Skating to Kabul

For Many Afghan Boys, the Future
Lies Between War & Being a Sex Toy

Last week’s tragic killing of two boys in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, underlined once again our worst fears about the future of generations of Afghan youth, squeezed between the brutal choices of either being killed by the war, or sexually abused by their country’s older men.
As the U.S. prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan, many fear it will leave it in a much worst shape than it found 12 years ago, choked in the toxic mix of poverty, obscurantism, and the quirks of ancient law. Still, some see skateboarding as a way out for some children.
The shooting of the young cattle herders by a NATO-led strike was obviously a catastrophic mistake, just the latest in a long list. That, however, doesn’t lessen the brunt of their loss to their families, who like many others rely on all labor their youngest can put up to, amid the war-ravaged countryside.
Mistaken strikes, often by drone missiles, have been the most deadly cause for civilian casualties in the Afghan war, and the death of the two boys, ages seven and eight, follows another attack in early February, that left 10 unarmed people dead, five of which children. There’s no sight this can possibly be stopped.

It’s a fitting, albeit calamitous, coda for a war that started with one purpose, to find the responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It got deflated before such mission had been accomplished, interrupted by the long, and completely baseless, Iraq invasion, and finally restarted with no visible objective.
The result: over 2,000 American troops killed, an estimated 140,000 civilian ‘casualties’ in the combined Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the biggest U.S. defense budget ever, far more than all the other NATO nations combined, and a domestic economy in tatters due to this overzealous war effort.
A recent U.N. report also pointed at one of the most lasting damages this war will imprint on Afghan’s society, and the Iraqi’s too for that matter, for years to come: the staggering number of children killed, enough to leave a generational gap in the future of those countries.
As for the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the main reason to justify both military adventures, and the most expensive war effort ever undertaken by the U.S., it ended as everybody knows, with his killing in May, 2, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Illusion of Small Evil, Colltalers

‘Tis the season for shopping in western societies, and shop will be performed with abandon and savage zeal. Never mind supporting a retail industry that globally pays undignified wages to its workforce, or the need for restraining frivolous spending, as most of what’s being purchased over these few weeks depletes natural resources, takes precedence over food production, and will be sitting on landfills soon enough.
To another industry, though, shopping extends for more than weeks. Just in time for the holidays, a PAX report released last week found that financial institutions around the world are on a $27 billion spree since 2011. What are they buying? Stocks from companies that make cluster bombs, which are banned by international law because, like land mines, they remain active long after their purpose is fulfilled.
As big cities around the globe light up their Christmas trees, and genuinely well-intended people harbor feelings of goodwill and grace, their pension funds are busy betting their retirement money in the assumption that war is good for business, everything else be damned.
We’re not being naive here, or blaming investment managers for following the smoky trail of profits on the back of scorched villages and bodies burned to a cinder. But, as Hanna Arendt wrote about Nazi lieutenant Adolf Eichmann, the ‘banality of evil’ is that it’s done ‘by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.’ In other words, crimes committed in our name are indeed our responsibility.
What aggravates the study done by PAX, a Netherlands-based peace advocacy organization, is the already rising costs of the U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIL in Syria, the Iraq campaign’s daily costs, and the fighting in Afghanistan. As defense hawks have gleefully declared as inevitable, it’ll help engorging the Pentagon’s budget and boost consequent spending in homeland security.
The report names a who-is-who in the American pantheon of financial corporations, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, along with well known insurers Aflac, Fidelity Investments and MetLife, and defense contractor BlackRock, plus companies in China, South Korea and the U.K., among others, all acting as asset managers, banking-service or loan providers.
115 countries, including all of the above, signed the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, prohibiting multiple explosive-parts bombs. Nevertheless, their use has continued, if not increased, worldwide, and as recent as September, evidence was found that they’ve been deployed in Ukraine and Syria. To have an idea, cluster bombs dropped in Laos, 50 years ago, continue to claim lives.
But the strictly material costs of war, and consequent profit to be gained from it by people who haven’t ‘made up their minds,’ or just don’t care about it, can approachh Continue reading

Skating to Kabul

For Many Afghan Boys, the Future
Lies Between War & Being a Sex Toy

Last week’s tragic killing of two boys in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, underlined once again our worst fears about the future of generations of Afghan youth, squeezed between the brutal choices of either being killed by the war, or sexually abused by their country’s older men.
As the U.S. prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan, many fear it will leave it in a much worst shape than it found 12 years ago, choked in the toxic mix of poverty, obscurantism, and the quirks of ancient law. Still, some see skateboarding as a way out for some children.
The shooting of the young cattle herders by a NATO-led strike was obviously a catastrophic mistake, just the latest in a long list. That however doesn’t lessen the blunt of their loss to their families, who like many others rely on all labor their youngest can put up to, amid the war-ravaged countryside.
Mistaken strikes, often by drone missiles, have been the most deadly cause for civilian casualties in the Afghan war, and the death of the two boys, age seven and eight, follows another attack in early February, that left 10 unarmed people dead, five of which children. There’s no sight this can possibly be stopped.

It’s a fitting, albeit calamitous, coda for a war that started with one purpose, to find the responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It got deflated before such mission had been accomplished, interrupted by the long, and completely baseless, Iraq invasion, and finally restarted with no visible objective.
The result: over 2,000 American troops killed, an estimated 140,000 civilian ‘casualties’ in the combined Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the biggest U.S. defense budget ever, far more than all the other NATO nations combined, and an domestic economy in tatters due to this overzealous war effort.
A recent U.N. report also pointed at one of the most lasting damages this war will imprint on Afghan’s society, and the Iraqi’s too for that matter, for years to come: the staggering number of children killed, enough to leave a generational gap in the future of those countries.
As for the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the main reason to justify both military adventures, and the most expensive war effort ever undertaken by the U.S., it ended as everybody knows, with his killing in May, 2, Continue reading