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7 Sept 2004 - MiddleEast.Org - MER is Free
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Occupation Breeds Opposition,
Terror Breeds Terror.

MIDDLEEAST.ORG

PALESTINE, CHECHNYA,
IRAQ, KASHMIR


"I'd read news reports that said that they were just poor people.
They were bandits. Many of them were drug addicts.
It's not the case. The cell leaders have college educations.
And they have that in common with their US enemies...
The war in Iraq is training people to fight. Men, young
men,
are learning to use Kalashnikovs, and RPGs against
American forces. They will continue to do that. They're
not getting worse at it. They're getting better at it....
Many of the guys spoke very
personally about the need
to defend their country, and
their houses. There were
things that we could understand
if we'd been invaded."

MER - Mid-East Realities - MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 7 Sept:

Brutal occupations all -- Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, Kashmir. All examples of when overwhelming military force is used by a major power to put down popular resistance to historical subjugation and injustice.
Now you would think Americans, recalling their own treatment by the Redcoats as their ragtag army of "terrorists" (so insisted the British!) to free themselves from occupation in the American revolution would understand. But their leaders and their media overwhelmingly subvert such understanding.
And you would think the Jewish people with their own special history of persecution and discrimination would be able to understand how the Palestinians feel after generations of broken promises, repression, torture, and now worse-than-apartheid realities. But here too their leaders use rhetorical deception, factual lies, and emotional trickery to subvert such understanding.
The lessons that should be learned from what is happening now in Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, and Kashmir should be that if you militarily occupy and brutally deny self-determination and justice you breed growing opposition. And if you attempt to increasingly subjugate this opposition through political trickery, growing repression and brutal torture year after year, generation after generation, you in fact create greater hatred and desperation inevitably leading to what is far too easily simply called 'terrorism' -- the weapon of the weak and oppressed against the powerful and dominant.
It is not weakness to understand these realities, to discuss them, indeed to admit them, and to want to do something serious about the underlying causes as well as the results. It is honesty and thoughtfulness to realize -- difficult as that often is especially at the moments of greatest bloodshed and pain -- that people fight for reasons, that desperate people fight in more terrible ways than others, that popular uprisings of the weak against the powerful require considerable courage on all sides of the barricades. And when the bloodshed, the hatreds, and the instincts for revenge are all allowed to play out in a cascade of bombs and death, with leaders fanning the emotions of hatred with cheap and disingenuous slogans, the situation only goes from bad to worse to potentially catastrophic.
Occasionally, though rarely and quite inadequately, the major American corporate media do raise some of these issues in a thoughtful insightful way; albeit usually indirectly and far too infrequently. This article about Kashmir from yesterday's Washington Post, and this transcript about Iraq from Bill Moyer's NOW! program last Friday, are positive examples of the kind of journalism that should be far more often, far more bold, and with far more direct commentary and analysis to help people really understand and remember.


In Kashmir, Abuses Bruise Hopes for Peace

Complaints Against Indian Security Forces Rise
By John Lancaster

<> Washington Post Foreign Service - Monday, September 6, 2004; Page A18:
GUND DACHINA, India -- At first, said Syed Rehman Mir, the policemen treated him with the deference he had come to expect as a senior government doctor in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. They graciously accepted his offer of tea, he recalled, and assured him they just had a few questions. Would he mind accompanying them to the station house for half an hour?

The good manners didn't last. Accused of aiding Pakistani-backed Islamic militants in their fight against Indian forces in the region, Mir, 42, was detained and tortured over three days in early August, he said in an interview last week. Among other methods, he said, interrogators applied an electric current to his toes and genitals and used a length of wood to crush his thighs, causing wounds and deep bruises.

"They were not allowing me to cry because they were putting a cloth in my mouth," said Mir, whose story was corroborated by medical records and photographs of his injuries. "It was horrible. I was praying to God that I should die."

Eight months after India and Pakistan initiated formal negotiations to end more than half a century of hostility, much of it bearing on their competing claims to Kashmir, there has been little discernible reduction in human rights abuses by Indian security forces that have been waging a counterinsurgency campaign in the region since 1989, according to human rights monitors, Kashmiri political leaders and government data.

