news reports that said that they were just poor people.
bandits. Many of them were drug addicts.
the case. The cell
leaders have college educations.
have that in common with
their US enemies...
in Iraq is training people to fight. Men, young
learning to use Kalashnikovs, and RPGs against
forces. They will continue to do that. They're
getting worse at
it. They're getting better at it....
Many of the guys spoke very personally about
to defend their country, and their houses. There
things that we could understand if we'd been
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
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
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
Against Indian Security Forces Rise
By John Lancaster
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
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
"They were not allowing me to cry because they were putting a
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
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
The continuing abuses, coupled with recent statements by
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
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
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
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
After local separatists launched their rebellion in 1989,
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
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
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
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
Patil reiterated that any talks on Kashmir would take place
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
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
As a doctor, Mir enjoys considerable status in the village,
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
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
The physical abuse started immediately, he said, when a
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
The torture was repeated on the third day of his imprisonment.
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
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,
dropped the accusations relating to the money transfer and instead
charged him with giving a hand grenade to two militants who used it in
The two were arrested and named Mir in their confession,
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
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.
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
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?
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?
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
BILL MOYERS: Give me your personal impressions,
Phillip, of what attitudes toward Americans are there.
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
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?
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
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?
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.
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
BILL MOYERS: Why?
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
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.