Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Socialist philosopher and sociologist Dag Østerberg (1938-2017)

March 22, 2017
Dag Østerberg

by Nasir Khan
Since 1960 Dag Østerberg had the distinction of being a leading social theoretician and a resourceful intellectual in Norway, who made lasting contributions especially in sociology and social philosophy. His death on 22 February 2017 removed a uniquely talented scholar from the social and academic life of Norway, but his books that represent his critical thinking and social concerns will continue to play a role and inspire students, researchers and others.
He earned his Ph.D. degree in sociology from the University of Oslo (UiO) in 1974 for his work on Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx. From 1981 to 1991, he was a professor of sociology at UiO. For a few years he worked as an adjunct professor in music. But his passion was writing and he left such highly-coveted academic positions to concentrate on writing. The area of his authorship was extensive, covering political and social philosophy, sociology, history of ideas as well as musicology, art and classic literature. He wrote some 20 books and published numerous papers and articles on a wide range of issues in scholarly journals and periodicals.
Within the academic milieus in UiO logical positivism had gained much ground in the 1960s. Some prominent Norwegian philosophers held differing views about its role in the social sciences. Østerberg was of the view that social sciences cannot be objective in the sense the natural sciences are objective, but rather they had to be reflective and interpretive. At present, more people have come to accept this view of positivism in the age of postpositivism and postmodernism.
For most of his life, Østerberg was deeply attracted to the works of the influential French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. He had a profound understanding of Sartre’s philosophy of existentialism. He translated and published three books dealing with Sartre’s works, and also wrote an authoritative biography Jean-Paul Sartre – Philosophy, Art, Politics, Private Life, which was published in 1993.
Since he started writing, he showed he had the ability to go to the core of the complex philosophical and sociological issues by analysing and synthesising them. As an intellectual he was a social critic in the radical leftist tradition. Having imbibed much of the critical sociological thought of Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel, Østerberg approached Marx well-oriented with the European philosophical and cultural tradition.
We may ask when did Østerberg turn seriously to the works of Karl Marx? This question is lucidly summed up by Professor Per Otnes, a Marxist sociologist and a fellow-colleague of Østerberg when the latter taught in the department of sociology:
“There is, however, a telling appendix to a re-edition [Essays i samfunnsteori theory, Oslo: Pax,1975, p. 28] of this text, where Østerberg states that his command of Marxism as of 1967 was less than adequate. That signals a revised approach. Up to c. 1970 he remained, not unlike Bourdieu, something of a dialectic phenomenologist, influenced by Husserl, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and others, but not yet influenced very much by Marx’s works. Sartre’s great Critique de la raison dialectique, only just out in 1960, was instrumental in bringing about the inclusion of (neo-)Marxism, to which his A Preface to Marx’s Capital (1972) testifies, summing up critically in no more than c. 60 [79] pp. Marx’s c. 2,500.” 1
Beside Sartre, Østerberg’s discussion of sociological theories included the works of Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, Pierre Bourdeau, and Karl Marx. He summarised the salient theories of such writers and offered his synthesis in his usual incisive manner.
He interpreted and defended the social and political thought of Marx. But he was not a dogmatic defender of Marx, as some Marx enthusiasts or disciples have been for more than a century. Primarily, he saw Marx as a social philosopher and an economist whose theories explored the contradictions of capitalism and showed the way to a better alternative that met the needs of the people on a wider scale. Even towards the end of his life, he continued to emphasise the importance of understanding the economic thought of Marx. This can be seen in his last book he wrote Fra Marx’ til nyere kapitalkritikk [From Marx’s to recent critique of capital] (2016).
As a writer, Østerberg’s language is clear, precise and has a natural flow. Ludwig Wittgenstein had said: What can be said at all can be said clearly. In Østerberg’s case that remark applies admirably well. Unlike some academic writers and authors who occasionally embellish their texts with some Latin terms or foreign words, he was a puritan in the use of his native language, Norwegian; he avoided the use of foreign words as far as he could. However, he had great mastery over English, German and French, but he was averse to the idea of bringing in any foreign words in his texts. He wrote mostly in Norwegian, except for one major work Metasociology: An Inquiry into the Origins and Validity of Social thought (1988). This remarkable volume shows his immense erudition and mastery of modern western social and political thought, whose reading will help English readers become acquainted with this great intellectual. Obviously, his use of his native language for most of his authorship has certainly enriched Norwegian. However, this has also limited the circulation of his books internationally because Norwegian is understood only in Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
During his lifetime Østerberg had received a wide recognition in the Nordic sociology. He was regarded as a leading sociologist who contributed to the western sociological tradition. His books on sociology are popular among students and are included in the syllabuses. But he was not the type of person looking for reputation or acclaim. He was anti-hero, unassuming and followed a simple lifestyle.
Last but not least, I will mention him in a personal context. When I started research for my Ph.D. degree at UiO in 1985, he was my academic supervisor. He was the leading scholar of Marx and Marxist thought teaching as a professor of sociology at that time and I was lucky to have him supervise my work. In 1991, he graciously wrote a preface to my thesis Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings that was published in 1995. Our contact led to a lasting friendship that lasted over 30 years. The last time we met in Oslo was 2016. On that occasion he offered me a copy of his newly-published book Fra Marx’ til nyere kapitalkritikk.
References:
1. Otnes, Per, Dag Østerberg: The Dialectic of Post-Positvism, Acta Sociologica March 2006 ◆ Vol 49(1): p. 22.
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Religious fanaticism versus humanist values

