By M M Zuhair
Former US President George Bush’s and then British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s post 9/11 ‘War on Terror’ cannot go on, without resuscitating the dying ISIS and Al-Qaida. It is these ‘terror outfits’ created and fostered primarily by the US, that give questionable legitimacy for the US, Britain and the NATO to invade and occupy third world countries.
A video clip in You-tube, Twitter and Facebook shows defeated 2008 US presidential candidate the late John McCain meeting with ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in the US, in 2013, before Baghdadi launched his terror attacks in 2014. The video clip remains uncontradicted. US Senator Rand Paul had said the main aim of the terror organisation was toppling Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. In September 2014, General Thomas McInerney told Fox news that the US helped build ISIS. Al Baghdadi was reportedly with the US armed forces from 2016 to 2018 in a military base in Iraq. Until his death in 2019, Baghdadi continued to speak for the ISIS.
The role of the US in transforming Saudi engineer Osama bin Laden as the Goliath of Al Qaeda responsible for 9/11 is well known. The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was said to be to capture bin Laden claimed to be in hiding in Afghanistan. In 2011 the US inexplicably did not want to capture bin Laden in Pakistan and gather vital intelligence from the man whom the world was told was the supreme master mind of the terror outfit Al Qaeda. He was not captured but deliberately killed in Pakistan by US marines while the US President Obama and aides watched the execution of Osama from Washington via a special link. The US disinclination to gather intelligence of how bin Laden ran his destructive terror network and that, too, without using the internet or the mobile phone, gave the impression that this guy was bloated out of proportion by the US to justify foreign invasions. But then the war on Afghanistan continued, notwithstanding the elimination of bin Laden, for another 10 years with no convincing reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan!
The US defeat and exit from Afghanistan on August 15 must be critically watched in Sri Lanka from the perspective of the undaunted military might of the US-NATO combine seeking its next proxy war with China in our region, targeting South Asia. We need to watch which country in South Asia might get selected by the empire for the proxy war with China. However, what are some misguided long lost politicians and certain spokesmen for the Western arms industry as well as a few genuinely misguided persons, talking about? They talk of the Afghan Talibans spreading their terrorist tentacles in our neighbourhood! If that is true such attempts must not only be condemned but also be effectively prevented. But we need to remember that the Talibans have enough extremely serious economic woes, arising from 43 years of wars, to be sorted out in Afghanistan. They have damning security and economic issues that will likely cripple the country. The Taliban have no time for adventures outside their country! Indeed, there is no proof of any such Taliban or Afghan activity outside of Afghanistan, except links with Pakistan and peace talks in Qatar!
On the contrary, those spreading news of the Taliban militants becoming a threat to other countries in the region are preposterously preparing the ground, perhaps unwittingly, for legitimising the US-NATO military adventure in our region. They may be sowing the seeds, inspired by arms manufacturers! The time has come for Sri Lankans to know briefly at least, some aspects of what really happened in Afghanistan during the 20 year US rule and what would be the plight of people in our region, when and not ‘if’ the US-NATO go ahead with war mongering in our region.
The US and NATO countries designated the Taliban as ‘terrorists’. By what standard of definition do a people who resist foreign invaders become terrorists? Of course, the Taliban set up a ruthless machinery to meet the external challenge. They won over the Soviets in 1989 and the multinational Western forces by August 2021. They won, not because they were terrorists but because they had no choice but to defend their land from the enemy and, more importantly their way of life. Of course, some may not agree with the life style of the Veddas, the Red Indians, the aborigines or the Taliban! But this does not mean we support the Taliban. If we put ourselves into a possible parallel situation of the US armed forces entering Sri Lanka forcibly, as they did in Iraq and many other countries, every Sri Lankan, excluding fifth columnists, will fight the American forces to their last drop of blood. Because we fight invaders with our hands, knives, swords, axes, bows and arrows, petrol bombs and AK 47s, do we become terrorists?
