Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Rotten Fruits of War

by DAN PEARSON And KATHY KELLY

Five months ago, shortly after the Pakistani government had begun a military offensive against suspected Taliban fighters in the northernmost area of the country, we arrived in Islamabad, the capital, as part of a small delegation organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org). Our initial travel plans had focused on learning more about civilian suffering caused by U.S. drone attacks. But, over the course of our three-week visit, close to 3 million people had become uprooted by violence in the Swat Valley and neighboring districts. Visiting tent encampments and abandoned buildings to which people had fled, we spoke with people who identified themselves as poor people, with meager resources, who were anxious to return to their homes as soon as possible. They were also alarmed because they feared that their crops, animals, shops and stores were already destroyed.

Now that the military offensive in Swat has wound down, Pakistan’s government officials have labeled the operation a success. They claim to have cleared the area of Taliban fighters and have commenced a new military offensive in South Waziristan.

A closer look reveals a very different story.

Many families from Swat and surrounding districts returned to find that their homes, crops and other means of survival have been damaged or destroyed. Such circumstances force many to rely heavily on food aid. According to Amjad Jamal, a spokesperson for the World Food Program (WFP), “around 2.4 million displaced people received aid from the WFP food hubs last month.”

The WFP announced today that they are temporarily closing 20 food hubs in the North West Frontier Province citing concerns of worsening security.

Reporting from a Pakistani field hospital run by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the BBC met with scores of victims wounded by land mine explosions. The father of a 14 year old boy whose hands were blown off while he was playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance expressed anger over the government’s failure to remove the land mines before telling people it was safe to return. The father worked as a jeweler before the military offensive began, but after he and his family fled the fighting, his shop was looted; now he has no income, and his home was damaged in the shelling.

The BBC also reported that more than 200 corpses, believed to be bodies of suspected Taliban, have been found across the valley in recent weeks. Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission has called for an investigation into reports of numerous extra-judicial killings and reprisals carried out by security forces.

Dr. Aasim Sajjad, a professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, believes that the Taliban’s numbers will grow as a result of Pakistan’s military offensives. “The hundreds of thousands languishing in refugee camps talk of the mortar shells that have destroyed their homes and killed their relatives,” says Dr. Sajjad. “They seethe with anger and warn the government that most Taliban fighters hail from the local population. The longer the war continues — and it has only just begun in this region — the better the chances that the Taliban will be able to recruit from the refugees.” (Monthly Review “War, Islamists and the Left,” July 7, 2009)

Yesterday’s deadly suicide bombing at the Islamic University in Islamabad was the latest in a series of the Taliban’s recent reprisal attacks against the Pakistani government that have claimed the lives of over 150 people.

Military offensives that promise to smash or eradicate “the bad guys” may accomplish short-term “successes” by locking up or killing armed resisters and promising that the military will provide peace and security. But military establishments aren’t set up to address the long-term, desperate grievances that afflict impoverished people and give rise to support for militant groups of resisters.

According to conservative estimates, 75% of Pakistan’s population of 170 million lives on less than $2 a day. The majority of Pakistanis yearn for food security, clean water, a livelihood that can sustain their families and education that will help their children break out of impoverishment. Young men who are jobless, shut out of education are resentful of social structures that favor wealthy landowners and other elites and they are drawn to Taliban groups that promise a Robin Hood sort of redistribution. These Taliban groups have been dealt a temporary setback by the military offensive, but the fundamental problems of hunger, lack of clean water, illiteracy and joblessness haven’t been tackled.

Meanwhile, U.S. drone attacks continue, in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Using “eyes in the skies” by piloting Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, (UAVs or drones), the U.S. analysts can see and attack suspected Taliban or Al Qaida fighters, along with anyone else who might happen to be in the vicinity. But the UAVs won’t help us understand the acute need for humanitarian relief, diplomacy, negotiation and dialogue in a region already overwhelmed by attacks, counter-attacks, bloodshed and death.

Whether it is in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq or even in the U.S., as we’ve seen in recent years, war takes its heaviest toll on the poorest. It is a profound mistake to believe that military force is a solid foundation for peace.

KATHY KELLY (Kathy@vcnv.org) and Dan Pearson (dan@vcnv.org) are co-coordinators of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. With colleagues in Chicago, they are organizing the Peaceable Assembly Campaign to nonviolently resist U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as military support for the Israeli military.

 

 

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org  This article was first published on Telesur English.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]