Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thanks to NPR for firing Juan Williams for bigotry

During the presidential days of Jimmy Carter, many of the southern states of the USA were Democratic states. In the following 24 years, the Republicans were able to gain their foothold in those states. In the last presidential election many of those seats, once held by the Republicans switched back to the Democratic Party, giving the party the control over both the Houses in the Capitol Hill – the Senate and the House of Representatives.

America goes to the poll in its mid-term election on November 2. Many political analysts think that with a weak economy the ruling Democrats may lose a significant number of seats. I have my doubts though. I think that the Democrats may still hold onto a slim majority in both the Houses.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, a couple of months ago, Pat Toomey, the Republican candidate, vying to replace the Democratic Senator Arlen Specter, whom Joe Sestak beat in the May primary election, had a double digit lead over the latter candidate in some sample polls of likely voters. According to the latest polls, however, the race is dead even now. I have an important business meeting to participate in New Jersey on the election date. Because of the seriousness of this year’s election, I plan to cast my vote first and then drive up to New Jersey. Obviously, I am not going to cast my vote for Toomey, a dim-witted opportunist politician who has been trying to sell bigotry to get elected. On the election night, we shall find out how many Pennsylvanians had swallowed such poison pills.

As I noted many times, bigotry sells. It is not a question of either democracy – liberal or illiberal – or autocracy that either marginalizes or promotes this evil. Thus, I am not surprised to note that some of the worst crimes against humanity continue to be perpetrated by Europeans against the various minorities, whether that be the case with the Jews in Germany in the Nazi era, Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims in former Yugoslavia/Serbia in the 1990s and French Muslims and Roma people in France in recent years. India claims to be a secular state where parliamentary form of democracy is practiced. However, that brand of all-inclusive Gandhian secularism has been dead long time ago. Nowhere is this sad reality more evident than the state of Gujarat, Gandhi’s birthplace, where Hindutvadi politicians like Narendra Modi with Hindu fundamentalist and ultra-religious identities and programs have been able to run the state affairs.

These Hindu fanatics and fundamentalist are actually no better than the Talibans to the west. On a comparative study, one can even argue that the latter are better than these Hindu bigots. After all, no foreign power or religious minority had invaded or attacked India before the demolition of the historical Babri Mosque in Ayodhya or massacre of Muslims in Godhra to suggest a causal relationship for such horrendous crimes. The recent verdict on the so-called disputed mosque site has once again unmasked the sheer hollowness of the Indian judicial system which has bowed down to Hindutvadi pressure.

Look at the Indian Occupied Kashmir where peaceful protesters, epitomizing Gandhian brand of non-violence, are mercilessly killed by the Indian troops! India talks about democracy. Where is that democracy in Kashmir where its people are denied their basic rights to decide their fate? Isn’t sixty three years too long a time to deny such rights? I don’t see any Gandhian activist crying foul about such monumental crimes of the Indian government. I can guess their answer: Gandhian non-violence won’t work in India (as it never did in the Occupied Palestine either). Haven’t we seen enough that violent means are the last resorts to many protesters when they have exhausted peaceful means of resolving their legitimate demand for fairness and equality, the basic right to decide their fate?

In a highly orchestrated pogrom, in the last few years alone, tens of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims have been killed, scores of their houses of worship destroyed, and thousands of their women raped, in that territory so that no Kashmiri would dare to utter the word ‘freedom’.

In the Indian states like West Bengal where the so-called secular Marxists have ruled for decades, one can notice some of the worst forms of discrimination against its sizable Muslim minorities. They are the forgotten 25% that are denied access to government jobs, institutions, education, everything. In most such government jobs, Muslim representation is less than one percent. What a joke to secular and democratic India! The neighboring Bangladesh has much better scores than India on those counts for its minorities.

In the USA, nowhere are the signs of bigotry more visible than in the south, the so-called Bible-belt. As I noted elsewhere neoconservative and fundamentalist Christian views are more openly heard there than at any other place. It is the Fox News and the radio talk shows hosted by bigots that are the only sources of information for many southerners. It is these programs that basically mold their mindsets and worldviews, in which, sadly the American inclusiveness (a fresh departure from the European Christian bigotry), as often heard in the NPR (National Public Radio), is getting buried day in and day out. Like brain-dead zombies many of these southern listeners are willing to imagine the worst of the ‘other’ people, and preempt strikes in a trigger-happy manner.

