Dollars for Death, Pennies for Life
By Norman Solomon
Solomon's ZSpace Page: February 15, 2010
When the U.S. military began a major offensive in southern Afghanistan over
Presidents Day weekend, the killing of children and other civilians was
predictable. Lofty rhetoric aside, such deaths come with the territory of
war and occupation.
In mid-January, President Obama pledged $100 million in U.S. government aid
to earthquake-devastated Haiti. Compare that to the $100 billion price tag
to keep 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for a year.
While commanders in Afghanistan were launching what the New York Times
called "the largest offensive military operation since the American-led
coalition invaded the country in 2001," the situation in Haiti was clearly
With more than a million Haitians still homeless, vast numbers -- the latest
estimates are around 75 percent -- don't have tents or tarps. The rainy
season is fast approaching, with serious dangers of typhoid and dysentery.
No shortage of bombs in Afghanistan; a lethal shortage of tents in Haiti.
Such priorities -- actual, not rhetorical -- are routine.
Last summer, I saw hundreds of children and other civilians at the Helmand
Refugee Camp District 5, a miserable makeshift encampment in Kabul. The U.S.
government had ample resources for bombing their neighborhoods in the
Helmand Valley -- but was doing nothing to help the desperate refugees to
survive after they fled to Afghanistan's capital city.
Such priorities have parallels at home. The military hawks and deficit hawks
are now swooping along Pennsylvania Avenue in tight formation. There's
plenty of money in the U.S. Treasury for war in Afghanistan. But domestic
spending to meet human needs -- job creation, for instance -- is another
Joblessness is now crushing many low-income Americans. Among those with
annual household incomes of less than $12,500, the unemployment rate during
the fourth quarter of last year "was a staggering 30.8 percent," Bob Herbert
noted in a February 9 column. "That's more than five points higher than the
overall jobless rate at the height of the Depression."
Herbert added: "The next lowest group, with incomes of $12,500 to $20,000,
had an unemployment rate of 19.1 percent. These are the kinds of jobless
rates that push families already struggling on meager incomes into
The current situation is akin to the one that Martin Luther King Jr.
confronted in 1967 when he challenged Congress for showing "hostility to the
poor" -- appropriating "military funds with alacrity and generosity" but
providing "poverty funds with miserliness."
Such priorities are taking lives every day, near and far.
Early this month, the National Council of Churches sent out an article by
theologians George Hunsinger and Michael Kinnamon, who wrote: "What the
Haitians obviously need most is massive humanitarian relief. They need food,
water, medical supplies. They need shelter and physical reconstruction. . .
. Over half of Haiti's population are children, 15 years old or younger.
Many were already hungry and homeless before the earthquake hit."
But the warfare state, with vast budgets for military purposes, has scant
funds for sustaining life.
These priorities kill.
From: Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives
Joya condemns 'ridiculous' military strategy
By Glyn Strong
The Independent - UK: February 15, 2010
Afghanistan's "most famous woman" has voiced deep scepticism about Operation
Moshtarak's aims and its impact on Afghan civilians.
"It is ridiculous," said Malalai Joya, an elected member of the Afghan
parliament. "On the one hand they call on Mullah Omar to join the puppet
regime. On another hand they launch this attack in which defenceless and
poor people will be the prime victims. Like before, they will be killed in
the Nato bombings and used as human shields by the Taliban. Helmand's people
have suffered for years and thousands of innocent people have been killed so
far." Her fears were confirmed when Nato reported yesterday that a rocket
that missed its target had killed 12 civilians at a house in Marjah.
Dismissing Allied claims that Nato forces won't abandon Afghan civilians
after the surge, she said: "They have launched such offensives a number of
times in the past, but each time after clearing the area, they leave it and
[the] Taliban retake it. This is just a military manoeuvre and removal of
Taliban is not the prime objective."
Ms Joya believes that corruption is endemic, citing uranium deposits and
opium as incentives for Nato and Afghan officials to retain a presence in
Helmand. Operation Moshtarak is described as an inclusive offensive,
depending for its longer-term success on involvement of Afghan forces. But
Ms Joya said: "The Afghan police force is the most corrupt institution in
Afghanistan. Bribery is common and if you have money, by bribing police from
top to bottom you can do almost anything. In many parts of Afghanistan,
people hate the police more than the Taliban. In Helmand, for instance,
people are afraid of police who commit violence against people and make
trouble. The majority of the police force in this province are addicted to
opium and cannabis."
The suspended MP was not invited to the recent London Conference that
discussed her country's future, but she is pessimistic about its outcome.
Reflecting on the Conference, Joya said: "Ordinary Afghan people say
it was like a meeting of vultures coming together to discuss how to deal
with the prey which is Afghanistan."
Please join us on February 16 when PEN USA and the Hammer Museum present an
evening of poetry inspired by the events in Iran this past summer. In
association with Iranian-American poet Sholeh WolpÃ©, author of "I Am Neda,"
we collected dozens of poems by prominent poets in support of those who
speak out for freedom around the world.
The event will feature Maxine Hong Kingston, Eloise Klein Healy, James Ragan
and Tony Barnstone reading the work they created specifically for this
project, as well as actors reading the poems contributed by Yusef
Kumunyakaa, Annie Finch, Joy Harjo, Kim Addonizio, Andrew Hudgins, Sam
Hamill, Marvin Bell, Carolyn Forche, David Waggoner, Robert Bly and Thomas
Lux. All of the poets' submissions speak to the unjust circumstances of our
world, as well as the hope for change and prosperity in the future.
The reading will take place in the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum
and will feature live musical accompaniment by Iranian vocalist Mamak
Khadem. Broadsides of a selection of the featured poems will be available
for purchase, with proceeds benefiting PEN USA's Emergency Writers Fund.
Save the date for this inspirational event on February 16 at 7 pm. Admission
is free. Tickets are required, and available at the Billy Wilder Theater Box
Office one hour prior to start time. Limit one ticket per person on a first
come, first served basis. Hammer members receive priority seating, subject
to availability. Reservations not accepted. Parking is available under the
museum for $3 after 6:00pm.
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