January 19, 2017

Nasir Khan, January 19, 2017

The only reasonable way to get out of the mindset of religious fanaticism is to turn to humanism and humane values that fanatics fight against. It is true the road is long and hazardous but it is worth trying to explore. If rational people start thinking on these lines, they will also start walking along these lines and they will influence others. Otherwise, we will remain mired in the mud of religious fanaticism and barbarism.

There are many people who are justifiably afraid of the enormous influence the right-wing forces wield and exploit religions for their nefarious political agendas, communalism, hatred against other religious communities, creeds, oppose social justice and equal socio-political rights for all. These forces are a danger to all and are very active. They are a big danger to all human values, which are foundation stones of modern democratic societies, their organisation and functioning.

But we should keep in mind that there are also many people who are actively involved in combating and fighting against these forces of darkness and inhumanity. What our friends and sympathisers can do in this struggle is not to become only silent spectators and leave the field open to the fanatics but to side with those who are involved in political struggles against the reactionary forces.

This work involves, among other activities, using the media for highlighting the harm the fanatics have caused by their indoctrination and falsehoods. This process strengthens the struggle of creating common bonds of humanity and respect for all members of society where the development of all in a fair and democratic way is possible. That means to reject religious fanaticism in all its forms and advance the cause of democratic values and humanism.

Religious fanatics in India and Pakistan

January 18, 2017
Nasir Khan, January 18, 2017

(I wrote the following piece in reply to a comment by a Facebook friend.)

Both Hindu and Islamic architecture have influenced each other in many ways. By its appearance, Jejuri Temple seems to be a clear example of this interaction in architecture.

Regarding your views on the division of Hindus and Muslims, my reply is: If these people, Hindus and Muslims, regard one another as human beings first where people’s religious beliefs are left as their personal matters and nothing more, then a common human and humane bond will emerge that will allow cultural diversity but wherein all people will stand for common humanity and common political, social and economic rights and obligations.

But in India and Pakistan things are working in the reverse order. In these countries, the first consideration is towards religious identity while what is obviously common, our common humanity and our oneness as human beings, is pushed out of sight! The result is fanatics and fundamentalists in Hindus and Muslims have made living for ordinary people difficult.

The Hindutva fanatics in India have poisoned the minds of vast numbers of Hindus and have made them anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan by their continuous propaganda. Many feel that is the only way to make India a purely Hindu state by preaching the mantra of Akhand Bharat. There is so much hatred against Muslims and Islam in Indian right-wing Hindus, which I find hard to believe.

In Pakistan, the right-wing religious and political parties have equally viciously poisoned the minds of millions of people for establishing a theocratic state instead of a modern democratic state.

