Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Update: And so, 12/13/10, he is gone. As reported in the NYT HERE:

[But his boss and old friend, Mrs. Clinton, expressed absolute confidence in him. “Richard represents the kind of robust, persistent, determined diplomacy the president intends to pursue,” she said. “I admire deeply his ability to shoulder the most vexing and difficult challenges.”]

Even as the State Department rushes to fill the void, the knowledge is that the face and force of American diplomacy in the Middle East will be different. It appears that for the interim, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry will be the “essentially alone in conducting US Diplomacy with Karzai’s Government”. RIP Ambassador Holbrooke, your job is done.

While I don’t know if this is what happened yesterday, I think President Obama’s sudden departure from his own conference on H.R. 4853, the “Middle Class Relief Act of 2010″, leaving ex-President Clinton to run a dog and pony show, had more to do with Richard, than it did Michelle.

Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s personally appointed Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan is in critical condition, after undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his aorta Saturday morning.

As you may know, according to Bloomberg;

[Holbrooke has been preparing a report for President Barack Obama on the current state of governance and development in Afghanistan. The U.S. and allies have a combined force of about 150,000 troops to turn back Taliban advances and train Afghan soldiers and police.]

SOS Clinton was reported scurrying back and forth from the hospital, and you have to imagine that concern for Holbrooke’s state over reports of a heart attack, stroke and/or possible blot clot was great. A repaired torn aorta sounds almost benign compared to the possibilities that something like a stroke could inflict. Even so, if things go well for him, he will be out of commission for a while. That means someone else has to pick up the ball and keep it rolling. Considering our situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, I’m sure the WH was in a tizzy, especially with the other news that Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner was in surgery for kidney stones. Having watched my husband experience the pain of those things, I know they can turn you into a profound pile of mush in a hurry.

Our thoughts are with Ambassador Holbrook and his family. We hope for a speedy and complete recovery. Same goes for SoT Geithner, and his family.

As to his perfunctory duties with the First Lady, imagine Diplomats and DC partygoers of all sorts would have been awaiting his entrance. We all know those things are necessary in Washington DC. Is he such a flutterby that his date with Michelle is the real reason he had bad timing, and left his conference? That would make him just vapid- something I find hard to believe.


President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama descend the Grand Staircase as they make their way to a holiday reception on the State Floor of the White House, Dec. 10, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Do read the link of the transcript Lynne Sweet provided on the conference. I’m with Riverdaughter on this one, Clinton displayed heroic aerial acrobatics, but Bernie Sanders is the hero of the day.

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I don’t know how you feel about the US/Afghani war, but I want you to ponder this. Today, Dennis Kucinich presented his bill in the House to end the war in 30 days, or, by no later the December 31st, 2010, if conditions on the ground warrant it.  Another 33 billion dollars is about to be budgeted for the military and war effort. That does not include the money being spent from other venues, like the Small Business Administration grant monies to fund mercenaries.

The Bill is labeled: H.Con. Res.248, Directing the President, pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, to remove the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan., HERE.

Against this backdrop, Republicans have held up small bills, like the 45 million dollar one that would have been allocated money to support Afghani women, in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 2007.

Enter the new administration.

An Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy was issued on January 1st of this year. Senator Boxer wrote President Obama, over her concerns that women were only mentioned once. In February, a revised strategy was issued. Boxer purports that it includes women throughout the strategy. The full strategy can be found HERE. I Found 115 instances of the word “women” on 23 of the 50 pages in the pdf document. Surely, this alone is an improvement, and though women are not specially mentioned in the list of proposed milestones for either country, they are in the Afghani Key Initiatives for agriculture.

Yet, It’s not clear to me at this point exactly how women are to be counted in this document, because I couldn’t find any line items in the report that elucidated direct expenditures to women or women’s groups. It is clear, however, that the State Dept. administration considers women vulnerable; so, some portion of that line item will assuredly go to them. The question is how much, or, is this a sop, designed to placate women?  What kind of movement toward adjudication of half the population of two countries is satisfactory?

In February, Senator Boxer and Senator Casey convened a joint hearing of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women’s Issues and on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. The hearing was entitled “Afghan Women and Girls: Building the Future of Afghanistan.” Four people were invited to testify.

In her testimony, the Honorable Melanne Verveer, discussed the various ways in which the US is helping to women to change their lives. Then she mentioned that the State Dept was currently supporting four programs, for a total of 2 million dollars, which: “support women’s rights at the local level by engaging religious leaders and local officials to engage in the electoral process and develop women’s participation in local governance.” Another 26.3 million was engaged for small flexible grants to empower Afghan led NGO’s. No other monetary figures are mentioned.

In his testimony, James A. Bever, Director of the USAID Afghani-Pakistan task force, states that they have spent, in Afghanistan, an assistance estimate of 500 million on women and children since 2004, or 50 million a year.

Dr. Sima Samar had much to say on the distance yet to go in order to stabilize Afghanistan, citing lack of health care for women, lack of fundamental rights, and institutions that will train women on human rights democracy and advocacy. However, funding was not mentioned.

