Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Zohra Yusuf Daoud, Sunita Mehta, Women For Afghan Women

The artwork to the left is from "The One About The Nation" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) and let me join Rebecca in praising the art that the gang does. I keep telling them that if they ever wanted to take a week off from writing, they could just do illustrations.

They're less thrilled with them. They see it as something to do to illustrate an article and I'm not attempting to say everyone is incredible. Their purpose is to illustrate and I think they always achieve that; however, I also think that they frequently accomplish quite a bit more than just that.

Thank you to Kasey who e-mailed to remind me of something. On Friday, "December 1st," at work Christmas gifts arrived. Sunny and my Christmas gifts from C.I. I still have shopping to do. So when I got home Sunday evening (I spent the weekend at Mike's), I gathered the gifts I had bought and set them around a bookcase here in my bedroom to goad me into wrapping them. I felt like I was forgetting something all last night and then I read Kasey's e-mail.

Women For Afghan Women is the name of the book I was noting in "Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Kim Gandy, Bay Fang" on Friday. The editor is Sunitha Mehta and she's one of the two women who gave the presentation. The other was Zohra Yusuf Daoud was the other woman. She contributes the chapter Miss Afghanistan which begins on page 102. Zohra Yusuf Daoud is with the Afghan Women's Association of Southern California (A.W.A.S.C.) From her chapter:

Once, before the Soviet invasion in 1979, women had rights in Afghanistan. They were treated like human beings. Once women were a productive part of society in Afghanistan, helping the nation grow. There was a time when women worked side by side with men in the fields just as there was a time when they worked side by side with men in parliament and in universities. Women once had a voice in Afghanistan; they were heard and acknowledged.
But to say that all women in Afghanistan had as much freedom as women in the United States would be incorrect. More accurately, only the privileged few, sprinkled throughout the urban areas of Afghanistan, gained these freedoms. Unfortunately, the rural areas of Afghanistan were rarely in step with the rest of the country. This reality we must acknowledge, that even before 1979, there was not total equality for all women. But we were working toward that goal and making progress.
I know because I was there. I was a part of that change. I am one of that fortunate minority of women who were modernized and educated in Afghanistan. I grew up in Kabul and led a reasonably charmed life. My father was a Columbia University graduate, a doctor, and Afghanistan's surgeon general. We were a well-off family. We were the kind of family that spent nine months of the year living in one home and the winter months in another simply because we could afford to escape the cold. I had three brothers and five sisters, which by Afghan standards was average. What was not the norm was the fact that my father encouraged us all to pursue higher education. And by all of us, what I really mean is all of his girls. My father taught us that in Islam it is written that all men and women have the right to knowledge, that is their duty as human beings to educate and to be educated. In my family, this belief was practiced.
The thirst for knowledge that my father fostered led me into one of the sweetest experiences of my life. In 1972 something as simple as a beauty pageant would forever change me. I was crowned the first ever "Miss Afghanistan." There was, of course, no swimsuit competition and no emphasis on beauty; to be perfectly honest, I was even a little chubby then. Instead, the pageant was about a woman's intellect and poise. It was about public speaking and academic knowledge. More than anything, however, this pageant was about progress. In America, pageants seem to be trivial events that have had feminists up in arms and perhaps rightly so. In Afghanistan, however, a pageant meant we were catching up to the world, working to fit in, joining the global community. It meant we were moving foward, moving away from archaic notions and toward a balanced modernization.

So that's a taste of one chapter in the book.Sunita Mehta co-writes the introduction (with Homaira Mamoor). Names that many Americans will reconginze include Gloria Steinem and Eleanor Smeal. I should note that Sunit Mehta is with (and co-founded) Women for Afghan Women. To repeat, the title of the book is Women For Afghan Women. The list price is $13.95 and you can also check your libraries.

Thank you to Kasey for reminding me. The gifts (which I did wrap last night) were right in front of the bookcase and I can't believe I didn't think of that when posting last night or when wrapping gifts after; however, Kasey remembered and e-mailed.

I did catch some of the gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Robert Gates hearing on Pacifica Radio today. Sunny listened to the whole thing on her computer and, between appointments, I'd rush out to catch some of it. What did I think? I thought that Aaron Glantz, Larry Bensky and their guests did a wonderful job and I think it's great that at least one of the "public radio" networks cared to cover them. (The snapshot contains a hilarious contrast between Pacifica and NPR today.) I think the Democrats, in the first opportunity to demonstrate that they are a party of change, flaunted that they won't do a damn thing without being pressured.

