by Felicity Arbuthnot
15 August, 2010
” .. to wade through slaughter … and shut the gates of mercy on mankind.” Thomas Gray (1716-1771.)
The scale of the disaster caused by the floods in Pakistan, is barely comprehensible. As Juan Cole has written, expressing near disbelief : “The submerged area of the country is as big as the United Kingdom, fourteen million Pakistanis are affected, two million are homeless.” Six million need immediate relief, according to the UN., and thirty six thousand are suffering from acute diarrhoeal symptoms, with cholera already diagnosed. 1,600 are reported dead, with the number certain to multiply. Famine is a real possibility.
The great Indus river, the world’s longest, which flows also through China, India and Kashmir, rising in Tibet and flowing in to the Arabian Sea, has flooded Sindh and Balochistan provinces, forcing the evacuation of over ninety percent of the villages. With no place to hide, people watched their homes washed away, in a monsoon season that continues through September. Hundreds of villages are inundated or completely under water, with roads, rail links, thus transportation cut, as frantic people try to flee to safer ground. It is the worst flooding in the country’s history, with some experts saying the region worst affected for nearly one hundred years. A far wider area is now threatened.
When the waters subside, the million-plus people who are directly or indirectly dependent on the mangroves, will have had their livelihood affected or erased, as will the fishermen along this great expanse. Looking at US., news sites, the enormity of this tragedy has evoked not pity, but almost universal vindictiveness. “Serves you right”, “You had it coming”, “Where is Allah now?” “So now you want help from the Great Satan’s troops and helicopters”, are a few of the milder ones, addressed to a River Valley civilization which dates to about 3,300 BC., with tools found, used fifteen thousand years ago.
Saturday 14th August, is Pakistan’s Independence Day, celebrated annually since 1947. Flags and flowers, traditionally decorate all, homes, roofs, vehicles. This year celebrations were muted to sombre, devastation and death dominated. Prayers for both replaced festivity. The army cancelled their celebrations and donated the funds allocated for their day’s events to the flood victims.
President Obama in a message for Independence Day, pledged U.S. support: “… in line with deepening partnership between the two nations”, praising the Pakistani people ” … as they bravely respond to widespread and unprecedented flooding.” He ended: “I have directed my Administration to continue to work closely with the Government of Pakistan and provide assistance in their response to this crisis.”
Pakistan has requested helicopters from this US “partner”, close by in Afghanistan however : “A senior U.S. military official said transfer of additional helicopters, which are in short supply in Afghanistan, would require a political decision in Washington. ‘Do they exist in the region? Yes’, he said. ‘Are they available? No’ “, writes Robert Naiman.
What was available, on Pakistan’s National Day, and the third day of the holy month of Ramadan, were US drones. A US missile strike on (as ever) a “militant” compound on the Afghan border, killing thirteen “rebels” and wounding five others on Saturday, in the village of Eisori, in North Pakistan, is widely reported. Wait for the bodies of the militant children, women, teenagers. It is still confusing to know how these “militants” are recognised from the air, from a computer in the US, given so many have turned out to be families having a meal, tending their land, or mince-meated infants. What happened to Courts of Law?
Unmanned drones, decimating lives since 2004 in the US’s “deepening partnership” country, operated by those who have graduated from computer games to war games, with real human targets, has to be one of life’s more memorable, bizarre, cowardly, illegal obscenities. Some “partnership.”
The good news or the bad?
A shipload of U.S. Marines and helicopters did arrive to boost relief efforts in flooded Pakistan on Thursday (12th August.) However, given the number of US Special Services alleged to have been at sites of bombings in Pakistan, from schools to communal compounds, the cynic might wonder whether this is in spirit of co-operation and “partnership” or an eye to the main chance.
And the US has a bit of form when it comes to Ramadan missiles. In Ramadan in Iraq, the US., military signed their missiles with: “Have a nice Ramadan, Saddam.”
UN Secretary General, Ban, has finally limped in to Pakistan, saying not a lot. The Taliban have offered, allegedly, twenty million dollars in aid if Pakistan rejects US aid (given US form, they could possibly be on to something – further once in, the US., have a tendency to stay) and President Obama and his family are swimming in Florida to promote tourism in BP infested waters.
One commentator reached a US news site, and compared poor Michelle Obama to Marie Antoinette. A long way from: “Change we can believe in.”
Nearly five hundred years ago, William Shakespeare put it well : ” … perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame; savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust.”
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Drones are just the sort of toy that today’s military industrial complex pushes for. Admittedly, as an American with friends and relatives serving in Iraq/Afghanistan, I had originally been taken by some of the P.R. surrounding drone-usage. Anything that’ll keep our men and women away from the treacherous task of extracting the “insurgent” rebellion must be a “positive”.
