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

Women’s Day

Some Progress on Paper, But Old
Battles Still Need to Be Won Again

Past the first century by four years, the International Women’s Day continues to serve as lamppost to reassess and reaffirm its principles of equality, freedom, and all that. But unless we’re mistaken, we seem to be fighting one too many battles we thought had already be fought.
While the U.S. has renewed the long overdue Violence Against Women Act, both inside it and abroad there’s been no shortage of examples of ingrained prejudice and despicable acts against mothers, wives and daughters. But rejoice: there’s also Malala Yousufzai’s life to celebrate.
It’s been that kind of year. For a few achievements and heroic acts of note, it also brought back a whole struggle,needed to prevent a turning back the clock on women, their reproductive rights, access to education, safety to raise their families, and dignity as human beings. And somehow we wish such reality was not only conditioned to the U.S.
For perhaps not surprisingly, the past 12 months marked a reinforced charge by the Catholic church, through its minions in congress and elsewhere, to restrict even more the inalienable right of a woman to make choices concerning her own body, through a well-heeled campaign of terror and intimidation.
One’d think the church would have been busy coming clean out of the horrific accounts of child abuse in its midst, while restating its self-appointed spiritual mandate, opening its doors to the sex minorities it’s been rejecting for centuries, to the poor, and to those still seeking some kind of emotional rescue. But it’s been far from it.
Through much of the year, religion-affiliated colleges, and health institutions have formed an united front against women, in an attempt to undermine a few decades of improvement in public health that the women’s movement managed to bring to the whole of society. It’s been Continue reading