March 7, 2012

The Butchers’ Ball: Dancing with NATO, Gaddafi, Assad & Jesus

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 1:17 pm

Poor Muammar Gaddafi. That man was an idiot and deserved what he got. Why? Because Gaddafi had put all his eggs in one basket — and actually believed that the use of extreme violence would always win in the end. The man had learned NOTHING from history.

Historically, the use of violence has only and always led to the constantly-escalating use of even more violence, more killing and more money being spent on guns instead of butter — resulting in a severely down-graded “homeland,” with more decayed infrastructure, more uneducated school children, more rotting teeth, more unhappy citizens, less security and, eventually, the decline of civilization as we know it.

Whenever your average citizen sees his or her nation’s leaders regularly spending over a million dollars just on the purchase of only one tank — while the citizens themselves get no benefits from said violence except for crumbling schools, no jobs and no dental plans? Then these people eventually do tend to get rather pissed off. Plus isn’t it committing a big sin to kill?

As one Sudanese general — who killed thousands in southern Sudan so he could willingly hand over his country’s oil properties to Pappy Bush — once said, “The best way to catch a fish is to drain the pond.” Fine. So then you drain it and you catch a few fish. But now that pond is totally gone forever and no more fish will ever grow there again. Ever.

And now even individual American cities are buying tanks instead of keeping their infrastructures safe and their schools open. Is this really the best use of our funds? In the long run, violence is never the best solution to problems. Jesus was right after all.

Gaddafi obviously didn’t properly consider the possibility that violence will always lead to more violence — until nothing is left. And now Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is also neglecting that simple equation as well. Apparently Assad learned nothing from Gaddafi’s tragic end. And apparently America, Britain, Israel, Saudi Arabia and NATO haven’t learned anything from it either. The escalation of violence always eventually brings down the man behind the gun. Always. It may take years, decades or perhaps even centuries. But that’s what always eventually happens.

That’s why we have presidents in Washington now and not Caesars.

Scottish journalist David Pratt just wrote a very interesting first-hand report about the rebellion against Assad in Syria,, and guess what? Those rebels are totally pissed off at Assad. According to Pratt, one rebel told him that, “I will keep fighting until we win or I am dead. If Assad steps down and offers free and fair elections, then I would happily put down my gun.”

So Assad is now falling exactly into the same trap that Gaddafi fell into — by butchering dissenters and fueling the flames of violence. Get a clue, Assad! Hold the freaking elections!

PS: America and NATO have no more business escalating violence in Syria than Assad has. They seem to be acting like idiots too. And it’s also idiotic for the corporate Goliahs who currently control Washington to escalate violence against their own dissenting American citizens as well. However, that’s a whole other story — but one that will eventually end badly too. Just ask Gaddafi. Or Jesus. Or the last Roman emperor.

PPS: According to British journalist Ziauddin Sardar, Bashar al-Assad, like Saddam Hussein before him, thinks like a Ba’athist — and Ba’athists basically believe in the establishment of an elite upper class that practices socialism for the rich and welfare for the wealthy. Sound familiar? Sound a lot like the corporate dudes who are now running Washington DC? American Ba’athists. Saddam would be so proud of us.

January 9, 2012

A war on Iran? Let’s do it!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 3:18 pm

[Author's note: For the wiser of us, this article may appear to be a satire but for the rest of us, a war on Iran might actually seem more like a macho wet-dream come true -- once again confirming Plato's most excellent cave theory...]

Let’s put our money where our mouth is, stop constantly blathering on about how desperately we want to launch a war on Iran — and just do it. I’m bored with life anyway — and there’s really not much else going on between now and when the next season of “Survivor” starts up.

Almost all of the Republican presidential candidates this year seem to be rabidly in favor of a war on Iran (except, of course, for Ron Paul — but he’s never given any media airtime so he doesn’t count). So let’s vote for Romney or Gingrich or Santorum or that GOP wannabe Obama or Perry or whoever. I’m tired of just playing video-game wars and watching war movies. I want to see the real thing. Again.

Republicans, GOP wannabes and their corporatist buddies on Wall Street already have an excellent “make-a-war” track record. They’ve already gotten us into that bloody, expensive and deadly war on Iraq, that terrible, unnecessary and grisly war on Afghanistan, and that truly weird war on Libya wherein Al Qaeda was actually our ally.