On the topic of the old Secretary of War, I'll highlight this.

"Rumsfeld's Final Snowflake" (Michael Whitney, CounterPunch):
Nothing Rumsfeld says can be trusted. He spies on Americans' phone calls, computers, medical records, bank records and groups. He has been a stanch supporter of planting propaganda in newspapers and TV. He introduced a program that created a "rapid response" team to rebut information that is critical of US foreign policy appearing on blogs, web-sites and letters to the editor. He controlled the flow of information coming out of Iraq and managed to silence many of the war's critics. He developed a plan for "Total Information Awareness" that is designed to control everything that the public sees and hears from cradle to grave.
Now he is trying to write his own legacy. It is just another in a long list of deceptions; a smokescreen created to conceal his responsibility in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
The memo states that Rumsfeld was planning to make major adjustments and that "Clearly, what US forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough". But "what US forces were doing" was exactly what Rumsfeld told them to do; nothing more, nothing less.
When he told them to bomb Falluja to the ground, they followed his orders; and when they tortured and stacked naked prisoners on top of each other, they followed his orders. And, when they trained the Shiite death squads to kill and maim Sunni suspects, they followed his orders.
Every major decision in 4 years of conflict bears Rumsfeld's imprimatur. It's his policy; it's his war. If Rumsfeld continued as Secretary of Defense, then nothing would change, because he has absolute confidence in violence and deception as the two main instruments for political transformation.
Rumsfeld's memo is great reading for fiction-lovers. It provides a revealing snapshot of a leader who carefully considered every alternative before making a decision. It's a stark contrast to the intractable narcissist who ignored his advisors and bullied his generals. But, like I said, it's great fiction.

I agree with that and, let me add, Rumsfled knew he was leaving in October.