There is definitely a battle brewing out in the USA today. It is about bigotry in general, and Islamophobia, or rather hatred of Islam and Muslims, in particular. Its evil promoters are the Bill O’Reillys of the TV programs, Rush Limbaughs of the radio talk shows, and Ann Coulters and Robert Spencers of the print media, Newt Gingriches and Sarah Palins of the political spectrum, and Franklin Grahams and Pat Robertsons of the evangelical Christian establishment. With preachers, politicians, pen-pushing pundits, publishers and psychoanalysts it is a full circle to promote bigotry where nothing is left out.

While Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia have been witnessing the ugly faces of that bigotry, fortunately, nothing serious outside some sporadic attacks on Muslim lives and properties have taken place inside the American soil.

In their zealous support for Israel, many Likudnik American Jews with a strong desire to see all the Palestinians – Muslims and Christians alike – expelled from the Occupied Palestine are behind-the-scene promoters of this anti-Muslim bigotry. If history is any lesson they ought to know better than anyone else that when bigotry unleashes its evil, it does not and will not discriminate between a Muslim and a Jew -- supportive or otherwise. And the same goes for all vulnerable minority Hindus and Buddhists.

It is high time for conscientious Americans of all ethnic backgrounds, denominations and faiths to wake up to the gradual erosion of the very values that once endeared America to the rest of the world. This battle of the heart must be won by defeating the promoters and preachers of bigotry. The First Amendment should not be abused as a launching pad to justify hatred, xenophobia and bigotry. As I wrote some years ago on xenophobia, these promoters of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam bigotry today are no less criminals than Julius Stryker of the Nazi era of Germany. They must be identified and disowned by denying them the right to market bigotry.

It is there that I fully understand and endorse why the NPR had fired Juan Williams. For long time, Juan’s views were a constant irritant to many listeners who wanted a balanced and more neutral analysis of events and not demagoguery or prejudice, packaged under honest journalism. Instead what they got was bigotry and xenophobia. In the hate-ridden Bill O’Reilly program in the Fox News, Williams said that he felt unease about seeing Muslims on airplanes. (As everyone knows by now those alleged plane hijackers on 9/11 were all western-dressed individuals, and could not be discerned as Muslims.) How is Juan’s moronic view different than that of a KKK clan member from the 1950s or 1960s who felt the same thing about seeing a black person in the bus or train that he rode?

Coming as it did from an Afro-American whose race not too long had endured some of the worst abuses ever practiced against the ‘other’ people, Williams sounded like a house nigger, and not the field nigger that people could respect. His remarks made at the Fox News epitomized racial profiling and showed what a mischievous character he has become at the altar of xenophobia and bigotry. No wonder that he is now celebrated as a fallen hero by the Fox News and the promoters of bigotry. Former House speaker Gingrich demanded that the Congress should consider cutting off NPR’s public funding for firing Williams. Fox News just signed Williams up for a multi-million dollar contract.

None of these promotions of bigotry should be taken lightly, and must be defeated before America falls into the same trap that Europe continues to dig for herself. My vote for Sestak would be one such small step to defeat the demons of bigotry.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nicholas Kristof's errors with his latest article - Test Your Savvy on Religion

Nicholas Kristof wrote an eye-opening article "Test Your Savvy on Religion", New York Times, October 9, 2010, on religion for many westerners. He asked 13 questions to test knowledge of his readers. The questions are:

1. Which holy book stipulates that a girl who does not bleed on her wedding night should be stoned to death?
a. Koran
b. Old Testament
c. (Hindu) Upanishads

2. Which holy text declares: “Let there be no compulsion in religion”?
a. Koran
b. Gospel of Matthew
c. Letter of Paul to the Romans

3. The terrorists who pioneered the suicide vest in modern times, and the use of women in terror attacks, were affiliated with which major religion?
a. Islam
b. Christianity
c. Hinduism

4. "Every child is touched by the devil as soon as he is born and this contact makes him cry. Excepted are Mary and her Son.” This verse is from:
a. Letters of Paul to the Corinthians
b. The Book of Revelation
c. An Islamic hadith, or religious tale