Western journalists today are virtually at war to frighten the world that ‘Taliban terrorists’ together with ISIS remnants are the greatest threats to peace in the rest of Asia! They will tell peace loving Asians that those who fought the multiple foreign armed forces who came to Kabul for the laudable purpose of educating and employing Afghan women were all barbaric terrorists! They will not say, that the Talibans, successors of the Mujahideens whom the West glorified as freedom fighters were also by the same yard stick freedom fighters!
They will not tell the world that if the US, the UK and NATO stopped the unceasing wars on other countries, the ISIS and the Al-Qaida, virtually dead, could now be buried! How could they? They can leave the Afghans and the girls to the wolves as they themselves have portrayed, but will never ever abandon their own powerful merchants of war, who alone won the Afghan war, with their factories working two shifts for the past 20 years!
It was only the other day that Pope Francis, in his most welcome Easter message of 3rd April 2021 slammed these powers for spending on military adventures at a time of grave pandemic! Unfortunately, the US military –industrial complex will not listen to the Vatican. The unfortunate weakening of the faith amongst the flock has regrettably emboldened the arms industry to forget accountability and beat the war drums across the world, except North America and Europe! They put back the clock to destructive levels in every country they marched in, at least by three decades.
We need to know, for our own sake, what happened to our neighbour-Afghanistan.
Let us get to a briefing of the US governance of the Afghans from Americans themselves! International media coverage of the fall of Afghanistan, demonstrates unequivocally the struggle of Western journalists and op-ed columnists to veil the world of the ‘failed’ imperial invasions by continuously focusing on the ‘future plight of the Afghan women and girls’ whom these powers abandoned on the dangerous street overnight!
Fortunately, not all Western journalists are cribbing for their copper. Some amongst them have exposed the lies and deception perpetrated by these powers on Afghanistan, who made the Taliban what they are today. Let us hear at least one of them.
James Bovard is the author of several books, regular contributor to USA Today, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. He quotes George Bush from his State of the Union address made on 29th January 2002, which Bovard said frightened Americans with a bogus nuclear threat: “Our discoveries in Afghanistan confirmed our worst fears… We have found diagrams of American nuclear power plants and public water facilities in caves used by Al Qaeda-George Bush! Bovard says senior CIA and FBI officials followed up with ‘background’ briefings for the media. But this wanton lie got soon exposed! Two years later, Bush administration officials admitted that the President’s statement was completely false and that no nuclear power plant diagrams had been discovered in Afghanistan. Bovard quoted Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Edward McGaffigan’s evidence on this falsehood at closed hearings on Capital Hill.
Bovard says that Bush’s lies on a nuclear threat from Afghanistan paved the way to his far more destructive lies regarding Iraqi chemical and biological weapons in his 2003 State of the Union address. What about Tony Blair’s canard that Saddam Hussain could strike Britain in 45 minutes. These war criminals are still at large because of the staff level complicity of the United Nations with the US and Britain. That is another subject.
Bush, in his 2002 State of the Union address evangelised his Afghan war as the greatest triumph for “women’s liberation” in modern times. Bush boasted “The mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes…Today women are free” But a New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who visited Afghanistan, two years later, in 2004 reported that “many Afghan women are still captives in their homes… The rise of banditry and rape has had a particularly devastating effect on women. Because the roads are not safe even in daylight, girls do not dare to go to schools or their mothers to health centres”. That was under US-NATO rule in Afghanistan.
According to Bovard, “Since the start of Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan, the US military has poured money into Afghan government operations guilty of BACHA BAZI–turning young boys into sex slaves. The Pentagon ignored the abuse until a 2015 New York Times expose of American soldiers who were punished for protecting atrocities against young boys”. A 2017 Pentagon Inspector General report revealed that some US troops were “told that nothing could be done about child sexual abuse because of Afghanistan’s status as a sovereign nation (sic), that it was not a priority for the command, or that it was best to ignore the situation and to let the local police handle it.”