When it comes to starting exciting-but-disastrous wars, Republicans and corporatists have turned out to be real pros. So, pretty pleeze, give these cool-crazy dudes yet another shot at getting us into yet another meaningless, expensive and bloody war — this time a war on Iran. I can hardly wait! How exciting is that!

Do you ever watch TrueBlood on TV? And don’tcha just love it when they stage their vampire wars? Lots of carnage, lots of blood. Very entertaining. But a war on Iran would be even better — another American vampire war on the Middle East, only ours are fought with real blood.

Go ahead, guys. Get this war started. Entertain me.

And when things go awry like they always do during wartime, then you and me will probably be dead too — when corporatist vampires start sucking blood from us as well as from Arabs and Persians. Go ahead, bite me!

Can’t you just hardly wait for this next war to start?

And it looks like we’re not gonna have to wait very long either.

According to WhiteOut Press, “In one of the most blacked-out stories in America right now, the US military is preparing to send thousands of US troops, along with US Naval anti-missile ships and accompanying support personnel, to Israel.” U.S. boots on the ground in Israel? What? Now all of a sudden the IDF isn’t good enough for Ehud Barak and he wants our boys over there too?

But why?

The poor enslaved Palestinians have already been subjugated and subdued by the IDF to the point of embarrassment (it’s getting harder and harder these days for Israeli corporatists to pretend that Israel is in danger — or even a democracy or even barely Jewish), so obviously our troops won’t be needed to enslave more Palestinians or steal more of their land. That’s already a done deal. So perhaps this sudden need for U.S. missiles and U.S. troops on the ground indicates that our Ehud might want Washington’s help in enslaving and subduing Iran as well — turning it into yet another open-air prison like Gaza.

According to Israeli journalist Uri Avnery, however, that’s never going to happen and we’re all gonna end up with a swamp of a war instead because if America and Israel do attack, then Iran will simply block the Strait of Hormuz — and there’s not much that even American vampires can do about that.

“Still the Iranian missiles will come in,” writes Avnery, “making passage through the strait impossible. What next? There will be no alternative to ‘boots on the ground’. The US army will have to land on the shore and occupy all the territory from which missiles can be effectively launched. That would be a major operation. Fierce Iranian resistance must be expected, judging from the experience of the eight-year Iraqi-Iranian war. The oil wells in neighboring Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states will also be hit. Such a war would go far beyond the dimensions of the American invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan, perhaps even of Vietnam.”

Yay! Bring it on!

According to Middle East expert David Pratt, “Some European countries, notably France, seem keen to fall in behind Washington’s sanctions bill signed by President Barack Obama on December 31. Earlier this week French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe urged EU countries to follow the US lead in freezing Iranian bank assets and imposing an embargo on oil exports.”

Oh goody! Now Europe wants to get in on the action too! Now we’ll all die for sure as the war on Iran begins to expand and sweep across the rest of the Middle East, Israel AND Europe — and then possibly on to America as well, probably leaving only those One Percent guys alive in their bunkers and in a good position to snatch up whatever pieces of prime real estate that are still left standing.

And I’ll have my own piece of prime real estate too — the plot next to my parents at Skylawn. Face it, guys. I always wanted to be a zombie — and here’s my big chance! Grateful dead, move on over.

“But Jane,” you might ask, “why are you being so pessimistic? All those experts are wrong and the Repubs are right. America can easily win a war on Iran.” Nope, nope, nope. Iran is not just some camel-driven economy that is barely out of the stone age. Tehran is as civilized as Paris or Rome. I’ve been there, I’ve seen the place. It’s got the internet and traffic gridlock and everything. It’s even got Gucci, Benneton and Calvin Klein!

Iran also has at least 20 submarines and all kinds of missiles. Should America or Israel attack Iran, there would definitely be a hot time in the old town tonight. And not just in Tehran — but also in Tel Aviv, Paris, London and perhaps even Washington DC as well. Get out the marshmallows, folks! This war will definitely heat up. We’re good to go.