5. Which holy text is sympathetic to slavery?
a. Old Testament
b. New Testament
c. Koran

6. In the New Testament, Jesus’ views of homosexuality are:
a. strongly condemnatory
b. forgiving
c. never mentioned

7. Which holy text urges responding to evil with kindness, saying: “repel the evil deed with one which is better.”
a. Gospel of Luke
b. Book of Isaiah
c. Koran

8. Which religious figure preaches tolerance by suggesting that God looks after all peoples and leads them all to their promised lands?
a. Muhammad
b. Amos
c. Jesus

9. Which of these religious leaders was a polygamist?
a. Jacob
b. King David
c. Muhammad

10. What characterizes Muhammad’s behavior toward the Jews of his time?
a. He killed them.
b. He married one.
c. He praised them as a chosen people.

11. Which holy scripture urges that the "little ones" of the enemy be dashed against the stones?
a. Book of Psalms
b. Koran
c. Leviticus

12. Which holy scripture suggests beating wives who misbehave?
a. Koran
b. Letters of Paul to the Corinthians
c. Book of Judges

13. Which religious leader is quoted as commanding women to be silent during services?
a. The first Dalai Lama
b. St. Paul
c. Muhammad

His answers are:
1. b. Deuteronomy 22:21.
2. a. Koran, 2:256. But other sections of the Koran do describe coercion.
3. c. Most early suicide bombings were by Tamil Hindus (some secular) in Sri Lanka and India.
4. c. Hadith. Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet to be revered.
5. All of the above.
6. c. Other parts of the New and Old Testaments object to homosexuality, but there’s no indication of Jesus’ views.
7. c. Koran, 41:34. Jesus says much the same thing in different words.
8. b. Amos 9:7
9. all of them
10. all of these. Muhammad’s Jewish wife was seized in battle, which undermines the spirit of the gesture. By some accounts he had a second Jewish wife as well.
11. a. Psalm 137
12. a. Koran 4:34
13. b. St. Paul, both in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2, but many scholars believe that neither section was actually written by Paul.

While I am appreciative of Kristof's attempt to clear many such commonly held misconceptions, he made some errors with his answers. Here are my corrections:
1. Muslims pronounce their Holy Scripture as the Qur'an, which should have been used by the author for better accuracy.
2. Contrary to his opinion about Q. 2 there is not a single verse in the Qur'an that prescribes coercion in matters of religion. Allah (God of the Qur'an) leaves the choice to either accept or reject Islam to human beings, although He warns those that reject Islam as the final revelation with dire consequences in the Hereafter.
3. Kristof's remarks on Q. 5 vis-à-vis Islam are not accurate. While the Qur'an, like both the so-called Old and New Testament, does not explicitly abolish slavery, it is unique in providing the basis for emancipation from and elimination of slavery. See, for instance, the Surah al-Balad (ch. 90), verses 12-18, in which Allah says, "Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Ascent (rising to higher status in Islam, a sure recipe for entering Paradise) is: It is to free a slave, and to feed in the day of hunger an orphan near of kin or some poor wretch in misery, and to be of those who believe and exhort one another to perseverance and exhort one another to the deeds of kindness and compassion." And there are many such verses (see, e.g., 4:92, 5:89, 58:3.) and prophetic hadith (sayings) that required believing Muslims to freeing slave as a remission of their sins. The verse 24:33 says, “And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (for emancipation) give them such a deed if you know any good in them; yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you.”

What is more revealing is that the Qur'an unequivocally makes it clear that no man, irrespective of his status (including a prophet), can enslave any other human being: "It is not (possible) for any human being unto whom Allah had given him the Scripture and wisdom and 'Nabuwah' (Prophethood) that he should afterwards have said unto mankind: Be slaves of me instead of Allah …" [3:79] It is not difficult to understand why the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (S), not only freed his slaves from his wife's side (Khadija) but also encouraged his companions to win their freedom. Muhammad (S) bought freedom of 63 former slaves, A’isha (RA) 67, Abbas (RA) 70, Abdullah ibn Umar (RA) 1000 and Abdur Rahman ibn Awf 30,000. It was these freed slaves of Islam that became the flag-bearers of Islam. Bilal, the Abyssinian, became the first Mu'addhin (caller to prayer) in Islam, a position next only to the Imam during the salat, one of the most important pillars of Islam. To break the aristocratic arrogance of the pagan time the Prophet's own cousin sister, born to Quraysh aristocracy, was married to his freed slave, Zaid ibn Haritha (RA). In his deathbed, Muhammad (S) appointed Usama (RA), the son of Zaid (RA), to become the leader of the expedition against the Byzantine Empire that had gathered a large army to attack Muslim territories to the north in Syria. Muslim history is replete with examples of freed slaves that became the rulers and marrying into kings' daughters and sisters.