The continuing abuses, coupled with recent statements by Indian officials to the effect that Kashmir's territorial status is nonnegotiable, have sown doubts in both Kashmir and Pakistan about whether India's new government -- which recently completed its first 100 days in power -- is sincere about resolving the Kashmir conflict or is merely buying time. Estimates of the number of people killed in the insurgency range from 30,000 to 60,000.

Indian officials say they are committed to settling the dispute, but only after Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, fulfills repeated pledges to end state support for Islamic militants who continue to cross from Pakistani-held Kashmir into the Indian side of the region, albeit in lower numbers than in the past.

Against that backdrop, the optimism that accompanied the start of peace negotiations in both India and Pakistan is giving way to fear of renewed tensions between two nuclear powers that have already fought three wars -- two over Kashmir -- and nearly fought a fourth in 2002. In New Delhi on Sunday, Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, began two days of talks to assess the progress of the negotiations.

Just as the Pakistanis "fear that India is stringing them along on Kashmir, here there is also a sense that they're not going to give up violence as an instrument of negotiation," said C. Raja Mohan, a foreign affairs columnist for the Hindu, a New Delhi newspaper. Mohan said, however, that he remained hopeful about the negotiations because "neither side can afford failure at this stage."

The Kashmir dispute dates to 1947, when the British quit the subcontinent and gave the rulers of its semi-autonomous states a choice between joining the new nations of India or Pakistan. Although the state formally known as Jammu and Kashmir was -- and remains -- predominantly Muslim, its Hindu maharajah elected to stay with India. Pakistan, which controls a portion of the state, has never recognized his choice.

After local separatists launched their rebellion in 1989, Islamic militants based in Pakistan and supported by that country's military intelligence service joined the fray, causing a sharp escalation in terrorist violence. In response, India has deployed a massive security force of more than 500,000 men.

In some ways, conditions in the state have improved over the last few years. In 2002, Kashmiris elected a new state government in a contest that was generally regarded as fair, although boycotts by separatist groups kept turnout low. Tourists have since returned to the gardens and houseboats of Srinagar, the fabled summer capital, and militant violence has registered a modest decline.

At the same time, Kashmiris say they have been disappointed that the peace process has not yielded other improvements. For example, India has refused requests by moderate separatist leaders to release political prisoners and end offensive combat operations, and a popular proposal to run buses across the cease-fire line that separates Indian and Pakistani forces in Kashmir has stumbled over India's insistence that the bus passengers carry passports.

Moreover, complaints against state security forces have increased from 309 in 1999-2000 to more than 700 in the year that ended Aug. 31, according to the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission. "We tried to tell them that if you address the human rights situation in the [Kashmir] Valley, it will send a message to the people that the government of India is sincere," said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a senior cleric who leads the main moderate faction of Kashmiri separatists. "Unfortunately, nothing of that sort happened."

Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil, whose ministry oversees internal security, said in an interview that "half a dozen big cases don't prove anything" and accused India's critics of overlooking "the human rights of the people who are fighting to protect the lives of innocent people."

Patil reiterated that any talks on Kashmir would take place "within the four walls of the constitution," which describes the region as an integral part of India. But he also said India would talk to Pakistan "unconditionally" about Kashmir and asserted that "many things have been said and done" already to address the concerns of its citizens. He added, however, "I am not expected to give you all the details."

Such claims are viewed with skepticism in Gund Dachina, a bucolic, poplar-shaded village at the edge of terraced rice fields about 30 miles north of Srinagar. Behind the village is a steep forested ridge that is said to be teeming with militants. More visible are the Indian soldiers, several hundred of whom are encamped on the playing fields of a nearby high school. The other day, soldiers in armored vests and heavy steel helmets moved warily through the village on foot, with rifles at the ready. A few miles down the road, locals lined up to display identification cards at one of the army's ubiquitous checkpoints.