According to Global Research at, “The Iranian defense has the capability to sink not one, but many US Naval ships currently flexing their muscles on the periphery of Iranian territorial waters. Such an event would register with shock and horror in the US public mind, but worse, may be used by Washington hawks to justify a revenge nuclear strike against Iranian civilians. Both Washington and Tel Aviv have already raised the talking point of deploying ‘tactical nukes’ against Iran….

“Any nuclear conflagration by the US or Israel would most certainly result in a global backlash against the West – at its worst acting as a procession into the hot stages of World War III – or at its very least, re-balkanizing the geopolitical scene into a New Cold War, with the West on one side and Iran, China, Pakistan, and Russia on the other.”

Barbeque time? Oh yeah. We might even end up being able to roast hot dogs 24/7 almost anywhere in the world — or be dead.

PS: I recently saw a really excellent movie (here’s a review of it: about Freud and Jung and Jung’s mistress, Kiera Knightly — and they all got together and talked about Eros and Thanatos and the human mind’s bizarre attraction to death. Hey, I’m attracted to death too! Death is sexy as hell. But I’m obviously not the only one that is attracted to death. Apparently our so-called leaders in Washington are too.

Love or Death? “TrueBlood” or “Survivor”? I’m sort of kinky that way — bored of living — so I think that I’ll go with TrueBlood.

Which one will you chose?


December 18, 2011

World-wide, women are in trouble: “First they came for our daughters, then they…”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 3:40 pm

I was just told by my dentist that I need three cavities filled, two teeth crowned and two root canals. We’re talking at least $10,000 here, probably more. But who has that kind of money these days? Looks like pretty soon I’m going to have to go toothless. But I won’t be alone. 99% of the rest of America may be facing toothlessness too. What an ugly country we will become — nothing but gums.

Also, I pretty much can’t afford to travel any more, but that’s okay. Scottish journalist David Pratt now does most of my traveling for me — and sends his reports from all corners of the world back to the Glasgow Sunday Herald, which then forwards them to me.

Pratt’s latest report is from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, where women and children live in such unbelievable poverty that even I can’t believe it. As part of a series entitled “Women of the World’s Worst Slums,” Pratt spells it all out for us.

“I wanted to find out for myself what it’s like for the women here who lead a life of fear, unremitting toil, and who worry constantly over the disease and hunger that stalks their children. In the back alleyways of [Nairobi's two largest] slums I was to meet four such women, young and not so young. What follows is a glimpse into their hopes, fears and above all fight for survival in the heart of this human abyss.”

The first woman that Pratt interviewed was 21-year-old Purity Atieno, who lives in little more than a wooden crate, in a neighborhood flooded with human feces, sewage and rats. Hardly out of her teens, Purity is already the mother of three sons. Pratt didn’t actually comment on whether or not Purity’s babies were a result of her having to sell her body in order to buy food, or of the constant rapes perpetrated against women here night and day — but he did state that she constantly had to deal with the rapists who prowled through her community each night.

Next, Juan Gonzalez of “Democracy Now” interviewed Yanar Mohammed from Baghdad, who informed us that Iraq is currently one big hot mess as a result of Junior’s stupid and unnecessary war. “And the biggest loser out of all of this are the women…. At a women’s organization, we daily meet women who are vulnerable to being bought and sold in the flesh market. We see widows who have no source of income, and nobody to get them IDs for themselves and their children, because they have been internally displaced. So poverty and discrimination against women has become the norm.”

She then goes on to state that there is now a whole generation of women in Iraq who are totally illiterate — as compared to all the many female college graduates there under Saddam Hussein.

And then there’s the good old USA. I don’t have to travel widely here at all — because I can see what is happening to women in America just by traveling to nearby homeless encampments. And a lot of women at the encampments are toothless too, just like I’m going to be soon.

And if Republicans have their way, American women will also be hungry, illiterate, jobless, barefoot and pregnant as well.

But as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Isn’t it time that freedom’s arc started bending toward justice for women too?

No, ladies, that arc is never gonna bend toward us voluntarily. If we ever want that to happen, we alone are gonna have to stop the killing, stop the raping, stop the war machine and stop the war-on-women all by ourselves.