For more on the hearings, you should read the snapshot. It posted early for a snapshot these days so it only covers the first half of the hearings.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, December 5, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the Senate Armed Service Committee stages a new comedy, and the 2900-dead mark has been passed, who's noting it?
Starting with the American troop fatality count.
On Sunday, ICCC made the call that 2900 US troops had died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. Yesterday, Sandra Lupien noted the 2900 mark on The KPFA Evening News. Today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes: "The US death toll in the war has topped 2900." CNN's counts 2,901 while also reporting 2899. The latter figure is what the Defense Department goes with as well, 2899. ICCC reports the number is 2906 (which is what we'll go with).
Does the number matter? It should. It should matter especially if you're appearing before Congress.
Robert Gates, who would like to replace Donald the Rumsfled as Secretary of Defense, cited another number: 2892. Testifying today, he goes with 2892? If this is Gates "on the ball," let's all worry.
KPFA's Larry Bensky and Aaron Glantz are anchoring the gavel-to-gavel coverage of Gates' confirmation hearing and it's being carried live on KPFA, WBAI, KPFT, KPFK, KCFC and at
at the
Pacifica website. Those not in broadcast range can listen online at any of the links provided in the previous sentence. (And if you missed the live coverage, you can use the links for an archived broadcast.) While Pacifica Radio covers the hearings live NPR decided to 'hit hard' by covering the celebrity auction of Dick Clark.
So along with grasping that Gates doesn't care enough about the job to use any accepted figure for the US military's fatality toll, what else have we learned? Bob Dole did standup early on. The former US senator was one of two walking Gates down the aisle. Who gives Gates away? Dole and Doren. Dole told a joke about how the phone rang asking that "Senator Dole" introduce Gates and, too late, Bob Dole realized they meant Elizabeth Dole (his wife who is currently a US senator). Having wowed 'em like he hasn't since he schilled for Pepsi with Britney Spears, Dole stepped aside for the Senate's own Norma Desmond: David L. Boren.
Boren was supposed to be introducing Gates but instead seemed lost in the past, a murky one, that needed to be reclaimed unless we were are prepared to "ultimately destroy the fabric" of the country. Boren couldn't shut up about the past including "15 years ago." So let's take a look at the Senate when Boren still served on it.
Boren did sometimes work with people on the other side of the aisles: Democrats. Though supposedly a Democrat, he was usually to be found triangulating with Republicans. Boren's 'bipartisanship' resulted in many things, a greatest hits reel can't be provided here. But two highlights. Boren voted to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. The country still suffers as a result. Boren was among those who put "civility" above the truth regarding Iran-Contra and, it can be argued since many of the same players repeat today, that doing so implicates him in today's illegal war.
Possibly, he shouldn't grab that white Bible with his bloodied hands? White Bible? Oh, the one he used to publicly swear that he wasn't gay back when those rumors floated. Today's heart-felt intro recalled a great deal of the drama of that 1979 moment.
Robert Gates told Senator John Warner that he felt the Bully Boy wanted him "to take a fresh look and all options are on the table" regarding Iraq. But some things do not require a "fresh look," apparently. On the issue of remaining in Iraq, Gates stated that it seemed to him that the US would "have to have some presence in Iraq for a long time." He then offered the WRONG number and mentioned a woman who approached him to declare, "I have two sons in Iraq. For God's sake, bring them home safe."
After that, it all got even zanier as there appeared to be a contest among Republicans to see who could look the most insane as they attempted to scare Americans and spin the illegal war.
Honorable mentions go to the following:
Jeff Sessions who declared both the need to "reach out and grasp each other's hands" (stay of the cloakroom) went even touchier-and-feelier, soaring into clouds that the laughable Peggy Noons (Noonan) couldn't even approach as he spoke of US troops who had died in Iraq: "I talked to their families. I talked to those who lost their lives."
No word as to whether "those who lost their lives" talked back to Jeff Sessions.
Pat Roberts wants the troops home but frets over how it could be done "the wrong way." See, pulling them out too soon, bringing them home, could cause problems. Such as? Roberts didn't know. He was suddenly discussing "sleeper cells in this country" and terrorists of a second generation. If he truly believes there are "sleeper cells" in the United States, one would assume that the troops might be needed in the US. But Roberts was busy trying to frighten America and that appeared to be the Republican game plan.
Joe Lieberman (officially billed these days as "Independent") attempted to work through his own issues, publicly, in front of the committee. He warned of what could happen "if we end up leaving Iraq in chaos" because, apparently Joe Lieberman has missed the fact that Iraq is in chaos and has been. "Bipartisanship" was a buzz word for NoMentum as well and he wanted the entire nation to band together to go after all the enemies he sees elsewhere in the world ("everybody around the world who wishes us evil") which demonstrated that Lieberman hasn't lost his sense of persecution.
But the winner? James Inhofe in the first round. Inhofe's never met a fact he can't fudge or mangle. His statements were concerned with pushing the illegal war except when he went into alarmist mode of Chinese computer hackers and raged that others (on the Senate? in the United States?) "don't seem to read these, they don't seem concerned about this!" What Inhofe was concerned primarily with was noting that "the mass graves [in Iraq], that's not taking place anymore."
Oh Inhofe, apparently you're not reading what you need to read.
November 30, 2006, the US military announced the discovery of a "mass grave" with 28 bodies in it. And, no, it's not from the era of Saddam Hussein.
The Democrats? Evan Blah showed what a suck up he could be, Carl Levin probed and Hillary Clinton appeared to be setting up for the next round of questioning. (The hearings are on a lunch break. During that Pacifica will be offering analysis.)