Finally, MS, Rachel Reid, for Human right Watch in Afghanistan recognized that 150 million was allocated this year, by the US. At the same time, her statement was the most disturbing, in regards to her views on the Taliban, and President Karzai’s recent moves to reduce women’s rights. While all the testimony was interesting, Reid’s made riveting reading. She also, however, failed to mention funding.

There may be other funding directed to women and children in the State Department’s budget for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but if it really so much more than the 78.3 million this year, mentioned in all that reporting and talking, that I found, you would have thought they would have crowed a heck of a lot louder. The sum of monies in the State Dept spread sheets in their report add up to 22,849.2 million or 22 billion for the years of 2009, 2010 and 2011, of which 3,252.5 million or 3.3 billion is defense related expenditures not counted by the Defense Dept. it’s really a hefty sum, that spreads out pretty equitably over the three years, averaging 8.43 billion.

Of course it’s true that the money is intended for the good of all the Afghani and Pakistani people. Energy projects are a prime example. Still, even though this is an improvement over what came before, it looks like a line item mentality to me, rather than real 51% participation for women.

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So, what’s up with all the Adam Gadahn stories? I’m sitting here looking at my home town paper, that ran the AP story of his capture on March 7th. Even ABC put a story out. Now, the WH is playing word games.  Might almost make a person think someone “disappeared” him.

Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton aboard Air Force One en route Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, 3/8/10
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Willow Grove, Pennsylvania
10:25 A.M. EST
[…Q    On Pakistan, what has the President been updated on in terms of this American that’s been detained there?
MR. BURTON:  Well, we haven’t confirmed any detainments, and I would refer you to the Pakistani government for information about individuals that they’ve detained.

Q    Has he been getting updates, though, on these reports that it could have been Gadahn and now they’ve backed off that?
MR. BURTON:  I assure you that the President gets regular updates about what intelligence there is about people who are detained and what’s happening in the fight against extremists all over the world….]


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December 2nd, 2009 – International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

Upper class men are no more likely to be shaken in their positions as heads of families then they are to be shaken in their positions as heads of today seconomic positions.

Susan Ostrander, 1991

As part of the 16 days International campaign toward the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Rutger’s Center for Women’s Leadership (CWGL) has provided a link to the Shirkat Gah Women ’s Resource Center in Pakistan.

Active for sixteen years, among the list of activities in which Shirkat Gah is engaged, as part of the 16 days campaign,  was a conference held today, Dec 2nd in Lahore. They say:

[…The conference will highlight women’s issue(s) and in collaboration with National Commission on the Status of Women, Shirkat Gah is arranging a colloquium on forced marriages in Lahore on 2nd December. A panel of distinguished speakers will highlight the issues of women’s rights in the light of the Quran and Hadith, rights perspective in health and education, and the legal rights of women in Pakistan…]

For more information, go to their name link above. Forced marriage is a kind of slavery. While we in the West have reduced the number of forced marriages, we still smirk about the idea of “shotgun marriages” in which traditionally a man is forced to marry a woman who has become pregnant by him. That we think it is funny implies we still don’t understand that bottom line.

Shotgun marriages were used to force a man into support of the child he helped to produce, or forced into being by rape. Such marriages were also an attempt to recoup value from the damage to the woman. They reiterate the historic bottom line of marriage, which is, that it is first and foremost an economic pact. Because economics still help to determine the class of people in this country, the  reproductive value and wealth inheritance value of marriage is often considered foremost. Men, who have escaped shotgun marriages in our culture, therefore, still find admiration for avoiding the responsibility of an “asset” that would, under other circumstances, require them to be human partners. Men who escape assign zero value to the asset, i.e. women and children.

Families who have raised these pregnant women also determine asset value. They may determine the woman now has reduced, or no future asset value, since in a patriarchal society another man is unlikely to be interested in her use as a reproductive asset for his genetic line and wealth building future. A woman’s future in this situation is uncertain, but likely to be difficult or worse, as is the child’s.

Forced marriage reinforces the idea of women and children as chattel. They are assets to be traded. Pakistan, while it denounces forced marriage as illegal, acknowledges that women are still sometimes used in settling intertribal disputes. Since women are chattel in this trade, it is up to the new owner to decide what to do with their new asset. This is bought and sold slavery at its fundamental base. Agencies like Shirkat Gah have a lot of work to do.

Yet, our patriarchal society still thinks forced marriage is funny. We assign shotgun marriages to rubes and hicks. Not only that, we opine that marriage for, especially poor, women is the way to fix their economic problems – a kind of  sell-yourself-into-bondage solution. In this scenario it really doesn’t matter other reasons there might be for marriage. Those of us who grew up in the velvet cage however, know arranged marriages are not just the province of rubes and hicks. Pakistan acknowledges their efforts to change mindset and action. Are we better? Have we improved our lot? Or, are we still the house N**ger? When do we stop laughing?

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While it’s official that Hillary Clinton is nominated as Secretary of State, Bill Clinton is off working on his own lifetime project; the Clinton Global Intiative.

So, in the next two days we are going to get an immediate test of how well this articulation of POTUS Obama, SOS Clinton and EXPOTUS will work. (more…)

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