have been killed during the mission, than has been the case for any of the other allied countries who have sent forces to Afghanistan.

The Harper government has presented the mission to Canadians as combining a military element with the provision of aid to the people of Afghanistan. In fact, in dollars spent, the mission has been ninety per cent military, and only ten per cent reconstruction aid.troops out

The Chretien government propelled Canada into the Afghan War with little thought in the autumn of 2001. The mission has since been sustained and extended by the Martin and Harper governments. Despite the brief debate and vote on the issue in the House of Commons in May 2006, this country has had no authentic national debate on the Afghanistan mission.

In this 30,000 word long report, I have entered the debate not as an expert on Afghanistan, but as someone with considerable experience analyzing Canadian and American global policies. It is my belief that the Afghanistan mission is a tragic mistake for Canada. If prolonged, the mission will cost many more Canadian lives, without the achievement of the goals Canada and its allies have set for themselves in Afghanistan.

(This report will be published on-line on my blog, at http://www.jameslaxer.com, one chapter at a time, in February 2007. Then the report has a whole will be published there. The report will be available as well in PDF format. You are welcome to reproduce this report in whole or in part. I can be reached at: jlaxer@yorku.ca.

Chapter 1: Canada Went to War in the Absence of an Authentic National Debate

The Nightmare of Afghan Women

According to this, from TomDispatch, our mission in Afghanistan is not a lot different from the USian one in Iraq.  And, women are not better off as a result.

Tomgram: Ann Jones on the Nightmare of Afghan Women

This post can be found at http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=163092

Afghanistan remains the forgotten war and yet, in an eerie lockstep with Iraq, it seems to be following a distinctly Bush administration-style path toward “the gates of hell.” While almost all attention in Washington and the U.S. media has been focused on the President’s new “surge” plan in Iraq — is it for 21,000 or 50,000 American troops? Just how astronomical will the bills be? Just how strong will Congressional opposition prove? Just how bad, according to American intelligence, is the situation? — Afghanistan is experiencing its own quiet surge plan: more U.S. (and NATO) troops, more military aid, more reconstruction funds, more fighting, more casualties, heavier weaponry, more air power, more bad news, and predictions of worse to come.

Proposal to get US out of Iraq

Forwarded to me by the Feminist Peace Network, a comprehensive proposal to get the US troops out of Iraq.  And isn’t it about time?  Will Afghanistan be next?  PMS, can you read my lips?

http://www.feministpeacenetwork.org/?p=65

Lynn Woolsey’s Plan for withdrawal from Iraq
Posted by admin on January 19th, 2007

Adapted from Sheroes:
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) has come up with a comprehensive proposal to withdraw our troops from Iraq. Her plan includes the following points:

a.. Withdraw all U.S. troops and military contractors from Iraq within six months from the date of enactment.
b.. Accelerate, during the six-month transition, training of a permanent Iraqi police force.
c.. Prohibit the continued funding, except for the redeployment of troops currently in Iraq, of combat troops to Iraq.
d.. Prohibit any permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. (Despite official denials, bases are under construction, including one that includes a miniature golf course and a Pizza Hut).
e.. Authorize, if requested by the Iraqi government, U.S. support for an international stabilization force, which would stay no longer than two years.
f.. Prohibit U.S. participation in any long-term Iraqi oil production sharing agreements before the enactment by the Iraqi government of new regulations governing the industry.
g.. Authorize an array of non-military assistance in Iraq, including reconstruction of a public-health system; destruction of land mines, recovery of ancient relics; and distribution of compensatory damages for civilian casualties.
h.. Honor the sacrifice of our servicemen and women by providing full funding for every health-care treatment, and benefit that they are entitled to under current law.

Co-sponsors of the bill include: Barbara Lee (CA), Maxine Waters (CA), Diane Watson (CA), James McGovern (MA), Barney Frank (MA), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Chaka Fattah (PA), Jerrold Nadler (NY), John Conyers Jr. (MI), Wm. Lacy Clay (MO), Steve Cohen (TN), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Bob Filner (CA), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Donald Payne (NJ) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX).Joshua Holland has an excellent blurb about this bill over at Alternet. He writes,

“The sad thing is that neither the AP, nor the New York Times bothered even to report it, and in the Washington Post it merited just a single, off-hand sentence in one of Dana Milbank’s typically snotty little columns. I wonder why that seems so familiar.”

Holland suggests that you write to your representatives and ask them to support the bill. Also, please write to your local media and tell them that this is important legislation and they should be covering the story. And please, forward this blog to your lists. Let’s make some noise about this issue!


			

Women and the Media

Another from the inbox, this, an excerpt from Jane Fonda’s speech to a conference on media reform: A Powerful Media Can Stop a War (What would the world look like if the female half of the population had an equal share in the media?) Edited to ad a link to her full speech at YouTube.

Media must be the defenders of democracy.

We need a media that strengthens democracy, not a media that strengthens the government. We need a media that enriches public discourse, not one that enriches corporations. There’s a big difference.

When we talk about reforming the media, what we’re really talking about is creating a media that is powerful, not a media that serves the interests of the powerful; a media that is so powerful that it can speak for the powerless, bear witness for those who are invisible in our world, and memorialize those who would be forgotten.

A truly powerful media is one that can stop a war, not start one.

As Bill Moyers said at this very conference last year, “the quality of democracy and the quality of journalism are deeply entwined.” But when the media does not reflect the vibrant diversity of the people on this planet, both the quality of journalism and the quality of our democracy suffer.

At this National Conference on Media Reform, our shared goal of creating a truly progressive, democratic media — vital, fair, investigative, and truth-telling — is ultimately unreachable if we do not address the persistent, pervasive inequalities that exist in media. These inequalities exist even outside of mainstream media, even in the alternative and independent press.

The existence of independent media has been severely threatened. We’ve seen a new concentration of media ownership in conservative hands, and the erosion and elimination of federal regulations that promoted a diversity of viewpoints. This has weakened our country — morally, physically, and spiritually.

The Free Press has done a great deal to show how people of color have increasingly been marginalized as media monopolies grow. It’s shown how ownership of television and radio stations by people of color is at its lowest levels since the government began keeping track; how a scant 13 percent of newspapers in this nation employ people of color in the same percentage as their readership; and how issues affecting diverse communities have been underreported and ignored.

But the media environment that is overwhelmingly white is also overwhelmingly male. And a media that leaves women out is fundamentally, crucially flawed.

Why? Simply because you can’t tell the whole story when you leave out half the population.

Read the whole piece.