The big news is supposed to be that
Gates noted (the obvious fact) that the US isn't "winning." (Nor can it, unsaid by Gates.) What should be noted is how often he couldn't remark, he didn't know enough, his "view is too uninformed," "I'm not well enough informed at this point to make a decision" blah, blah, blah. This is the man who was sitting on the James Baker Circle Jerk, right? He was tasked with recommendations the US should take re: Iraq, right?
And in Iraq?
AFP reports an attack on bus in Baghdad that began with a car bomb and was followed with gunfire resulting in at least 15 dead and 9 wounded, while an attack on a police academy in Baghdad with a car bomb followed by gunfire resulted in 7 people killed and 12 wounded, a roadside bomb in Baghdad resulted in 2 Iraqi soldiers being killed, a car bomb in Baghdad claimed three lives, and a mortar attack in Baghdad left 2 children dead. Reuters notes three car bombs in Baghdad ("near a fuel station) that resulted in 16 deaths and at least 25 injured. The BBC reports that "[m]ost of the victims were people queuing for petrol."
See above combined attacks.
Reuters reports the corpse of a police officer was found in Kirkuk.
Today, the
US military announced: "Insurgents attacked a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol Dec. 4, killing one Soldier and wounding five others. The patrol was conducting operations to deny enemy movements and enforce curfew restrictions in a northeastern neighborhood of the city when it was attacked"; and "A 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier was killed in an accident when his M-1117 Armored Security Vehicle rolled over North of Logistics Support Area Adder Dec. 4."
In news of sick mind games (played to cover their own ass?, played to keep the news coverage more 'upbeat'?), on Monday
the Department of Defenense announced: "Spc. Dustin M. Adkins, 22, of Finger, Tenn, has been unaccounted for since Dec. 3 in Haditha, Iraq, when the Chinook helicopter he was in made an emergency landing. He is assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, Ky." But AP reports that "relatives of 22 year old Dustin Adkins of Finger told The Jackson Sun newspaper Monday night that his body has been recovered after the soldier was listed as missing." Note the key word "after." Ned B. Hunter (AP) reports that "Mayrine Adkins, the soldier's grandmother, said the family was notified about 3 p.m. Monday that his body had been found. Mayrine Adkins said her grandson was one of two Army soldiers on the helicopter along with several Marines."
This is the Sunday helicopter crash ('crash landing,' if you prefer, but it's a crash) that
claimed the lives of four Marines. Kirk Semple (New York Times) reports that there were 16 people on board and that the lake it crashed onto was Lake Qadisiya. Though the military claims it was 'mechanical' issues that brought about the crash, Nancy Trejos (Washington Post) reports two sources who state differently: "The mayor of Haditha, Ibraheem al-Bayati, and Iraqi army Lt. Hussein Muslih said the helicopter had been shot down by insurgents with machine guns as it was taking off from the town" and Trejos notes: "the Islamic State of Iraq posted a sign on a nearby mosque in Haditha announcing that the helicopter had 30 passengers on board and had been downed".
Turning to Australia, the military inquiry into the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco
released their report December 1st. Dan Box (The Australian) reports that Judy Kovco (Jake's mother) and Shelley Kovco (Jake's wife) have "received legal advice" and will "demand an independent review of the military's finding that the young paratrooper was skylarking with his pistol when he was fatally shot." Ian McPhedran (Herald-Sun) feels that the inquiry has demonstrated "why a civilian should run such investigations" and McPhedran provides strong examples including "ruling out suicide even before its hearings had concluded"; refusal to apportion blame for the failure to preserve evidence in terms of Kovco's room, et al; and a failure to seriously explore the mix up of Jake Kovco's body with the body of Juso Sinanovic.
MCPhedran notes: "Jake Kovco's mother, Judy, has labelled the excercise a cover-up and she is absolutely correct." Last weekend, Judy Kovco spoke out about some of the problems with the inquiry and its findings noting that she had "sat through three months of listening to all of this" and that no explanations have been provided including why there was "more DNA on that gun that Jacob's own DNA inside and out and their excuse for that DNA being on the gun and the cartridge is just laughable."
Judy Kovco is specifically referring to Steven Carr, identified during the inquiry as "Soldier 14," whose DNA was found on Jake Kovco's gun. Carr maintained that he never touched Jake Kovco's weapon and offered laughable excuses such as maybe he touched a radio and then Jake touched a radio and then Jake touched his gun and that's how his (Carr's) DNA got on Jake's gun. It was laughable but it got picked up and run with as though it was even possible. Forensice expert
Michelle Franco rejected that laughable claim to the inquiry and noted that were that transfer nonsense true that within a half-hour, Carr's DNA would have been all but gone from the gun. Instead, it was found on the gun's slide in significant amounts (it was also found elsewhere) that were consistent with Carr having handled the gun.
The inquiry's findings sidestepped and ignored the government's witness and avoided this issue which is only one example of how they failed to address the death of Jake Kovco.
Yesterday, in the US, Bully Boy met with Shi'ite Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim and appeared to offer a 'strategy' that Robert Knight (
KPFA's Flashpoints) called addressing death squads with . . . death squads. Dilip Hiro (Guardian of London) sees the meet up with the Bully Boy as an attempt to divide Shias (and neutralize Sadr). On The KPFA Evening News yesterday, Sandra Lupien noted that "al-Hakim said the only way to stave off civil war in Iraq is for US forces to strike harder against Sunni-led resistance fighters" and that his organization fought on the side of Iran in the 80s Iraq-Iran war. Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) reports that al-Hakim "remarked last week that if Iraq deteriorated into civil war, Sunni Arabs would be the 'biggest losers' -- a comment that was widely interpreted as a veiled threat to Sunnis." Divide and conquer has worked so well for the US administration -- oops!, it hasn't. It's resulted in a civil war in Iraq.