The interested reader may like to read my articles "Anatomy of Racism" and "Islam and the question of slavery" that were posted in the Media Monitors Network and al-Jazeerah websites in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

As to Kristof's answer to Q. 10, many scholars have dwelt upon the subject of Muhammad's (S) treatment of Jews. It is a highly controversial subject. Suffice it to say that the prophet Muhammad (S) was more merciful to the Jews of Madinah than the prophet Moses (AS) was to his own community when they rebelled against him and committed blasphemous activities. The interested reader may like to read Dr. Rafiq Zakaria's book - Muhammad and the Quran, Penguin Books (1992).

Kristof's answer to Q. 12 also shows his misreading of the Qur'anic verse. No, the Qur'an does not endorse beating wife for insubordination. If the wife shows disloyalty and ill-conduct towards her husband, the recommended steps in sequence are - (1) verbal advice or admonition, (2) separating bed so as to suspend sexual relation, (3) have sexual intercourse (so as to win her over), and if that too fails to reconcile, then (4) a family council that is comprised of two arbiters, one from each family with the intention of setting things aright (4:34-35). [See, e.g., Al-Qur'an: a Contemporary Translation by Ahmed Ali, Princeton University Press, 1993] [Note also: The Arabic root word "daraba" being taken from the prosaic example "the stud-camel covered the she-camel." (Raghib, Al-Mufridat fi Gharib Al-Qur'an)] These verses were revealed in relation to the wife of a Muslim who complained to the Prophet (S) that her husband had beaten her, and she wanted retaliation. If beating of wives were allowed in the Qur’an then it could not have prohibited it by saying, “If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men's souls are swayed by greed. But if ye do good and practise self-restraint, God is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” (Qur’an, 4:128) See also the verse: “Do not retain them (i.e., your wives) to harm them...” (Qur’an, 2:231)

I am, however, aware of the fact that because of a misinterpretation with the Arabic word Adribu in the Qur'an (derived from the word 'Daraba' which has multiple meanings, depending on the context) some translators have mistakenly assumed that the third option means scourge, or light beating.

This discussion once again demonstrates that relying on a mistranslation in English or other languages rather than the classical Arabic of the Qur’an can distort the actual meanings intended for the verse. This problem is also quite acute with many old scriptures that are open to so many interpretations.

A couple of old links on Israel

Here is a link from last year on Israel's crime against the Palestinian people. In this link, a British Jewish MP condemns Israel's actions saying that Israel is acting like the Nazis in Gaza.

You can also view the destruction of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem by the Israeli government by clicking here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My trip to Germany

Like many people these days, I have become a frequent traveler. This past week I have been in Germany visiting Mannheim, close to Ludwigshafen, near the Rhine River. The week before, I was in Savannah of Georgia and Tallahassee of Florida in the USA. The next week I plan to be in New Jersey on Monday and South Carolina the remainder of the week. The following weeks, I shall be visiting Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana states. Before I visit my parents in Bangladesh in the third week of December, my calendar is filled with all my scheduled flights to different places within the USA.

For many people, traveling is fun, but for some others it is or can be a painful experience. (My parents, who had visited many parts of Asia, Europe and North America in the 1980s and 1990s, no longer like to fly. In their advance ages it is too difficult and tiring for them.) I don’t know which category I fall into. Like some frequent flyers, I do have my share of mixed experiences.

As I write this on Saturday from inside a first class cabin in the Lufthansa flight en route to Detroit, today is surely one such bad day. I was not supposed to be flying to Detroit. I had a confirmed First Class ticket with a confirmed seat number assigned in the Lufthansa flight, flying out from Frankfurt to Philadelphia. The flight was supposed to leave at 1:50 p.m. As always punctual in my life, I had left my hotel, Holiday Inn in Mannheim, early at 10:30 a.m. in a taxi. The distance from the hotel to the airport is only about 75 km. I arrived at the airport at around 11:30 a.m., way before my departure time. When I tried to check-in at the ticket counter, I was told that the flight was overbooked and that I had been put in a standby position. This was heart-breaking news for me who had looked forward to returning home in suburban Philadelphia by 5 p.m. The ticket I bought was no cheap ticket either, it cost almost $6000 for a roundtrip flight in the First Class, and everything was confirmed days before my arrival at the airport. So it was very irritating to learn that I was put in a standby list.