As a doctor, Mir enjoys considerable status in the village, where he lives with his wife and three children in a spacious brick house with a garden full of flowers and a Maruti car parked in the driveway. A balding, round-faced man with a reddish beard, he was recently promoted to "block medical officer" of a nearby district, where he supervises 21 government clinics.

After being arrested on Aug. 4, Mir said, he was taken to an interrogation center in Srinagar and accused of giving money to a militant group. Mir acknowledged that he might have done so inadvertently; a few weeks before the arrest, he said, a stranger in a suit and tie dropped by his clinic and asked him to hold a bag of cash for one of Mir's patients. Mir said he thought little of the request at the time but later learned that the patient had been arrested for working with the militants.

"They said, 'You must be a middleman,' " he recalled of his interrogators, whom he identified as members of the Jammu and Kashmir police.

The physical abuse started immediately, he said, when a police officer slapped him twice across the face, rupturing one of his eardrums. Then his interrogators made him strip naked and sit on the floor while electrical current from a hand-cranked generator was applied to his genitals and feet, which were splashed with water for better conductivity. At the same time, he said, two officers placed a wooden stave across his legs, bore down with all their weight and rolled it repeatedly back and forth, opening half-dollar-size wounds on his thighs.

The torture was repeated on the third day of his imprisonment. "I was crying, 'I am diabetic. I am going to lose my legs because of this torture,' " recalled Mir, who takes medication for his condition. "They said, 'Yes, we want you to lose your legs.' "

The officers also beat him on the back and buttocks with a length of tire, he said, and hung him twice from the ceiling by his arms for 10 or 15 minutes at a stretch. The ordeal finally ended on the fourth day, he said, when guards found him unconscious on the floor of his cell. He was taken to Sri Maharaja Pratap Singh Hospital, where a doctor noted bruises and torture marks on his thighs and back, according to a copy of the examination record.

Mir was hospitalized for 12 days. During that time, he said, police dropped the accusations relating to the money transfer and instead charged him with giving a hand grenade to two militants who used it in an attack.

The two were arrested and named Mir in their confession, according to a police charge sheet. Mir said he had never heard of the two men, let alone supplied them with a grenade.

<> Javaid Gillani, the senior superintendent of police in Srinagar, said in an interview that he did not know how Mir was injured but denied security forces were involved. Such allegations, he added, are "generally not true."
* Special correspondent Rama Lakshmi in New Delhi contributed to this report.




A REPORTER TALKS TO THE
RESISTANCE IN IRAQ

BILL MOYERS, Host of NOW!, 3 September 2004:
We turn now to someone who is right there in the reality of Iraq. He's the freelance journalist Phillip Robertson, who was himself held hostage by Iraqi insurgents for one day this past May. For five months now he's been an eyewitness to what's happening there, reporting for Salon.com and TIME Online which last month carried his hair-raising first person account of the battle for Najaf.

Phillip Robertson joins us now via satellite from Baghdad. Welcome to NOW.

PHILLIP ROBERTSON: Thank you very much.

BILL MOYERS: You know, the President last night in his acceptance speech said, quote, "Despite ongoing acts of violence, Iraq now has a strong prime minister, a national council and national elections are scheduled for January." That's an accurate statement is it not?

PHILLIP ROBERTSON: Well, that is an accurate statement up to a point. The question is what do those things mean. The problem with Iraq is that there is no legitimate political structure that people can participate in.

Imagine a country where all the interest groups have weapons. They don't sit down and discuss their problems. If we take a step back from the conflict, what we see is people shooting at each other more or less constantly.

They-- political problems are resolved through violence. Because the country is saturated with weapons. And ordinary people have weapons just to defend their house. It's very easy to form militias in this country. And many people have done so.

Most recently, I've witnessed the siege of Najaf. I spent three days in the shrine with an amazing photojournalist named Thorne Anderson. And in these three days I witnessed-- I witnessed the destruction of a city. And it was heartbreaking. And there's really-- it's very difficult to describe in words.

BILL MOYERS: Exactly what is the United States up against there militarily?