Consequently, their continuous indoctrination and misleading information against the non-Muslims has relegated religious minorities in Pakistan to a secondary status. The victimisation of some innocent people for having violated the so-called blasphemy laws of Pakistan under concocted charges is a living proof of the cancerous fanaticism and primitive mindset that once flourished in the early middle ages.

Israeli war on Gaza is to crush Fatah-Hamas unity and any resistance to Israeli occupation

July 19, 2014

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Nasir Khan, July 19, 2014

There are many people who think that Israel has invaded Gaza in response to the rockets from Gaza. But there is more to this scenario then many casual readers know. Therefore I present a brief account of what happened. After the killing of three young ultra-rightist Jewish settlers by some unknown people and the burning alive of a Palestinian youth by the Zionists, the Netanyahu government accused Hamas of the killings. This Hamas categorically denied and declared that such accusations were totally unfounded. Hamas had nothing to do with the killings; it also condemned such killings because it was apprehensive that the Israeli government would use it an excuse to unleash terror in the West Bank and also Gaza. That’s exactly what happened.

Israeli police and army started a large-scale crack down on all members and sympathisers of Hamas in the West Bank. They also killed many Palestinians during these operations. As a reaction to the victimisation of its members by Israel, some resistance-fighters from Gaza fired rockets into Israel without causing much damage or death. There is no credible evidence that one Israeli citizen was killed by the rocket fire. As expected by many political observers Israel used firing of rockets from Gaza as a casus belli for a full scale aerial bombardment indiscriminately that was followed by a ground invasion. But what are the real reasons for Israeli war on Gaza? One prime reason is to strike at the Palestinian unity government that the two factions Fatah and Hamas had formed after the collapse of the US charade of peace talks between the parties.

Some Comments on Resolving the Kashmir Conflict

January 19, 2011

by Nasir Khan, January 19, 2011

Editor’s Note: Gorki wrote a comprehensive comment on my article ‘Resolving the Kashmir Conflict (Foreign Policy Journal, January 13, 2011 ) in which he offered his perspective and also raised some important questions. In reply, I have written the following remarks. For the sake of convenience, I have split his comment into a few parts followed by my reply:

Gorki:

Dr. Khan I find your article useful because it allows one to hear the views of the Kashmiris themselves regarding the Kashmir imbroglio.

On the face of it your statement “The best course left for India is to make a break with its previous policy, and accede to the right to self-determination of the Kashmiris. This will not weaken India; instead, it will show the strength of Indian democracy as well of the humane aspects of Indian cultural tradition…” sounds reasonable and taken in isolation such views even find many sympathetic listeners in India itself. However the Indians must keep other consideration in mind that cannot be considered imperialistic by any stretch of imagination.

Nasir:

Gorki , thank you for your balanced opinion on a number of points and the important questions you have raised in your comment. I will try to reply to some points.

My roots are in the Indian culture and I am deeply proud of our historical heritage. I am well aware of the Indian Civilisations stretching back to the time of the Indus Valley Civilisation, some five thousand years old. Merely because of the hostile Indo-Pak relations since the partition of India in 1947, the Kashmir Issue has been the main cause of tension between the two states, I have regarded both India and Pakistan as parts of the same body, the body being the subcontinent of India that holds diverse races, cultures and mores showing much diversity while geographically belonging to the same entity. We can compare the subcontinent’s position with the broad geographical areas identified with Europe. In Europe there have been many languages, diverse cultures, political and religious conflicts for well over two thousand years. Despite all that various nations and people of this continent identity themselves with Europe and its civilisations, old and new. In a similar way, as an individual I identity myself with the subcontinent. My regional identity with Kashmir and the historical connection I have with with Kashmir is only natural; it is the affinity of part with the whole. As such they are mutually interdependent, not exclusive of each other.

Gorki:

The reality is that the entire former British India is organically connected and anything that happens in one part has an echo elsewhere in the sub continent. For example when a sacred relic went missing for 17 days from the Hazrat Bal mosque in 1963; there was rioting all over India. Thus any action in or regarding Kashmir cannot be taken in isolation.