The ticket agent advised me to proceed to the flight departure gate and said that they would take care of me one way or another. Worried and depressed from such a turn of event, I walked all the way to the gate and quickly explained my situation with the Lufthansa agent there. He explained that the original plane, scheduled to leave from Frankfurt, had to be abandoned for some mechanical problem and that a smaller plane instead was leaving for Philadelphia which required some passengers, even in the first class, to be put on the standby list; and that he was aware of my situation, and would let me know if the situation improved any bit (meaning: if some passengers had opted to fly tomorrow for cash or other considerations). So, I stood concerned and waiting, hoping for some miracles that would eventually allow me to fly back. I promptly called my American Express travel agent in the USA explaining what had gone wrong with my booking. She was simply surprised to hear the problem, and advised me to approach a Lufthansa supervisor. I could not find any supervisor other than the two agents who were busy explaining the same problem to other disgruntled passengers.

After nearly an hour of waiting, around 1:10 p.m. the agent called my name along with many other names to approach the counter. He told me that there was no way I could fly in the original flight today, and that the airline instead would be willing to take me to a hotel where I could stay for the night so that I could take the flight on Sunday. Depressed and angry, I called my travel agent again who advised that I talk to the Service Center agents. While quickly pacing the floor towards a nearby service center, I inquired if she could book me for an alternative flight leaving out of Frankfurt that would eventually bring me to Philadelphia tonight. She was able to locate a Lufthansa flight leaving for Detroit shortly. I requested her to book me for the flight and find a connecting flight to Philadelphia. It was also in the first class cabin.

Within minutes, I was able to find the center and told the agent if she could see to it that I am put on the flight leaving shortly for Detroit. She was non-committal at first and said that with my checked out luggage for Philadelphia, it might be difficult. After some calls to the baggage area, she issued me a ticket for Detroit and said that my Delta flight to Philadelphia from Detroit was also confirmed. She requested me to hurry back to the departing gate. The gate was about to close, but the agents were aware of my situation and let me in. So, here I am writing this from a plane that I had no clue that I would be taking. With some luck, God willing, I shall be landing in Philadelphia at around 9:45 p.m., some five hours later than my original scheduled arrival time.

The Lufthansa flight crews, serving at the First and Business Class cabins, are some of the most professional and competent crews. They are serious, always smiling and willing to make the air flight an enjoyable one. The food served is also of very high quality. No complaints there. After arriving a short while ago in Detroit, a Lufthansa agent told me that my luggage unfortunately had not arrived, and that after arriving in Philadelphia via Delta I should report about my missing luggage so that they could deliver it to my home the next day. She then advised me to proceed to the local terminal by taking a shuttle and check in with the Delta Airlines where my connecting flight would take me to Philadelphia. Unfortunately, she forgot to give me a transfer voucher, and the Delta agent said that while my ticket is confirmed, he can’t issue a ticket without endorsement from Lufthansa. So, I went back again to the main international terminal to collect the endorsement from the Lufthansa. The agent waiting there was very apologetic for my troubles. I rushed back again to the local terminal and showed the endorsement. This time, I got my Delta ticket. So, here I am in Detroit Airport waiting for my flight to take me to Philadelphia. So, in spite of all the fine services of the cabin crew and apologies of the Lufthansa agents, with such a bad experience with a confirmed First Class ticket and seat, I doubt I would ever advise anyone about taking a Lufthansa flight.

Counting this time, I have been to Germany twice in the last 12 years. The last trip was to Düsseldorf almost this time of the year in October. I remember that I did not bring any jacket with me and was feeling cold at night walking down the historical neighborhoods around Dortmund. This time, I brought my jacket and was well prepared for any cold spell. However, this time the days were very pleasant, real autumn-like, and the nights were not unpleasant either; one could walk without requiring a jacket.