PHILLIP ROBERTSON: The United States is up against, in the case of the Shia insurgency, a very disciplined guerilla army. And they've often been portrayed in the press as a rag tag militia.

The militia is formed of Iraqi locals. But it's-- they actually have a great degree of organization. But they don't-- what they don't have is the sophisticated weapons that the Americans do. They're tremendously motivated. And they are not afraid of getting killed in battle. And I saw a great deal of that happening in Najaf and also Sadr City.

BILL MOYERS: This is guerilla warfare in an urban, almost block to block kind of situation?

PHILLIP ROBERTSON: They have in the past fought block to block. Many of these guys I spoke to said they were defending their houses and that they were fighting for Islam. These are very, very deep emotional connections for the resistance.

BILL MOYERS: Give me your personal impressions, Phillip, of what attitudes toward Americans are there.

PHILLIP ROBERTSON: Many American reporters that I know cannot admit their nationality. Most people usually say that they are from a neighboring country like Canada, possibly even Ireland. To admit American nationality is to essentially rule out any possibility of trust.

Most reporters now, if they hold U.S. citizenship don't carry their passports with them. To carry evidence of U.S. nationality is a possible death sentence. And I say that without exaggeration.

I'm not carrying my passport with me now. My press ID comes from Britain.

I think we're all very unsettled and nervous about it. And we also have to balance that with the desire to go out and continue working and talking to people. Because if we're not talking to Iraqi people, we're not really doing our jobs.

BILL MOYERS: President Bush says that the fighting in Iraq is helping to reduce terrorism in the world. How do you see it?

PHILLIP ROBERTSON: The war in Iraq is training people to fight. Men, young men, are learning to use Kalashnikovs, and RPGs against American forces.

They will continue to do that. They're not getting worse at it. They're getting better at it. They're causing a great deal of destruction.

People are coming across the borders. There are foreign fighters here. Not a tremendous amount. But there are people being trained in this war.

BILL MOYERS: The last time you talked to any insurgents, what do they tell you?

PHILLIP ROBERTSON: The insurgents say different things. There's a range of people that are participating in the resistance movement. I found that fascinating. The cell leaders, at least in the case of the Mahdi Army, the supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, those guys were college educated. They'd all been to university. I was surprised.

I'd read news reports that said that they were just poor people. They were bandits. Many of them were drug addicts. It's not the case. The cell leaders have college educations. And they have that in common with their US their US enemies.

But many of the guys spoke very personally about the need to defend their country, and their houses. There were things that we could understand if we-- we'd been invaded.

I don't support everything that they do. But I could certainly understand what they meant when they said they had to defend their houses, block by block.

BILL MOYERS: When you talk to the people caught in the middle, the innocents in this war, the women, the old men, whom do they blame for their travail?

PHILLIP ROBERTSON: It's such a fractured polity. It depends on who you ask. Many people in Najaf blamed the Mahdi Army. They did not have a great deal of support. And the fact that they chose that city to fight in reduced it to rubble.

So, they did not-- there were many angry civilians in Najaf who just felt that they'd lost their city. And their city had been martyred and held hostage by the insurgents. Not everybody feels that way, though. Some people blame the Americans.

The Americans do not have a great deal of political support, especially after Abu-Ghraib. That was a watershed moment. Those photographs can never be undone.

BILL MOYERS: How long do you plan to stay there?

PHILLIP ROBERTSON: Well, I think I may take a break for a little while. But I'll come back. I'll come back probably in a few weeks.

BILL MOYERS: Why?

PHILLIP ROBERTSON: I think it's important. I think this is such an important story, especially now with tremendous political pressure on the administration to resolve insurgencies in Iraq. That's, I think responsible for a great deal of the fighting.

There's political pressure on both sides to continue the war. And I think it's necessary for journalists, independent journalists to cover this as best they can. And I would like to stay, and be a witness.

BILL MOYERS: We thank you very much, Phillip Robertson, for joining us on, NOW. And take care yourself.

PHILLIP ROBERTSON: Thank you. It was a real pleasure.


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