And to paraphrase a famous cautionary quote about Nazis, “First they came for our daughters — and I did nothing. Then they came for the crones and then they came for all women. And I did nothing. And now there is no one left to reproduce the human race.” Too bad for you.

PS: So how, exactly, will we women — never outnumbered but always out-gunned — still manage to fight back? Perhaps by copying guerrilla tactics used recently by Occupy Portland: Retreat and advance like the wind, don’t ever let them pin us down — and do it all to music, especially rock and roll.

PPS: Forget what I just said. If we women ever do start to fight back against injustice, then every woman on the planet will be instantly labeled a terrorist — not to mention being charged with committing “economic violence,” whatever that is.


October 30, 2010

Jane & Mena’s big adventure: Our recent visit to Hello Kitty!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 2:30 pm

Sometimes you just gotta take a break from observing the ever-present world stage of human tragedy and go out and have fun! So last week me and my two-year-old granddaughter Mena went over to San Francisco to see Hello Kitty celebrate her 50th birthday. According to a recent 7-Live newscast, this event was to take place on Justin Herman Plaza at 1 pm, and consisted of a mobile Hello Kitty store, some free gift bags and an opportunity to get your photo taken with Hello Kitty herself!

So we popped onto the BART train and took off.

Was the event crowded? Yes it was. We got there two hours early and there were already at least 200 people standing in line. One woman said that she had left her house that morning at 6 am so that she would be sure to get a gift bag. And everyone there was a huge Hello Kitty fan!

Demographics? Most of the fans there were adults — many of whom have loved Hello Kitty since childhood. And why not — what’s not to love? Guilty pleasure — I love Hello Kitty too. Many Japanese-Americans and Japanese turned out for the event. And most fans were women. Me too. And so was Hello Kitty!

The prices of things for sale at the mobile store were a bit on the expensive side. A commemorative T-shirt was $35, a small plastic coin purse was $12. Small stuffed animals were $28. Plus it took forever to get waited on.

However, a good time was had by all and we made lots of instant friends while waiting in line to get our photos taken with Miss Kitty. “But what about the gift bags?” you might ask. Only 50 of them were given out, plus they gave the first 50 arrivals a number (written on their hands) so that there would be no cutting in line. Rats. But I did get a sneak peek at the gift bags even though we had arrived too late to actually score, and they contained stickers, a note pad, a pencil and a small coin purse. I want one!

The Hello Kitty “Small Gifts” 50th-birthday mobile tour was a really fun event, mostly because of all the enthusiastic fans that we met — but also because we got to actually get our photos taken with a real, life-sized Hello Kitty. And she even patted young Mena on the head.

Moral of the story? Even a hardened reporter like myself can still succumb to “cute” — and that advertisers and promoters still have us where they want us.

PS: Mena went as a witch for Halloween this year — which reminds me of all the female Tea Party candidates who have been circling like sharks churning the waters during this election cycle: Sarah Palin, Meg Whitman, Christine O’Donnell, Carly Fiorina, Michelle Bachmann, etc. Remember back in the day when we women would have been honored and pleased to have so many female candidates running for federal office? I surely don’t feel that way now.

PPS: Speaking of honor, Glasgow Sunday Herald war correspondent David Pratt has just written a very moving article entitled “There is never an argument to defend the use of torture”. Pratt himself was tortured when he was reporting from Bosnia back in 1995.

“The gunmen who took me prisoner claimed to be Croatian militiamen, but were, in reality, little more than thugs and gangsters,” wrote Pratt. “During my short captivity, along with other civilian prisoners, I was bound and beaten with rifle butts before being singled out one night to be shot. To this day, I’ve never really been able to figure out what then followed – a mock execution or simply a case of my captors, who were drunk at this point – making a cock-up of trying to kill me.

“The last I remember of that night, was kneeling with my hands tied behind my back looking down into a ditch where others lay twisted and lifeless. Then there was the sound of a pistol being cocked before being put to the back of my head. A second later, there was an empty click and some mocking laughter before a thump on the back of my neck sent me to oblivion into the ditch where I later regained consciousness lying alone among a heap of bodies.”

The point that Pratt goes on to make is this: “At the end of the day, real democracies don’t do torture. In today’s war on terror, far from being a necessary evil, torture is plain evil: a morally reprehensible act that is in itself is a form of terrorism.