During my trip, I had the opportunity to interact with many highly educated Germans who when asked about the reunification experience reminded me that it was a worthy cause. As one may recall while East Germany had a socialistic economy, West Germany had a capitalist system. Thus, while the East Germans had enjoyed a rather secure lifestyle that could always depend on the communist government and the state apparatus to ensure that the basic necessities of life were not denied to any citizen, the West Germans had to do it the harder way where it all mattered about individual efforts to either go up or down on the economic and social ladder. To most Germans, born much after the Second World War, and living in cities outside Berlin, the Berlin Wall was nothing more than a small annoyance that had separated some families on either side of the wall. It was not a big deal to most Germans! But with the collapse of the Wall and the ensuing end of the Cold War, it was felt that the broken country had to be reunified, and no artificial wall, brought down by then, should or could justify separation any longer. The reunification was surely a painful exercise that demanded sacrifice on either side. And no people in our time had put up a better effort to win this than the Germans.

As a nation, the Germans really fascinate me. They are a proud, prudent and well-informed people that know their place in history. They know the meaning of sacrifice and hard work. They know that the days ahead are going to be harder and tougher, which would require them to change their old habits. And they are already making that change. Most people have switched to biking, or use of public transportation to come to work. The majority of the cars used on the streets are getting smaller and less gas-guzzling than ever before. Most offices don’t have air conditioning systems. Even the few that have such facilities don’t usually turn these on unless absolutely required. Major hotel chains don’t waste energy and other resources the way their counterparts do in the USA; this is also true with American owned hotel chains. Almost all school-going kids walk to their schools. This is a big difference from the USA where kids are picked up by school buses.

In my taxi cab ride to the airport, the driver told me that he had a pretty good business of his own, earning nearly three thousand euros a day. Half a dozen people used to work for him. Then two years ago, he lost that business. He now works for a limousine company that provides its services to some of the largest corporations in Germany. He now makes less than a tenth of what he was earning before. But he has learned to absorb the change and is not complaining. With that attitude, not just limited to this cabbie, Germany surely can show the way for the rest of Europe, which seems still unwilling to make the sacrifice.

The days before my arrival, Germany had just celebrated its 20 years of reunification, and had paid off its last penalty for starting the World War I. The penalty was supposed to deter it from ever fighting another war. As we know, the victors were wrong. The penalty only strengthened the ultra-nationalists leading Hitler to come to power. And then we had the Second World War that saw the death of tens of millions of civilians, not just within borders of Germany but also outside it. The victors cut Germany into two halves, and let these two go in the opposite directions. And that experiment too has failed. Germany is united and stronger than ever before. Its economy is stronger than any other European nation today.
Is there a lesson for the rest of the world to learn from the German experience? Sure. But as we know we shall continue to repeat the mistakes of the past. There is a name for such a behavior. It is called insanity.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

U.S. War Crimes in Kandahar

Speaking in 1995, twenty years after the Vietnam War ended, Robert McNamara, the late U.S. Defense Secretary, considered one of the architects of the war, famously said, “We were fighting, and we didn’t realize it, a civil war. … And one of the things we should learn is, you can’t fight and win a civil war without side troops, and particularly not when the political structure in a country is dissolved. So it wasn’t the press that was the problem. It was—the problem was that we were in the wrong place with the wrong tactics.”

Has America learned anything positive from Vietnam? Surely not! Otherwise we won’t be hearing the same kind of comments today about her war in Afghanistan. When George W. Bush invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 there was such a support within the broader American public that no one cared to remember that since the collapse of the Soviet-supported regime Afghanistan had drifted into a civil war. In a senseless genocidal orgy, the Taliban regime, guilty of providing refuge to OBL, were routed out, and with it tens of thousand of innocent Afghans who had nothing to do with 9/11 were murdered and pulverized. That war still continues to this day with more than 150,000 U.S. and NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan. Of course, the Talibans are no longer in power, they are the rebels. Bush – the butcher of Baghdad -- is gone. Obama is in power as the commander in chief of the US forces.

Hamid Karzai, a U.S. ally, has been ruling the country for the last few years. However, he is opposed by a good portion of the Afghan population, particularly in the eastern and southern Afghanistan. His own group, once the dominant Pashtun population, mostly living outside the capital city Kabul, feels being excluded from his central government, and there’s a rebellion against it. He is not a happy Quisling though. The foreign troops have failed miserably to bring peace to the violence-wracked country. NATO, especially the USA forces, had been accused of balking his government’s efforts to finding a peaceful, power-sharing formula with the Taliban. Mr. Karzai has been complaining against NATO’s heavy-handedness in Afghanistan that had failed to discriminate between civilians and armed rebels that are fighting his regime. The loss of civilian lives at the hand of foreign forces has led to a dramatic increase in anti-American sentiments in Afghanistan.

