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Her Sin Was That She Wanted To Learn

afghangirl.jpgFrom the NYTimes:

…These were the girls the gunmen saw first, 10 easy targets walking hand-in-hand through the blue metal gate and on to the winding dirt road.

The staccato of machine-gun fire pelted through the stillness. A 13-year-old named Shukria was hit in the arm and the back, and then teetered into the soft brown of an adjacent wheat field. Zarmina, her 12-year-old sister, ran to her side, listening to the wounded girl’s precious breath and trying to help her stand.

But Shukria was too heavy to lift, and the two gunmen, sitting astride a single motorbike, sped closer.

As Zarmina scurried away, the men took a more studied aim at those they already had shot, killing Shukria with bullets to her stomach and heart. Then the attackers seemed to succumb to the frenzy they had begun, forsaking the motorbike and fleeing on foot in a panic, two bobbing heads — one tucked into a helmet, the other swaddled by a handkerchief — vanishing amid the earthen color of the wheat.

Six students were shot here on the afternoon of June 12, two of them fatally. The Qalai Sayedan School — considered among the very best in the central Afghan province of Logar — reopened only last weekend, but even with Kalashnikov-toting guards at the gate, only a quarter of the 1,600 students have dared to return.

Shootings, beheadings, burnings and bombings: these are all tools of intimidation used by the Taliban and others to shut down hundreds of Afghanistan’s public schools. To take aim at education is to make war on the government.

Parents are left with peculiar choices. “It is better for my children to be alive even if it means they must be illiterate,” said Sayed Rasul, a father who had decided to keep his two daughters at home for a day.

The Taliban is targeting these children because they can, because they are strengthening their hold in a number of areas in Afghanistan while US tropps are bogged down in Iraq. Because we did not bother to finish the job in Afghanistan before George Bush had already turned his roving eye toward Saddam Hussein and started a war we never needed to fight.

And now we are losing ground in both countries, and the vaunted American military might — the reputation and equipment that has stood astride the rest of the world for decades — has been shown to have limits of its own by some insurgents with a kalashnikov and a deep-seated desire to knock us off our pedestals. And with his poor planning and lack of understanding of the very high potential for worst case scenarios in this region of the world, an area which has toppled empires for centuries before now…George Bush has handed Al Qaeda and every other potential rogue faction or nation across the globe both a recruiting tool and a glimpse of America’s soft underbelly.

And he has done so on the backs of the American military, who lack both the necessary equipment and the numbers to do their jobs due to lack of planning from the get go and the Bush Administration’s desire to fight war on the cheap.

So much of diplomacy and deterrent capability is an illusory reputation created through years of what could have been.  We held our own during the Cold War, despite having periods where our capability was not exactly what we projected it to be, and vice versa for the Soviets.  For years now, one of America’s strengths has been that fear that if we were provoked too far, our nation’s military would utterly crush the nation issuing the provocation.  And that we would do so with a horde of willing allies at our side.

Not so now.  Today, the American military strength is exhausted, bogged down in a desert war that is eating our equipment as though it were made of paper, and our nation’s budget as though it were an inexhaustable fuel supply of cash.  But we know that none of this is true — that we are all paying a hefty price for George Bush’s failures, none more than the soldiers and their families, and all of the innocents who relied on the hollow promises of security and a bright future that the Bush Administration is so good at throwing out to the masses, but utterly failing at doing the work necessary to bring them to fruition.

As of yesterday, the US military had lost more than 4,000 personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Today in Afghanistan, 17 people were killed and more than 50 people were injured in a suicide blast in a crowded market in Khandahar, a tactic that was once unheard of in Afghan culture. 

The bombing appeared to be the third-deadliest of the year. On June 17, a suicide bomber exploded himself on a bus carrying police instructors in Kabul, killing 35 people. In February, a bomber carrying explosives detonated them outside the main U.S. base at Bagram Air Field, killing 23 people, during a visit by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

Violence has spiked in Afghanistan the last several weeks. More than 3,100 people _ mostly militants _ have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.

There have been deteriorating conditions on the ground for the last several years, but that violence and rising control of the Taliban and other allied groups has accelerated in recent months.  With increasing instability in Pakistan, and the rise of militant control over greater regions in that nation threatening the stability of Pakistan’s military dictatorship, things look more and more dicey in terms of long-term stability. (via McClatchey — do read the whole article at this link) 

Al-Qaida is back, rebuilding in the mountain sanctuary that sprawls across the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Arab recruits are moving in. Training camps are thought to be operating on both sides of the border. Suicide attacks in Afghanistan are almost triple the number of last year.

“Al-Qaida and the Taliban have to a troubling degree been able to re-create … the environment that existed in Afghanistan under the Taliban, to include recruiting and training foreign jihadists and financing and planning terrorist operations,” a U.S. intelligence official told McClatchy Newspapers.

The uncontrolled tribal areas of Pakistan have been a problem since coalition troops drove the Taliban and its ally, Osama bin Laden, out of Afghanistan.

Bin Laden has long been thought to have found sanctuary in the region along with Afghan insurgents and Pakistani radicals. All “have free rein there now,” said Marvin Weinbaum, a former U.S. State Department intelligence analyst who is with the Middle East Institute, a Washington policy organization….

Young militants feel that “Allah’s victory seems to be drawing near” and see parallels with the stalemating of the Soviet army in Afghanistan in the 1980s and its ultimate withdrawal, said Michael Scheuer, a former CIA official who until 2004 headed a team that searched for Osama bin Laden.

This sort of environment does not happen by accident. The Bush Administration went into Afghanistan after 9/11, and made promises that it had no intention of keeping.  Thirteen year old Shukria’s sin was that she wanted an education, that she wanted to learn in a nation where a resurgent Taliban forbids girls to do so.  Our sin is that we have abandoned her country to this fate through neglect and piss poor planning and a wholesale disregard for the importance of keeping our word when we give it.

Today, I weep for Shukria and her family, and for all of the soldiers and their families and all of the many innocents caught in the crossfire of George Bush’s failures.  Because it did not have to be this way.  George Bush’s poor choices led us to this point in our nation’s history.  He will not change, he will not admit his failures…it is up to all of the rest of us to stand up and make this right. 

Juan Cole has much more on all of this.

(Photo of an Afghan schoolgirl via thechildrenofwar.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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