While self determination and independence by themselves are honourable goals, anyone arguing for self determination only for the Kashmiris of the valley would either have to argue on the basis of some kind of Kashmiri exceptionalism or else should be willing to accept similar demands for self determination from others such as the Sikhs in the Indian Punjab and the Baluch in Pakistan. Conceding any such demands then would risks major man made disasters like the ethnic cleansing and huge population displacements that occurred in the wake of the partition in 1947.

Nasir:

Here your formulation about the organic connection has the Spencerian undertones! We have histories of India and Indian states before the British came. When the British gradually took over different parts of India by force of arms or by their political skills (and tricks), our people and many of our rulers evinced little concern to what happened to small or big states who were being devoured by the East India Company. Some of them had treacherously sided with the Farangis against those Indian rulers who resisted the British. This is also our history.

The instance of the disappearance of a holy relic in Kashmir you cite has more to do with religious feelings and identities than with the organic connection throughout the subcontinent. Such relics can also be seen as having extra-territorial dimension and impact.

In fact, we have seen major political conflicts and killing of innocent people by the Indian state (and also by Pakistani army in the Northwest Pakistan at the bidding of the United Sates as a continuing policy of crushing and eliminating those who resist and oppose the American wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Pakistan). The vast majority of these countries has not shown much resolve to oppose the policies of their governments. But, a religious relic or what believers may call a ‘religious place’ is something different! That moves our masses, and they do what they think is serving their deities!! We know how the religious passions of ordinary people inflamed by rightist forces in India in which the Indian rulers were implicated, led to the destruction of the Babri mosque by the Hindu mobs and the killing of thousands of innocent Indian Muslims in Gujarat.

But what sort of policies a state formulates and implements has a direct bearing on the political developments of a country. The same is true in the case of India; a wise political lead by responsible politicians influences and shapes the political landscape.

Now the question of ‘Kashmiri exceptionalism’ if India and Pakistan hold plebiscite to meet the demands of the people of Jammu and Kashmir: I myself, do not regard the case of Jammu and Kashmir an exceptional one; but no doubt there is a historical context to it. The circumstances under which India extended its control over Jammu and Kashmir is much different from other princely states. At the end of the British rule in India and the partition of India by the imperial rulers, there were 562 princely states, big and small, over which the British held suzerainty or ‘paramountcy’ as in the case of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. We know how these princely states were incorporated into the two new states. How India extended its control over Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is relevant to the whole question of the Kashmir Issue. After the military conflict and the ceasefire mediated by the United Nations, both India and Pakistan agreed to hold plebiscite that would enable the people of J&K to determine their future. That promise still remains unfilled and the consequences of that denial have been catastrophic for India, Pakistan and especially the people of J&K.

The Kashmir Conflict continues to be the unfinished task of the 1947 partition. This conflict has not disappeared; neither will it go away because the bullet has so far overridden the ballot and common sense.

Gorki:

Letting Kashmir valley join Pakistan OTOH would in essence be conceding the two nation theory; again not without risks. As you rightly pointed out, India remains a home to some 130 million Muslims. Letting the Muslims of the valley to go join Pakistan would in no way enhance the security of the non-Kashmiri Muslims elsewhere in India and if anything would make them even more insecure and strengthen the very forces of Hindutva that you pointed out threaten India’s fragile communal amity. (Ironically this is exactly what happened to the Indian Muslims of UP and Bihar who had allowed themselves to be emotionally led into voting for the AIML’s election plank of a Pakistan in 1946 which then left them high and dry).

Even within the state of Jammu and Kashmir itself, there would be major upheavals in case the current structure is tampered with. What would happen to the minority Muslims in Jammu and Ladakh?
Also if one argues that Kashmir is a homeland for the Kashmiris then what happens to other non Kashmiri populations of the valley such as the Gujjars etc.? Where would their homeland be?

Nasir:

Here you raise some important questions and also some legitimate concerns. First, the ‘two nation theory’. In fact, the partition of India was on the basis of  the two nation theory. For the sake of argument, I will say that if the people of J&K join A or B country, or decide for some other option they should have the democratic right to do so. The organic linkage you seem to emphasise in case the Valley joins Pakistan is worthy of consideration, but what Kashmiri Muslims want is their right to determine their future and to gain freedom. What that freedom entails is the freedom from Indian rule. This is their wish and to crush their aspirations the Indian state has used more than half-a-million soldiers. They have killed more than one-hundred-thousand people. It is military occupation of a country where India has committed horrific war crimes.