“Even more damning, the US military and CIA brazenly tortured Afghans, atrocities that President Bush perpetually denied even though it was reported as early as December 2002. In 2004, the Los Angeles Times reported allegations that Afghan soldiers detained by the US government had suffered “repeated beatings, immersion in cold water, electric shocks, being hung upside down and toenails being torn off.”
The result: resistance to foreign atrocities and scandalous sexual abuse grew from strength to strength!
They know only too well that Al Qaeda and ISIS can be buried if the US and NATO stop invading other countries. But the arms factories and the wars which provide fabulous enrichment to the already rich and employment to nearly a million soldiers at the likely cost of their lives will never be ended!
Why Small Farms will be the backbone of food security
The ecological axiom that: ‘Energy flow through a system tends to organise and simplify that system’, is abundantly clear in agriculture. As farms moved from small interdependent units, bounded by fences and hedgerows, to large cropping fields to accommodate machine management, we lose the biodiversity that once existed on that landscape and the biomass that provided the Ecosystem Services. This sacrifice was rationalised through the invocation of economic profit. The economic ‘profit’ gained by subsidies on fossil fuel and uncontrolled extraction from the Global Commons. The ‘development’ of agriculture has become a race to control the commodity market. The farmer ceased to be a feature of the farm. In a telling statement, the farmers of Sri Lanka sent the following statement to the CGIAR in 1998 :
‘We, the farmers of Sri Lanka would like to further thank the CGIAR, for taking an interest in us. We believe that we speak for all of our brothers and sisters the world over when we identify ourselves as a community who are integrally tied to the success of ensuring global food security. In fact it is our community who have contributed to the possibility of food security in every country since mankind evolved from a hunter-gather existence. We have watched for many years, as the progression of experts, scientists and development agents passed through our communities with some or another facet of the modern scientific world. We confess that at the start we were unsophisticated in matters of the outside world and welcomed this input. We followed advice and we planted as we were instructed. The result was a loss of the varieties of seeds that we carried with us through history, often spanning three or more millennia. The result was the complete dependence of high input crops that robbed us of crop independence. In addition, we farmers producers of food, respected for our ability to feed populations, were turned into the poisoners of land and living things, including fellow human beings. The result in Sri Lanka is that we suffer from social and cultural dislocation and suffer the highest pesticide- related death toll on the planet. Was this the legacy that you the agricultural scientists wanted to bring to us ? We think not. We think that you had good motives and intentions, but left things in the hands of narrowly educated, insensitive people.’
The diverse farm had to yield to production monoculture, which was made possible through the burning of fossil fuels. Ironically the burning of fossil fuels is the major reason for the current destabilised climate and threat to agriculture. One consequence of climate change is the predicted rise in global temperatures. If ambient temperatures exceed 40 degrees , which has become the reality in many places even today, food production will be compromised. All the food we eat originates with plants and plants produce using photosynthesis. Photosynthesis, or the capture of solar energy by plants, is done with chlorophyll, the thing that makes plants green and chlorophyll begins to break down after 40 degrees. Landscapes whose summer temperatures go beyond this limit will have smaller and smaller crops as the temperatures increase. The only solution to this oncoming crisis, is to begin introducing trees at strategic points on the landscape.
Trees and all other forms of vegetation cool the environment around them through the transpiration process, which takes place in the leaves. The water absorbed by the roots is sent up to the leaves which release it as vapor, cooling the air around it. Measurements on trees done by research institutions worldwide, indicate that an average large tree produces the cooling equivalent of eight room sized air conditioners running for 10 hours, a cooling yield 0f 1,250,000 Bthu per day. Plantations of trees have been recoded to have daytime temperatures at least 3 degrees below the ambient. This is an important aspect of Ecosystem Services that needs to be considered for adaptive agriculture.