“No matter how much we try to justify it as a means to an end, in fighting today’s war on terror, it simply can never be so. Those states that advocate its use are little better than those morally bankrupt thugs at whose hands I, along with countless others, suffered in Bosnia all those years ago.

“As the French Algerian author, Albert Camus, eloquently put it: ‘Torture has perhaps saved some, at the expense of honor…even when accepted in the interest of realism and efficacy, such a flouting of honor serves no purpose but to degrade our country in her own eyes and abroad.’”


September 17, 2010

My year of living Americanly: Mt. Rushmore

I used to think that if only I could go off to all the hot-spots in the world where American troops or “advisers” are stationed, then I would be able to understand American imperialism better and thus be in a better position to explain to my fellow Americans that, despite all its glittery promises and John-Wayne-style bravado, American imperialism is essentially a BAD thing — one that will come back to bite them in the [bottom].

But after spending many years going to places like Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Myanmar and sub-Saharan Africa, I have finally come to realize that perhaps it is even more important to trace all these imperial catastrophes back to their actual source — the Americans who stand by, do nothing and allow all this [dookie] to happen in the first place.

So I set out to explore and discover the belly of the beast itself — America. Whew! That’s a very big job.

Of course we all know that the real heart of America is in Branson, Missouri, but I haven’t been able to afford getting there yet. But I did go to Detroit, Michigan — and was totally impressed by the courage its residents are showing as they try to pull themselves back from the brink of economic disaster. You can almost hear the sucking sound there — as the wealth of cities like Detroit gets vacuumed away to desolate places like Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan, and into the bank vaults of Wall Street.

And my main memory of Las Vegas was of its poor sweet over-worked cocktail waitresses — trying to look sexy when they have sore feet, hungry children at home and almost no chance of seeing sunshine except on their day off.

Then I went to Disneyland. Can’t get much more American than that. And in October I’m going to Boucher-con, the famous mystery writers’ and fans’ convention in San Francisco. And I also went up to Clear Lake last month — which isn’t clear any more. Nothing but algae. And I worked as a volunteer film extra in a bunch of Bay Area movies. That’s American too.

And now I’m going off to Mt. Rushmore. How American is that!

(Later — much later): Now I’m here at Mt. Rushmore — after having gotten lost at the San Francisco airport and having almost missed my plane to Rapid City. But I’m here now. And it was worth it. Mt. Rushmore is awesome. It is HUGE. And you just gotta love the Black Hills.

I also saw a monument to Chief Crazy Horse today. It’s about 20 miles away from Mt. Rushmore — but it’s even bigger yet. Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt AND Lincoln could easily fit onto just the side of Crazy Horse’s head. The largest sculpture in the world, it’s been a work in progress for the last 62 years and they figure it will take another 60 years to finish it. When completed, however, it will take up the space of a whole mountain.

“Where is your land now?” someone had jeered at Chief Crazy Horse after he had fought and then surrendered because his people were being killed by the U.S. military and because the buffalo they needed to live on were also being slaughtered by the occupying forces in order to starve the tribes into submission. Crazy Horse had begun resisting the U.S. military occupation only after he had been given no other choice.

And Crazy Horse answered, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”

PS: Speaking of the Afghan money pit and where dead people lie buried, Scottish journalist David Pratt has just written another article about Afghanistan that I think is essential to read if you want to have ANY concept of what’s going on over there right now.

Bush, Cheney, Obama and Petraeus, please take note — especially of the article’s last sentence. “The third message came from an old Russian friend and former intelligence officer in the Soviet army who served in Afghanistan in the 1980s and who now works as a security adviser there. It read: “It’s like the rerun of an old movie for me, the same blunders, the same tactical mistakes … but at least we knew when it was time to get out.”

Here’s the article in its entirety, with Pratt’s kind permission (as originally printed in the Glasgow Sunday Herald):

Now civil war looms for the lost cause that is Afghanistan:

We are losing the war in Afghanistan. It’s as simple as that. If I were a Taliban or insurgency commander right now, I’d feel pretty upbeat about the way things are going. While you’d be hard pressed to notice it – given all the papal hullabaloo – Afghanistan faces a crucial parliamentary election tomorrow.