In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret "kill team" that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies. Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering at least three Afghan men who were killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians. The killings are alleged to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan.

According to investigation reports and legal documents, Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs who is at the center of this war crime, boasted of the things he got away with while serving in Iraq and said how easy it would be to "toss a grenade at someone and kill them". (The US Army is also scrutinizing a 2004 incident in which Gibbs and other soldiers allegedly fired on an unarmed Iraqi family riding in a car, killing two adults and a child.) According to the Army charge sheet, the first target in Kandahar was Gul Mudin, who was killed "by means of throwing a fragmentary grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle", when the patrol entered the village of La Mohammed Kalay in January. The second victim, Marach Agha, was shot and killed the following month. Gibbs is alleged to have shot him and placed a Kalashnikov next to the body to justify the killing. In May Mullah Adadhdad was killed after being shot and attacked with a grenade. A fourth killing is already being added to the list, after fellow soldiers confessed they killed an Afghan man found sitting by Highway 1 in Kandahar on 28 January.

The Army Times reported that at least one of the soldiers collected the fingers of the victims as souvenirs and that some of them posed for photographs with the bodies. The Army is attempting to prevent the release of dozens of photographs that reportedly show the soldiers posing with the murdered Afghan civilians. The allegations detail some of the cruelest acts carried out by US troops since their invasion of Afghanistan began in 2001.

In a related development, Australia's chief military prosecutor has said that 3 Australian soldiers will face charges, including manslaughter, over a raid they carried out in Afghanistan in which five Afghan children were killed.

These new revelations do not make Mr. Karzai’s role any easier. In recent months, thousands of Afghan civilians have lost their lives either in NATO-led air-strikes or Taliban operations in different parts of the war-ravaged country. Recently, Mr. Karzai was heard saying that Afghans are caught up in between the goals of Western powers and militants backed by other countries and called on his people to unite for the sake of peace. He said that he was afraid of seeing the next generation, including his son Mirwais, flee the country and lose their Afghan identity. "I do not want Mirwais, my son, to be a foreigner, I do not want this. I want Mirwais to be Afghan." One can only take pity at Hamid Karzai for being a willing partner to the invading force that had killed tens of thousands of his countrymen, young and old. History has failed to educate them on the fates of Mir Zafar and Quisling.

Nor should these revelations about war crimes of the soldiers in occupied territories surprise anyone who had been following America’s crimes elsewhere, from My Lai in Vietnam to scores of places inside Iraq. As we all know the horrendous crimes like the water-boarding, the extraordinary renditions, the torture and savage treatment of Muslim prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay did not take place in vacuum. They did neither originate with 2nd Lt. William Calley and Capt. Ernest Medina of the Vietnam days nor with the Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs of today. These crimes, old and new ones, were all part of a larger, systemic scheme when such were not only tolerated by the upper brass but also encouraged by government policies that depicted the ‘enemy’ as less than human being. It was, therefore, all too easy, all too kosher and Christian-like to kill the ‘heathens’ – shoot and blow them up for sport and fun. It is also the same with the war crimes of the IDF against the Palestinians in the occupied territories of Israel, and civilian activists in the international waters that tried to bring in aid to the starving people in Gaza. It is same, too, with the savagery of the SPDC regime in today’s Myanmar (Burma) that is routinely practiced against the minority Rohingyas and Karens.

As we have witnessed before with Abu Ghraib, rogue foot soldiers like Gibbs and Morlock are now investigated for their war crimes in Kandahar. However, as long as those on the top, the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, and Rice continue to escape justice for their war crimes, and formulating laws and policies that laid down the very foundation for such horrendous crimes, we won’t be surprised to see or hear resurrection of the old crimes over and over again.

If the USA and its allies in the western world are serious about stopping such war crimes from ever repeating in the future, they need to either try those evil ones that dehumanized those soldiers to bring out the worst evil in them the same way the Khmer Rouge leaders are now tried or send them to the World Court to face justice. Only then shall we be spared of the crimes of Calley and Gibbs.