In a rather stretched analogy, drones are like the invention of the bullet; a radical detachment from hand-to-hand combat that would serve to revolutionize warfare. Certain types of bullets were taken into consideration at the Hague conventions (1899, 1907) as to the humanity deficit involved when “calculated… unnecessary suffering” (via soft or hollowed casings) is utilized on the battlefield.
Military judges have declared “hollow-points” to be legal in today’s U.S.-led conflicts, since “counterterrorism” is not a war with a sovereign entity (or signatory to any humane “agreements” with the U.S.) – – so the calculated, unnecessary suffering inflicted by hollow-tipped bullets (favored due to their fragmentation on impact, and the inherent increase in lethality that brings) is excused if the recipient of said projectile is dubbed a “terrorist” or an “insurgent” or a “rebel”, depending on the conflict.
Drones are cowardly devices. For that matter, so are ICBM’s (which is probably why I’m not a fan of those, either).
But these drone targeting mishaps: unthinkable. I was stunned to learn of the historic inaccuracies of these things. Their “misfires” have cost the U.S. valuable support from Pakistanis, and have probably done more to hurt overall efforts than they’re no-bid contract-holding producers would care to admit to.
There’s something sadistically romantic about hand-to-hand combat, rooted in its “me vs. you” sentiments. When two people are opposing each other, both willing to sacrifice their life for their “cause”; well, o.k., then. But all other scenarios (especially the cyber-geek pushing a drone’s remote-controlled “attack” button from a laptop on a base in Rammstein); these call for impersonal war – – the kind too readily shaped by politicization, rather than populism; wars of attrition, instead of wars of necessity.
Now, factor in the flood, and the Taliban grassroots efforts to offer beneficent assistance (in exchange for the universal forgetfulness of their collective abhorrent actions); and we had better change course, quickly.
Negotiate with the Taliban. Get them into Afghan parliament. They’d do wonders for curtailing the Karzai regime’s rampant bouts of fraudulent misdeeds. But don’t continue attacking AfPak Taliban drone-style (ESPECIALLY DURING RAMADAN). Pakistan is drowning, and if the Taliban are the ones rescuing the victims, instead of U.S. personnel, the ramifications will karmically come back around. As, perhaps, they should.
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I’m appalled at the general hatefulness of Americans posting on international forums towards people in other countries. Where is all this hate coming from?
I agree it’s a sick society… there’s a karmic backlash to killing people in so many different countries, and it’s been going on all my life.
I’m just feeling very sad, it’s kind of overwhelming, that so many Americans have become this vindictive. At any time, the use of drones is merciless and appalling, but when people in a country are enduring a tremendous natural disaster, to go on attacking them is tantamount to running over someone with a car who’s fallen down in the street and needs help getting up.
Amrigoon exceptionalism, built by slaves worldwide, Bad kulture based on greed,
Ariel, you’ve made an important observation.
I wish I had an answer. I’m here all my life and I just don’t get it either. But certainly the USA isn’t the first to kill abroad with impunity.
Warmongering seems to be a human failing forever. It’s we the compassionate who don’t get it, who suffer for the victims. There is something very deranged in the brains of human beings. We (they, anyway) seem to be evolved to be cold-blooded killers.
Humans will die out and be brought under control as is the way of the world, but sadly we knew better.
Maybe we can make a pill, an antagress that burns the brains of these hideous viiolent people when they think evil thoughts. To hell with free will. Violent people, each and every one, need to be corrected.
Anyone raising their hand in any sort of violence should be shocked with a near fatal punishment like a dog with a radio-collar.
There is no other way, violent people will never learn without retribution and restriction & pain. There is no other way, they know better and get high on killing for fun.
Not a very peaceful solution/suggestion, Natureboy. Violence begets violence. Instead of pointing fingers at others, maybe each of us need to look into the mirror and change ourselves. You know, Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. The so-called peace movement could use more peaceful members.
Indeed, the male mind is not a peaceful place. We are angry by default, and hostile.
Nevertheless this is a tragedy every way, No I don’t get Islam, I don’t understand terrorists, and no I don’t think anyone should be building anymore mosques (nor churches nor synagogues) People need to keep their religions to themselves, back in the closet with your disproved medieval superstitious fairytails.
Nevertheless, Islam is likely why the Pakis are suffering now, as the Haitians suffer for being black.
We are indeed a bad species.
Hardly peaceful. Hardly Human.
In other words nobody will help. People are vengeful racists full of shadenfreude. Even the ‘patriots’ here were happy to watch New Orleans die for being black. If people have no compassion, maybe they really do need some discipline. Teach them the hard way to get over their issues and behave. It worked for China, eh Ariel?
The US has become a truly sick country when it will not help victims of a natural disaster with nearby helicopters because they are needed for war activities which often kill innocent civilians.
It’s obscene, Shaine. I just added a link to a video at the end of this post but I’ll post it here, too.
The drone attacks are still happening!