Small farms which produce food with low external energy and maintain high biomass and biodiversity, are the models of food production that can face the climate compromised future before us. Capital, resource and energy expensive agricultural systems could fail in a high temperature future and threaten global food security, we need options. One would be to encourage a consumption and distribution system that facilitates small farmers to enter the market. Another would be to realise the value of the ecosystem services of a farm and develop systems to measure and reward. We are all aware of the future before us. Now is not the time to stand blinking like a deer facing the headlights.
But placing trees in and around cropping areas becomes a problem in large cropping fields designed to accommodate machine management. The management of such trees and hedgerows requires needs that cannot be provided without human management. Agricultural landscapes will need management that will be adaptive to the changing climate. An example would be; small interdependent units bounded by fences and that increase biodiversity and the biomass while providing Ecosystem Services.
Investment in food security, should take climate change seriously. All new agricultural projects should address the heat thresholds of the planned crops. The Sri Lankan country statement at COP 21 stated that :
“We are aware that the optimum operating temperature of chlorophyll is at 37 deg C. In a warming world where temperatures will soar well above that, food production will be severely impacted.”
And that :
“We are aware that the critical Ecosystem services such as; production of Oxygen, sequestering of Carbon, water cycling and ambient cooling is carried out by the photosynthetic component of biomass. This is being lost at an exponential rate, due to the fact that these Ecosystem Services have not been valued, nor economically recognised.”
These statements cry out for the recognition of the role that small farms will have to play in the future. In a temperature compromised future, small farms with high standing biomass, through their cooler temperatures will continue to produce food in heat stressed periods. If such Ecosystem Services can be given a value, it will strengthen the economy of small farms and ensure local, sustainable food production into the future.
Small farms which produce food with low external energy and maintain high biomass and biodiversity, are the models of food production that can face the climate compromised future before us. Capital, resource and energy expensive agricultural systems could fail in a high temperature future and threaten global food security, we need options. One would be to encourage a consumption and distribution system that facilitates small farmers to enter the market. Another would be to realize the value of the ecosystem services of a farm and develop systems to measure and reward. We are all aware of the future before us. Now is not the time to stand blinking like a deer in sheadlights.
Encouraging signs, indeed!
Local entertainers can now breathe a sigh of relief…as the showbiz scene is showing signs of improving
Yes, it’s good to see Manilal Perera, the legendary singer, and Derek Wikramanayake, teaming up, as a duo, to oblige music lovers…during this pandemic era.
They will be seen in action, every Friday, at the Irish Pub, and on Sundays at the Cinnamon Grand Lobby.
The Irish Pub scene will be from 7.00 pm onwards, while at the Cinnamon Grand Lobby, action will also be from 7.00 pm onwards.
On November 1st, they are scheduled to do the roof top (25th floor) of the Movenpik hotel, in Colpetty, and, thereafter, at the same venue, every Saturday evening.
Constructive dialogue beyond international community
by Jehan Perera
Even as the country appears to be getting embroiled in more and more conflict, internally, where dialogue has broken down or not taken place at all, there has been the appearance of success, internationally. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be leading a delegation this week to Scotland to attend the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Both the President, at the UN General Assembly in New York, and Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris, at the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva seem to have made positive impacts on their audiences and, especially amongst the diplomatic community, with speeches that gave importance to national reconciliation, based on dialogue and international norms.
In a recent interview to the media Prof Peiris affirmed the value of dialogue in rebuilding international relations that have soured. He said, “The core message is that we believe in engagement at all times. There may be areas of disagreement from time to time. That is natural in bilateral relations, but our effort should always be to ascertain the areas of consensus and agreement. There are always areas where we could collaborate to the mutual advantage of both countries. And even if there are reservations with regard to particular methods, there are still abundant opportunities that are available for the enhancement of trade relations for investment opportunities, tourism, all of this. And I think this is succeeding because we are establishing a rapport and there is reciprocity. Countries are reaching out to us.”