Who contributed to such a perspective that shaped the political history of India and led to the division of India by the British? Well, an easy way for amateurs is to have a bogeyman to explain away the historical facts and blame the Muslim leadership for all that! Even before Mr Gandhi came to India from South Africa, one of the most prominent Indian politician at that time was Mr Jinnah, who was commonly known as the ‘ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’. He had the vision of a democratic, united India at the end of the British raj. But alas that was not to happen because this liberal, secularist lawyer was able to see the machinations of the Hindu leadership of the Indian National Congress and other Hindu militant organisations standing for the Ram raj and the Hindu domination of the whole sub-continent.

In my political work, at no time have I ever said what the people of J&K should stand for or how they should decide about their future. Neither have I ever advocated that the people of the Kashmir Valley should join Pakistan. That is something for the affected people to decide.

The Kashmiris’ demand and their struggle for Azaadi (freedom) is not directed against any other people, ethnic or religious minorities, who make up the population of their country. The people of J&K, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc., have traditions of tolerance and inter-religious accommodation. In 1947, I was a six-year-old; I had seen how Hindus and Muslims had a shared and fraternal existence in our area. If the people of J&K are given a chance to live as free human beings and not under the terror of military power of India, then our age-old traditions of mutual respect and acceptance will reassert. That will be a good example for the Hindutva rightist forces that pose a great threat to the Indian democracy and religious minorities, Muslims being their major target.

I am also conscious of the dangers you rightly point to if the ‘current structure’ is changed. But I don’t suppose you offer your solution as the continued rejection of the demands of the Kashmiris because that safeguards some ‘ideal’ unity of India, knowing that India has carried out a militarist solution to crush the demands of the Kashmiri freedom movement. Simply put, it has been state terrorism by an occupying power. This short-sighted policy will fail in the long run as it has failed in the past.

Gorki:

You rightly mention that Kashmir is currently a big source of contention between India and Pakistan. However how certain can anybody be that this will not be the case if this issue is sorted out? Former Pakistani president, General Musharraf once said that India will remain Pakistan’s considered foe even if Kashmir issue is resolved. There are people with strong following in Pakistan who argue for waging a war on ‘Hindu India’ to conquer the Red Fort and restore the Mughal Empire. What of those?

Nasir:

If the main source of conflict between India and Pakistan is resolved according to the wishes of the people of J&K, then we expect the two neighbours will live amicably side by side and their bilateral relations and socio-cultural contacts will increase which will benefit all the people of the region. What Musharraf said is his view and it should not be taken too seriously. Apparently, the climate of hostility and mutual recriminations between India and Pakistan since the partition, people on the both sides have been fed on cheap propaganda. The nonsensical slogans to restore the Mughal Empire is the daydreaming of some Rip Van Winkles who are living in past, not in the twenty-first century.

Gorki:

I agree with you however that the current stifling atmosphere in Kashmir has to come to an end; human rights violations need to be investigated in a transparent manner and the culprits have to be vigorously prosecuted. Kashmiris need to feel that they control their political and economic destiny in their own hands. For this to happen however both the Indian state and the Kashmiri separatists have to demonstrate courage and pragmatic far sightedness.

The state has to take the above listed steps in the short run. In the long run it has not only to deliver on the economic measures promised previously but also to scrupulously avoid the mistakes of the past such as blatant rigging of elections as it did on the 80s in Kashmir and elsewhere in India.
For their part the Kashmiri separatists have to realize that the peaceful and constitutional methods of protest are in the best interest of all Kashmiris and the constitution is their best ally. India is not an empire; it is a Republic and a civic nation.
The constitution does not hold the rest of India in any special position over Kashmir; if anything it is the Kashmiris who hold a special place within the constitution.
Today if the separatists were to come to power via electoral politics, there is absolutely nothing that such a government could not do within the existing framework to better the life (or freedom) of an ordinary Kashmiri that it could do if they had complete ‘Azaadi”.