This time around there has been nothing like the political fanfare emanating from Kabul, Washington and London, as happened previously when we were told Afghanistan was taking its first tentative steps towards democracy. The reasons are simple. First, the election will be riddled with fraud and corruption. Secondly, the Taliban will show once again it can strike with comparative impunity. And, thirdly, those international bodies, such as the United Nations, tasked with helping Afghans realise what free and fair elections actually mean have bottled it and bolted.

Sound familiar? It should, given that this time last year we faced much the same situation with the presidential vote. The significant difference on this occasion, however, is that everyone is keeping their political heads beneath the parapet in the certain knowledge that once again we will fail to deliver for the Afghan people and no-one wants to be blamed.

Every day in the news from Afghanistan, in the comments from our military commanders and the evasive doublespeak of our political leaders on troop drawdown and withdrawal, you sense the tide is changing. And all the time the Taliban are gaining at every turn. Indeed, the evidence on the ground already shows that, far from being on the back foot, the insurgents are advancing and holding territory in provinces such as Wardak and infiltrating the north of the country in places like Kunduz and Badakshan, turning what until now have been comparatively subdued regions into resurgent battlefronts. In all, it seems a case of one step forward and two back.

Today, it’s not so much a sense of mission creep as a creeping sense that the mission is lost. Take tomorrow’s election as a single example. In the aftermath of last year’s presidential vote, as many as 1.2 million votes were said to be illegal.

In its wake, the UN and others swore they would do better next time. Yet, according to Johann Kriegler, one of only two foreigners on Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission, over the next few days we can expect pretty much the same, if not more, widespread ballot rigging and intimidation than before.

And where do we find the UN precisely at the moment we need it most? Heading for the hills. Well, not the hills exactly, given that they’re full of Taliban, more a case of over the hills and far away. Throughout the past week or so, the UN has evacuated what it deems as non-essential staff for fear they might be in harm’s way from Taliban violence during the elections. In all, that’s about one-third of its entire international workforce in Afghanistan. Or, to use UN speak, a “reduction in its footprint”.

“We are going to be particularly careful as the Taliban have announced they will attack anyone involved in this election and we are very much involved,” explained Staffan de Mistura, the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan. Really? Well, perhaps you’re not quite involved enough, Mr de Mistura. Why is it every time we put the Afghan people through the rigours of the democratic process, instead of standing its ground, the UN sticks to its wimpish last in, first out approach that has characterised so many of its international missions?

To be fair, though, the UN is not alone in bending to Taliban intimidation: many other international election monitoring groups have also given up on full “observation” missions, rendering tomorrow’s ballot next to useless. This is bad news at a time when, more than ever, ordinary Afghans need reassurance.

That said, many already sense we have all but thrown in the towel and are doing nothing more than going through the motions of leaving without losing face. While in the country last month, almost every Afghan I spoke with, from Badakshan in the north, to the capital, Kabul, was desperately pessimistic about the future.

Already people across the country have picked up on our own faltering sense of political purpose, and are psychologically steeling themselves for what is almost universally accepted as the coming civil war once we’ve packed our kit bags and left. And we’re not simply talking about the Taliban here.

Around Kabul’s more “fashionable” neighbourhoods, extravagant new houses built on the enormous profits of the illegal drug trade are testimony to the financial and political power of war lords who run private militias and “security companies”. It is these often bitter rivals, not just the Taliban, that ordinary Afghans believe will plunge them back to the dark days of the 1990s when civil war laid waste to much of Kabul and paved the way for the rise of the Islamic extremists.

Having been there many times during those anarchic years, listening to Afghans today draw parallels with those times, I well appreciate their fears.

Speaking earlier this week about tomorrow’s election, Major General Nick Carter, who commands NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, described Kandahar as resembling Moscow in the 1990s, with “mobs, mafia and protection rackets” running madrassas, boarding houses and private security companies.

General Carter has every reason to be worried, given that it’s probably fair to say much of the country, whether under government or Taliban control, is threatened by a similar incendiary brew.

They say that the devil is in the detail. If that’s true, then perhaps the detail in three email messages I received over the course of the past few weeks gives some intimate sense of the prevailing attitudes to the war in Afghanistan and where the country might be going in the future.