Prof Peiris also said that upon his return from London, the President would engage in talks locally with opposition parties, the TNA and NGOs. He spoke positively about this dialogue, saying “The NGOs can certainly make a contribution. We like to benefit from their ideas. We will speak to opposition political parties. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is going to meet the Tamil National Alliance on his return from COP26, which we will attend at the invitation of the British Prime Minister. So be it the NGO community or the foreign diaspora or the parliamentary opposition in Sri Lanka. We want to engage with all of them and that is very much the way forward”
The concept of a whole-of-government approach is indicative of a more cohesive approach to governance by government ministries, the public administration and state apparatus in general to deal with problems. It suggests that the government should not be acting in one way with the international community and another way with the national community when it seeks to resolve problems. It is consistency that builds trust and the international community will trust the government to the extent that the national community trusts it. Dialogue may slow down decision making at a time when the country is facing major problems and is in a hurry to overcome them. However, the failure to engage in dialogue can cause further delays due to misunderstanding and a refusal to cooperate by those who are being sidelined.
There are signs of fragmentation within the government as a result of failure to dialogue within it. A senior minister, Susil Premajayantha, has been openly critical of the ongoing constitutional reform process. He has compared it to the past process undertaken by the previous government in which there was consultations at multiple levels. There is a need to change the present constitutional framework which is overly centralised and unsuitable to a multi ethnic, multi religious and plural society. More than four decades have passed since the present constitution was enacted. But the two major attempts that were made in the period 1997-2000 and again in 2016-2019 failed.
President Rajapaksa, who has confidence in his ability to stick to his goals despite all obstacles, has announced that a new constitution will be in place next year. The President is well situated to obtain success in his endeavours but he needs to be take the rest of his government along with him. Apart from being determined to achieve his goals, the President has won the trust of most people, and continues to have it, though it is getting eroded by the multiple problems that are facing the country and not seeing a resolution. The teachers’ strike, which is affecting hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, is now in its fourth month, with no sign of resolution. The crisis over the halting of the import of chemical fertiliser is undermining the position of farmers and consumers at the present time.
An immediate cause for the complaints against the government is the lack of dialogue and consultation on all the burning issues that confront the country. This problem is accentuated by the appointment of persons with military experience to decision-making positions. The ethos of the military is to take decisions fast and to issue orders which have to be carried out by subordinates. The President’s early assertion that his spoken words should be taken as written circulars reflects this ethos. However, democratic governance is about getting the views of the people who are not subordinates but equals. When Minister Premajayantha lamented that he did not know about the direction of constitutional change, he was not alone as neither does the general public or academicians which is evidenced by the complete absence of discussion on the subject in the mass media.
The past two attempts at constitutional reform focused on the resolution of the ethnic conflict and assuaging the discontent of the ethnic and religious minorities. The constitutional change of 1997-2000 was for the purpose of providing a political solution that could end the war. The constitutional change of 2016-19 was to ensure that a war should not happen again. Constitutional reform is important to people as they believe that it will impact on how they are governed, their place within society and their equality as citizens. The ethnic and religious minorities will tend to prefer decentralised government as it will give them more power in those parts of the country in which they are predominant. On the other hand, that very fact can cause apprehension in the minds of the ethnic and religious majority that their place in the country will be undermined.
Unless the general public is brought aboard on the issue of constitutional change, it is unlikely they will support it. We all need to know what the main purpose of the proposed constitutional reform is. If the confidence of the different ethnic and religious communities is not obtained, the political support for constitutional change will also not be forthcoming as politicians tend to stand for causes that win them votes. Minister Premajayantha has usefully lit an early warning light when he said that politicians are not like lamp posts to agree to anything that the government puts before them. Even though the government has a 2/3 majority, this cannot be taken for granted. There needs to be buy in for constitutional reform from elected politicians and the general public, both from the majority community and minorities, if President Rajapaksa is to succeed where previous leaders failed.
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