Think Afghanistan protests are just about burnt Korans? Think again. 26 February 2012 Glenn Greenwald Afghanistan and Pa

Think Afghanistan protests are just about burnt Korans? Think again.
26 February 2012     Glenn Greenwald     Afghanistan and Pakistan

Afghans themselves are making clear that this latest episode is but the trigger for underlying grievances about a decade-old, extremely violent foreign military presence in their country.
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By Glenn Greenwald
26 February 2012
Most American media accounts and commentary about the ongoing violent anti-American protests in Afghanistan depict their principal cause as anger over the burning of Korans (it’s just a book: why would people get violent over it?) — except that Afghans themselves keep saying things like this:

Protesters in Kabul interviewed on the road and in front of Parliament said that this was not the first time that Americans had violated Afghan cultural and religious traditions and that an apology was not enough.

“This is not just about dishonoring the Koran, it is about disrespecting our dead and killing our children,” said Maruf Hotak, 60, a man who joined the crowd on the outskirts of Kabul, referring to an episode in Helmand Province when American Marines urinated on the dead bodies of men they described as insurgents and to a recent erroneous airstrike on civilians in Kapisa Province that killed eight young Afghans.

“They always admit their mistakes,” he said. “They burn our Koran and then they apologize. You can’t just disrespect our holy book and kill our innocent children and make a small apology.”

Members of Parliament called on Afghans to take up arms against the American military, and Western officials said they feared that conservative mullahs might incite more violence at the weekly Friday Prayer, when a large number of people worship at mosques.

Obama's only way out of Afghanistan is to talk - Tariq Ali, The Guardian, 200112.

Obama's only way out of Afghanistan is to talk

The Afghan conflict has reached a stalemate. The US knows the Taliban are its route to withdrawal

Afghan civilian death toll reaches record high

Afghan civilian death toll reaches record high
• UN report says 3,021 civilians killed in 2011
• 8% increase on 2010 and fifth consecutive rise
• Number of suicide bombings static but toll rises 80%, Saturday 4 February 2012 12.53 GMT

An Afghan civilian is carried away after being killed in a bomb attack in Jalalabad. Photograph: Rahmat Gul/AP
The civilian death toll for the war in Afghanistan reached a record high last year with 3,021 deaths, according to the United Nations.

The number killed rose by 8% last year – the fifth consecutive rise – with a further 4,507 civilians wounded, the UN report said. Many were killed by roadside bombs or in suicide attacks, with Taliban-affiliated militants responsible for three-quarters of the deaths.

The number of deaths caused by suicide bombings jumped to 450, an 80% increase over the previous year, even though the number of suicide attacks remained about the same.

"A decade after the war began, the human cost of it is still rising," said Georgette Gagnon, director for human rights for the UN mission in Afghanistan.

The single deadliest suicide attack since 2008 occurred on 6 December, when a bomber detonated his explosives-filled vest at the entrance of a mosque in Kabul, killing 56 worshippers during the Shia Muslim rituals of Ashoura.

Roadside bombs remain the biggest killer of civilians. The homemade explosives – which can be triggered by a footstep or a vehicle and are often rigged with enough explosives to destroy a tank – killed 967 people in 2011, nearly a third of the total.

The figures come as Nato begins to map out plans for international troops to withdraw and hand over responsibility for security to Afghan security forces.

Piss on war: death, desecration, and Afghanistan

Piss on war: death, desecration, and Afghanistan
15 January 2012     Hamilton Nolan     Afghanistan and Pakistan

Most sickening of all are politicians who sit in office chairs and start wars and wave flags as young men and women go off to kill and die and be psychologically and emotionally damaged for life.

By Hamilton Nolan
12 January 2012

Cartoon by Steve Bell
A video emerges showing US Marines pissing on three Taliban corpses in Afghanistan.

The outrage machine grinds into motion. The media bestirs itself from its slumber. Americans momentarily pay attention to the war in Afghanistan again.

Politicians rush to add their names to the chorus of identical statements. All inflamed over the least bad thing that soldiers do in war.

Do you know what is worse than having your dead body urinated upon? Being killed. Being shot. Being bombed.

Having your limbs blown off.

Having your house incinerated by a drone-fired missile that you don't see until it explodes. Having your children blown up in their beds. Having your spouse killed.

Having your hometown destroyed. Being displaced.

Becoming a refugee. Having your entire life destroyed as a consequence of political forces far, far beyond your control.

War is horrible. War is sickening. Wars started for supremely righteous causes are just as horrible and sickening in their consequences as wars started for less than righteous causes.

Politicians who sit in office chairs and start wars and wave flags as young men and women go off to kill and die and be psychologically and emotionally damaged for life are the most sickening of all.

US troops seen urinating on bodies

US troops seen urinating on bodies

The US Marine Corps said it would investigate a video showing what appear to be American forces in Afghanistan urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters.

The video could aggravate anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan after a decade of a war that has seen other cases of abuse. The Marine video release comes at a sensitive moment, with Washington trying to promote Afghan reconciliation as US troops gradually withdraw from the country.

The video, which was posted on YouTube and other websites, shows four men in camouflage Marine combat uniforms urinating on three corpses.

One of them jokes: "Have a nice day, buddy." Another makes a lewd joke.

"While we have not yet verified the origin or authenticity of this video, the actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps," the Marines said in a statement.

"This matter will be fully investigated."

Two US military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the video appeared to be authentic at first look but Reuters could not independently verify the video or its source.

A Muslim civil rights group in the United States condemned the alleged desecration of corpses in a letter to defense secretary Leon Panetta.

"Any guilty parties must be punished to the full extent allowed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and by relevant American laws," the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in the letter, a copy of which was sent to media organizations including Reuters.

Strong reaction to the story spread on military-related websites, including on Stars and Stripes, the leading US Defense Department-authorized news publication.

Never a dull day in Pakistan as another Obama war unravels - Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali  -

Exhausted by war and the resultant suicide terrorism within its borders, Pakistan is in a terrible mess, worse than at any time in its recent history.

The war in Afghanistan, as I argued a decade ago, was a potential threat to the stability of the system in Pakistan. Events have long confirmed this view.

The US raid on a Pakistan border position a few weeks ago that killed 24 soldiers was only the latest disaster.

Motives for the attack remain a mystery but its impact is not. It will create further divisions within the military, further weaken the venal regime of president Asif Ali Zardari, strengthen religious militants and make the US even more hated than it already is in Pakistan.

Was it intended as a provocation? Is Barack Obama seriously thinking of unleashing a civil war in an already battered country?

Some commentators in Islamabad are arguing this but it's unlikely that Nato troops will occupy Pakistan. The death of soldiers stirred the mind of the nation to new activity. "Save us from our friends" is a growing sentiment even within the ruling elite.

The overall effect has been a growth of dissent within the military and the uncovering of related scandals. It was one of these, described as "memogate", that may have led a frightened President Zardari to flee the country to Dubai, supposedly for health reasons.

Though why Pakistani doctors in the country are considered inferior to their kin in the Gulf is a question posed by many in the country. Army doctors who, according to some reports, did examine him said he was "fine".

A US government official is reported to have said that Zardari was "incoherent" when he spoke with Obama last weekend. His own official admitted he was unfocused. This too is nothing new.

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