The first was from a US Army helicopter ambulance pilot, whose unit I spent time with in the country. As his deployment comes to an end, he told me of the physical and emotional toll the war has taken on him and his comrades, and how much he now just wanted to go home and never see Afghanistan again. The second email was from a young Afghan woman, who described how men with guns – not Taliban – are terrorising the neighbourhood in Kabul where she lives.

The third message came from an old Russian friend and former intelligence officer in the Soviet army who served in Afghanistan in the 1980s and who now works as a security adviser there. It read: “It’s like the rerun of an old movie for me, the same blunders, the same tactical mistakes … but at least we knew when it was time to get out.”


August 26, 2010

David Pratt: The role of heroin in sustaining the Afghan “war”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:19 am

I just got an e-mail from Scottish journalist David Pratt, asking me to please let people know about the insidious effects of heroin on Afghanistan — and on Scotland. Of course I will. The two articles that Pratt wrote on this subject offer huge new insights into why the Bush-Obama “war” in Afghanistan is still going on after nine long bloody years of both physical pain and financial disaster for both Afghanistan and the United States (not to mention Scotland).

I first met Pratt when we were both embedded in the Green Zone in Iraq in 2007, and it was love at first sight — I immediately fell in love with his writing style, his knowledge and his willingness to go WAY out on a limb in order to get an accurate story. He has spent the last 30 years as a war correspondent for Glasgow’s Sunday Herald, and his book “Intifada: The Long Day of Rage” is the ultimate eye-witness report on “The Troubles” in Palestine.

Pratt is a fabulous reporter and if he says that poppy cultivation and heroin sales are not only financing the Taliban’s weapon supply in Afghanistan right now but also has become its current favorite way of screwing up the U.S. occupation by destabilizing the government in Kabul, then I know that information is spot-on.

According to Pratt, one American drug-control adviser in Kabul stated categorically that, “Once the Taliban realized that narcotic control was a major goal of the international coalition and Afghan government, they OK’d it to the farmers to grow poppy because they know it destabilizes the government. That’s also the reason why we’re seeing even more opium and heroin production.”

These are the kind of insightful articles that make other journalists (including myself) drool with envy. I wish that I could have written that!

According to another Pratt source, Dr. Zemoray Amin of Doctors of the World, “cheapness and easy availability of drugs, joblessness, displacement and, above all, the effects of the war are the main reasons for heroin’s escalating impact in Afghanistan. But …there is another, even more worrying root cause. It stems from the widespread corruption among those within the top tier of the Afghan establishment, and complicity by the international community in ignoring that crookedness in exchange for political allegiance and strategical leverage in the fight against the Taliban.”

Gen. Petraeus might be better off spending his time fighting poppy growing rather than fighting small-time villagers who are caught between a rock and a hard place regarding the Taliban.

Here’s the rest of Pratt’s article, entitled “Trail of Destruction”:

Next, Pratt takes on the other end of the poppy chain — heroin in Scotland. Entitled “Made in Kabul — shot up in Glasgow,” This report is also grim. Drug addicts are now dying in Scotland in large numbers, thanks to Scottish soldiers who die in Afghanistan so that the drug trade there can continue to grow and prosper.

Here’s a quote: “Jawad was left for dead in a ditch. Stephen was found overdosed in a doorway. Though more than 3000 miles separate Kabul’s Karte Seh district and Glasgow’s Gorbals, the lives of these two men are inextricably linked by one thing: heroin. In the space of little over a month on opposite sides of the world, I listened to both tell of a hellish journey each had taken while trapped in the grip of a powerful and terrifying addiction.

“Jawad is no stranger to pain – in Kabul’s drug institutions, the methods used to detox heroin addicts come from the Middle Ages. Head shaved and stripped naked, on numerous occasions he has been locked in a cell and hosed down with freezing water. But it was the night when some policemen started beating Jawad that the agony became so great he found himself begging them to stop.”

Read the rest of this article at

If I don’t have the talent, insights, opportunity and/or knowledge to write important articles like these two, at least I’m glad to know that someone like Pratt is out there writing them for us — and it my pleasure to pass them on even though it makes me sad to know that the information they contain is verifiablely true.

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