Nasir:

Some suggestions you make and the prognosis you offer are reasonable. If Kashmiris hold a special place in the Indian Constitution, then obviously Indian control over Kashmir was unlike any other princely state. That also shows that the Indian government had political considerations to accord special status to Kashmir within the Union. But what stops the Delhi government from acceding to the demands of the people of J&K to plebiscite? Why should a great power like India be so afraid to listen to the voice of the people instead of using state terror to crush them?

It is also possible that the vast majority may opt for India. Thus by a generous and courageous political move, India has the power to defuse the conflict for ever. If that happens, then those who stand for separation from India will lose and the consequences will pacify all sides. This can usher in a new era of improved inter-communal and regional relations. Religious fundamentalists and rightist forces on the both sides will not be able to exploit the religious sentiments of the people any longer. That will be a victory of the common sense over emotionalism and communal frenzy.

Gorki:

There is already a precedent of such a dramatic change in political struggle within India. In the 1980s many Sikh leaders were charged with sedition and jailed for demanding a Khalistan and burning copies of the Indian constitution as protest. Today, one of those former separatist is an all powerful Chief Minister in Punjab and there is no opposition because the remaining separatists cannot list a single point in which way the life of an average Sikh would be different in an independent Khalistan.

I do hope to hear form you.
Regards.

Nasir:

In India there are still many regional and ethnic conflicts. I don’t think the Khalistan movement ever had any justifiable political stance and I am happy it reached its cul de sac. But we should be aware of the pitfall of equating Khalistan with the Kashmir Conflict.

Finally, it has been a pleasure to respond to your wise and erudite comment.

Cordially yours

Nasir Khan

Resolving the Kashmir Conflict

January 14, 2011

by Dr. Nasir Khan, Foreign Policy Journal, January 13, 2011

Almost the whole world had condemned the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Such terrorism had also, once again, reminded us how important it is to combat the forces of communalist terror and political violence in the Indian subcontinent. But what is often ignored or suppressed is the fact that there are deep underlying causes of the malaise that erupts in the shape of such violent actions; the unresolved Kashmir issue happens to be the one prime cause that inflames the passions and anger of millions of people.

Kashmir Conflict

However, to repeat the mantra of “war on terror” as the Bush Administration had done for the last eight years while planning and starting major wars of aggression does not bring us one inch closer to solving the problem of violence and terror in our region. On the contrary, such short-sighted propaganda gimmicks were and are meant to camouflage the wars of aggression and lay the ground for further violence and bloodshed. The basic motive is to advance imperial interests and domination. The so-called “war on terror” is no war against terror; on the contrary, it has been the continuation of the American imperial policy for its definite goals in the Middle East and beyond. Obviously any serious effort to combat terror will necessarily take into account the causes of terror, and not merely be content with the visible symptoms.

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Shame of US Justice

January 12, 2011

By Yvonne Ridley, Foreign Policy Journal, Jan 10, 2011

America’s international standing as a fair and just country does not match its superpower status as the world’s greatest democracy.

When it comes to basic human rights it is there in the gutter alongside some of the world’s most toxic, tinpot dictatorships and authoritarian regimes.

So there’s little surprise that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange fears being extradited to The States where some politicians and Pentagon officials have already called for his execution and Attorney General Eric Holder admits his government may invoke the US Espionage Act.

But it’s not just the persecution and the prosecution Assange should fear, either – the wheels of justice can be agonizingly slow in a process which could take years. And in the case of the Guantanamo detainees there is no end in sight – the majority of them have not been charged but simply forgotten.

Having stepped inside US prisons – both military and civilian – I can tell you there is nothing civilized about the penal institutions in the United States.

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Pakistan flood victims face harsh winter

December 23, 2010
by: Brian McAfee, People’s World, December 20,  2010

PakistanFloodIDPs520x318
Photo: A woman and her two children stand in their makeshift shelter in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Their home was destroyed in the floods that have affected an estimated 2.5 million of the province’s 3.5 million residents.
( UN Photo/UNICEF/ZAK/CC)

Reports indicate that the hardships from Pakistan’s earlier monsoon floods have been exacerbated by the onslaught of winter.

