Hello from Islamabad

I thought I could start blogging about the situation here in Pakistan, where I will be for a couple of weeks, and perhaps India as well, where I will be a couple of weeks after that. Even though most of what I will say here is based on reading the english-language Pakistani press (lacking any Urdu beyond the first three chapters of “Teach Yourself Urdu” that I have gotten through), which I could have done from Canada, perhaps there will be something of value here.

There are several very important things going on here, and here are some initial impressions.

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The recently-breaking (5-year old) Harper Afghan detainee abuse scandal

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been reporting on the torture of detainees of the “war on terror” since about 2002. There are plenty of specific reports of people dying in detention, people being tortured to death, and so on. Some of that is documented in “Bleeding Afghanistan”, the book written by my friends Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls.

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Colombia is the model for Afghanistan

An AP article sent to me by Anthony Fenton describes how a US General (Pace) says that Colombia’s drug war is the model for the Afghanistan drug war.

I’m reproducing it below. The article contains critique from the decent and intelligent Adam Isacson, who notes that Colombia’s drug war is a disaster by any sane or decent measure.

But of course the stated goals of drug wars have little to do with the actual goals, as I’ve noted in my own comparison between Afghanistan and Colombia months ago.

In particular, the aspects of the model that aren’t discussed include:

-Getting the resources of the country in the hands of friends and allies

-Funding and arming forces to control territories and populations; handing those forces political and military power in exchange

-Establishing permanent bases and military control in a country as a foothold into an entire region; establishing military forces close to perceieved ‘threats’

These are the military logic of these campaigns, for which drugs are just a useful pretext…

See the article below.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press
All Rights Reserved
Associated Press Worldstream

January 20, 2007 Saturday 12:54 AM GMT


LENGTH: 593 words

HEADLINE: U.S. military chief sees anti-drug Plan Colombia a model for Afghanistan

BYLINE: By JOSHUA GOODMAN, Associated Press Writer



The United States’ top military official said Friday that American-backed anti-drug and counterinsurgent operations in Colombia the world’s largest producer of cocaine should serve as a “model” for the Afghan government.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Colombia’s campaign to “rid certain areas of terrorists” followed by relief and jobs programs for the poor was a “good model for (Afghan) President Hamid Karzai to consider as he looks at how to reduce the amount of drug trafficking in his country.”

Afghanistan has been plagued by skyrocketing heroin production. But critics say it would be a mistake for the country to duplicate Colombia’s model, which they say has been ineffective despite costing American taxpayers more than US$4 billion (euro3 billion) since 2000.

Pace’s comments, at the end of a two-day visit here, were made in the presence of William Wood, who on Thursday was nominated by the White House to become its next ambassador in Afghanistan.

Wood has served as U.S. ambassador to Bogota since 2003.

Pace also thanked the government of President Alvaro Uribe Washington’s staunchest ally in Latin America for the way “he has reached out to Karzai and his government to provide experience and teams of experts” in combatting drugs.

Colombia, at the urging of the United States, has sent several missions of police and anti-drug experts to train Afghan police and advise Kabul. Opium production in Afghanistan last year rose 49 percent enough to make about 670 tons (607 metric tons) of heroin.

Many Afghan oppose spraying herbicides to kill fields of poppies, which are used to make heroin. The method is seen as likely to anger farmers and scare local residents.

Afghanistan is the source of 90 percent of the world’s opium production, although Colombia is the main supplier of heroin to the United States.

In Colombia the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have financed their four-decade old leftist insurgency through the drug trade, while in Afghanistan rising poppy production is blamed for fueling an increase in Taliban-led attacks against U.S. troops.

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said Colombia “was more than willing to continue and increase” counter-narcotic cooperation with U.S., British and Afghan officials.

Since 2000, the U.S. government has provided Colombia with more than US$700 million (euro540 million) in annual military aid to chemically eradicate fields of coca the base ingredient of cocaine and train troops fighting the FARC. Another US$125 million (euro96 million) are devoted to humanitarian relief and programs to encourage poor farmers to switch to growing legal crops.

Colombia is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid outside the Middle East.

But despite record aerial eradication campaigns a cornerstone of the U.S.-backed anti-drug policy critics say the costly Plan Colombia has fallen well short of its goal to halve the country’s production of coca.

The latest U.S. government survey found 26 percent more land 144,000 hectares (355,000 acres) in 2005 dedicated to the plant than the previous year’s survey.

“It would be a disaster for Afghanistan if they were to copy the character and model of Plan Colombia,” Adam Isacson, an analyst at the Washington-based Center for International Policy, told The Associated Press.

“If Afghanistan began fumigating across its country, Colombia has shown us that after five or six years later you’ll have just as much drug crop being grown and a lot more angry people who don’t trust their government and continue to be poor,” he said.

Bleeding Afghanistan

Those of you who are near Toronto: I’ll be speaking, along with my good friends Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls, this Thursday September 21 at 7pm at the University of Toronto’s Bahen Centre. The event announcement is below. See you there.

OPIRG – Toronto Presents…

Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence

Book Launch and Public Forum
-Sonali Kolhatkar
-James Ingalls
-Justin Podur

Thursday, September 21st
7 PM
Bahen Centre, Room 1130
40 St. George St (just north of College)
University of Toronto

Books will be available – Bring cash only!

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‘Despicable murderers and scumbags’: Canada in Afghanistan

A Change of Tone

On July 11, 2005, Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff General Hillier discussed the forces arrayed against NATO forces in Afghanistan with great nuance and understanding: “These are detestable murderers and scumbags, I’ll tell you that right up front. They detest our freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our liberties.”

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For those in Toronto in December

An event announcement in which I am personally implicated, below.

I also was, courtesy of some great organizers in Halifax, on the Atlantic Coast of Canada over this past weekend. I gave a talk on Haiti at St. Mary’s University and another on Israel/Palestine at Dalhousie. I was very happy to speak to engaged audiences of awake and interested people, not to mention to spend time with the local activists who made the events happen.

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