The floods affected 20 million people — more than 10 percent — of Pakistan’s population of just over 180 million people.

Yet, as the temperature dips, hundreds of thousands of displaced children and adults are susceptible to pneumonia and other cold-related diseases. According to Director of the National Institute of Child Health (Pakistan) Professor Jamal Raza, the flood victims becoming ill from cold related causes, particularly children, could almost double from the current number. Many are living in non-winterized tents, and there are shortages of dry firewood/fuel and other materials, such as adequate clothing, needed to create warmth.

Further, many of the flood ravaged areas from this year’s monsoon remain covered in water and millions are still displaced. Concurrently, many displaced are farmers whose fields are still flooded, and they have no source of livelihood. Food distribution is difficult to carry out under the circumstances.

Concerning the children, Raza says that it will be an uphill battle to save many of the them as they are malnourished, and have experienced a great deal of weight loss due to poor diet. Moreover, he says, their  capability for immunity is very low and, accordingly, they are susceptible to a wide range of respiratory diseases. Consequently, there is an urgent need for blankets, quilts and better shelter to fight the cold, as well as provisions for the obvious nutritional and medical needs.

Reports out of Pakistan indicate a further danger caused by the floods: the release of stored toxic chemicals into the flood waters. An article in New Scientist reports the floods released an estimated 3,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals into the environment. The chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) include several insect repellents, such as DDT. At the same time, many of them do not biodegrade in nature, and are purportedly linked to hormonal, developmental and reproductive disorders. Pakistan’s floods have awakened some nations and scientists to this ongoing threat as changes in weather patterns become more evident.

Reputable organizations currently active in the relief effort in Pakistan include OXFAM, AmeriCares and United Nations Refugee Agency. If you consider helping the people of Pakistan through a  contribution to any one of them, be sure to specify that the donation is for Pakistan flood relief.

Please Mr. President! Some Truth About Afghanistan

December 23, 2010

Eric Margolis, The Huffington Post, Dec 20, 2010

After nine years of war in Afghanistan, costing over $100 billion in taxpayer money and 700 American lives, the full truth about this murky conflict remains elusive.

The government and media have colluded to paint the picture of a noble, heroic, flag-waving American enterprise in Afghanistan that is, alas, very far from reality. As the cynic Ambrose Bierce pointedly observed of patriots — “the dupe of statesmen; the tool of conquerors.”

Three interesting reports about Afghanistan emerged in Washington last week.

First, a political whitewash issued by the Obama White House claiming the war was going well and some US troops might be withdrawn next year. This ‘don’t worry be happy’ summary was trumpeted by the pro-war New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other members of the government-friendly US media.

US generals spoke of “progress” in Afghanistan, whatever that means, as US forces conducted a brutal campaign around Kandahar to crush resistance to the occupation and punish communities that supported Taliban.

Second, the Red Cross issued a grim report showing that Afghans were suffering widespread malnutrition and serious health problems after nearly a decade of Western occupation. So much for US-led nation-building.

Third, there were leaks about a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the combined findings of all 16 US intelligence agencies. This key intelligence report is explosive and may not be fully revealed.

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War Dominated US Foreign Policy Is Destroying the Economy and National Security

December 9, 2010

Join Peace Vet-Led Protest at White House on December 16th

by Kevin Zeese, Dissident Voice,  December 9th, 2010

The White House is in the midst of a strategic review of Afghanistan. This review is coming at a time when the reality is hard to ignore: Afghanistan cannot be won, the cost is escalating at a time when the U.S. economy is in collapse and the war is undermining U.S. national security and the rule of law.  It is time to end the war-based foreign policy of the United States.

Opposition to war is growing. Sixty-one House members wrote president Obama last month calling for an end to the Afghan war. The letter was co-signed by 57 Democrats and 4 Republicans.  They wrote: “This has become the longest war in US history. The rate of casualties is at an all-time high. And we have already spent $365 billion on this unwinnable war.”  This reflects the views of Americans.  A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 50 percent of those surveyed said the United States should not be involved in Afghanistan, compared to 41 percent who opposed the war in September.

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